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Shorts Vs Features

I'm interested to hear peoples reasons why they make shorts and not features.

I guess there would be for a number of valid reasons like: lack of confidence, lack of experience, insufficient funds, lack of a quality script, etc etc... Or perhaps making a feature film has never been your goal. Making short films is what makes you happy.


  • Well, I love shorts for their skill at getting sometimes hard-hitting surprises, or wistful atmospheres - across in the cleanest way. Though I'm aalso pleased to see people a little more relaxed about observing 'the festival standard' of limiting everything to 12 mins (with credits).

    I'm fairly confident that almost everyone here, given full choice and unlimited funds, would love to make at least one feature.

    That said, the interesting thing now is how many would prefer to make TV. I get the 'longform drama' aspect of that; damn hard to squeeze War and Peace - or American Gods - into 200 mins. But I think, from the point of view of funding (and industry investors are gamblers attracted to relatively high risk), the potential returns from captive audiences across multiple 'seasons' are immensely appealing. In short, the money is good for a thirty hour series - even when the story might be far better told in one or three.

    And that can result in lengthy repetition of formulae which, sometimes, might have been far more elegently distilled into just fifteen - even three - powerful minutes.

    4 months ago
    • Interesting point you make, Eric. For clarity though, TV drama, single, or episodic, not talk show, daytime programs.

      My personal feelings for TV, in the bounds of this thread's topic of conversation, are that there are so many more variables that are needed, for a projects development, production and sales, that the thought of taking one on as a newbie or someone with limited experience could be too overwhelming.

      I'd put TV, in terms of difficulty to achieve a successful outcome, at the top - being most challenging and difficult to achieve. Feature films would be second, with shorts third - being the easiest to achieve.

      I've worked on a few episodic TV shows and they are certainly lots of fun, and provide work for a much longer period of time (which can be an important aspect to consider), but you get to also hone your craft with more precision.

      Thanks for your input.


      4 months ago
  • Shorts are a very cost-effective and low risk way to try out and develop ideas and projects. Features are a lot bigger than multiple shorts (if you see what I mean) as they're treated as business ventures with proper accounting and employment etc rules.

    4 months ago
    • Very good points Paddy. Personally, I prefer to also treat shorts as a business so as to not lose sight of all the processes utilised to successfully complete this type of project. If you can successfully manage the business side of a short, then you know what you're in for when on a feature.

      And I think it's certainly worth noting here that making a 90-minute feature is not the same as making ten 9-minute shorts. Story, structure, timing, character development etc etc are very different for each.

      4 months ago
    • @Lee 'Wozy' Warren In agreement - a feature is more than 10x shorts, it's an entirely different animal altogether. I often say so, and did mention this to a very enthusiastic and determined first-feature director a while back. After the dust had settled, we had a quick chat and he volunteered that I hadn't been wrong about that (*blushes*) not just on the story side, but the realities of production, also.

      3 months ago
  • Surely it's money thing really.
    Shorts are great to find your voice, experiment and can be done on the cheap / within your means.

    A feature you need money to do anything of worth really.
    Especially to pay people of a certain level even if its minimum wage.

    I'm exploring micro budget features at the mo but still need capital behind you and that's tough if you don't have deep pockets yourself.

    3 months ago
    • If the ONLY reason why you're (not you specifically, btw) not making features is simply a lack of money, then TBH, the focus is not in the correct place.

      A lack of money is not really the core reason. There's a lot of money out there available to fund filmmaking.

      The real, core reason, is a lack of knowledge to be able to find the people who have the money AND a lack of experience in pitching for it successfully.

      As well as working in film, I also have businesses in the property sector. And property developers have the exact same problem! "How do I find the money to buy, develop and sell for profit, a particular property deal?"

      The number one challenge - finding people with the money (the investors)

      The number two challenge - promoting my deal/film to them successfully.

      So, if you're a filmmaker saying to yourself I can't make a feature because I don't have any money, then you need to rethink the problem and take the appropriate action.

      If you are certain that you don't have the ability to overcome the above two challenges, then the simple fact is you need to find someone who can and partner/contract with them.


      3 months ago
  • Out of interest, I'd say that making a successful short film can be more challenging than a feature.


    Let me take a few steps back first before I provide an answer.

    When leaving a movie theatre, a great film will leave you feeling changed in some way. We feel that the characters and their plight had us rooting for them and having joined them on their journey, feel everything they did. And we did this because we felt empathy for their struggle. We bought into them as being kind of real.

    Remember, I did say a "great" movie! A well-written and well-directed and acted movie!

    But we didn't feel all of those emotions right at the beginning. It happened over time. We kind of fell in love with the character, if you will.

    Features afford us a luxury of time, 90 minutes, 120 minutes etc, to develop not just the plot, but most importantly, the protagonists arch.

    So coming back to the WHY of why I feel short films are so much more challenging to become successful is down to the LACK of time. We only have anything from 30 seconds up to 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 30 minutes or so to develop the protagonist and supporting characters enough for us to give a shit about their plight. If we don't care enough about what happens to them, then we leave the viewing having lacked any change in us.

    And people don't go to see films, in general, to come away unchanged. That's the very point of going in the first place.

    Note: This post is talking about short narrative drama films, not experimental or structureless pieces.

    It's certainly possible to overcome these sorts of challenges in a short film, but it's difficult. But it pushes us to be highly creative and innovative in creating the story we want to tell.


    3 months ago
  • I do tend to find young directors can get caught up in short films for too long, where it can be difficult to stand-out, with 1000s of shorts being made and sent to festivals all the time.

    Young directors definetely stand-out more when they make that leap into a feature, the difficulty being they have a longer project to show, festivals can only program so many features. However you could argue fortune rewards the brave.

    Its not just about budget either. I've shot shorts which are more expensive than a low-budget feature and features with smaller budgets than big-budget shorts.

    I do feel after their 2nd short directors need to ask what their objectives are.

    If they want to make SFX/VFX/Art-Department heavy content then shorts have their place to show of their vision.

    However if a director is more focused on purely drama, in particular a realist drama, then a feature shows the directors skills a great deal more.

    3 months ago
    • Indeed, I've worked on another producers short that cost over £45,000 to make.

      It may come down to the simple fact that the filmmaker doesn't feel confident enough to make the jump to a feature, so they continue where they feel comfortable.

      3 months ago
  • Plenty of writers use both short and long form to tell stories and go between depending on what they want to say and how they want to say it. I don't think we'd be asking Ali Smith this in the same manner - with such a focus on money and funding.

    While it's probably true many filmmakers start on shorts with the goal to end up with features, I never felt that pressure. Things CAN be made cheaply, though this is of course not sustainable in the long run!

    Many writers and filmmakers continue to work in short form because it is what they enjoy, not because of lack of funds or experience.

    3 months ago
    • Excellent point, Huw. Making short films can also be a very fulfilling and enjoyable activity. And only those filmmakers with any commercial asperations need to fully consider the move.

      3 months ago
  • For me Shorts are a good place for me to try out new crew. Features are not the place to take that sort of risk.

    3 months ago
    • Interesting, Mark. I've never thought of it like that but yes, if you want to work with specific people on a feature and you have no idea of their performance and skills, then a short could help there. However, a 6 day shoot on a short, for example, may not provide enough time for a full consideration on someone when compared to a 36 day shoot on a feature. Just a thought.

      3 months ago
    • @Lee 'Wozy' Warren I can tell within a day if a camera assistant is any good or not. If I take bad crew on to a feature it reflects badly on me and could affect my employment prospects.

      3 months ago
    • @Mark Wiggins - For me personally, how a person acts and performs in the short term can sometimes be very different than in the long term. Let's not forget that making a feature film over many days or months is a gruelling, difficult, challenging and sometimes stressful activity. And some people do struggle.

      3 months ago
    • @Lee 'Wozy' Warren
      Yes, features can be long and arduous. If say, I've worked with a new 2nd AC on a couple of shorts and that 2nd AC has not much experience, I'd probably bring them on to a feature as a trainee to see how they get on.

      3 months ago