What is a short film?

Any film not long enough to be considered a feature film. No consensus exists as to where that boundary is drawn: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a short film as “an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits”


That is a simple definition for what a short film is. For me though, it’s much more. It’s a quick snapshot into the director and writers mind. A short can give off enough emotions in 3-5mins then a whole feature film can in 1hour+.

A really important factor with short films is that they can either be professional or amateur productions. It’s easier and more logical to make a short film as part of an amateur unit especially a student production group. They are often screened at local, national or international film festivals (with some just concentrating on short films) and typically made by independent film makers and productions, and are low to mid budget. For less well known or indie producers, short films are a great way to show off what they can do especially if they wish to gain funding for future projects.

So what makes a good short film? As a group, we came up with these ideas.

  • Positive attitude.
  • Planning (Storyboards, logistics, budgets)
  • Technical knowledge.
  • Schedule and Organisation
  • Substance (Is it a good story?)
  • Ethics (Offensive? Is this your responsibility as a producer? Is offence given or taken?)
  • Target audience.
  • Sound and music.
  • Back up plan.
  • Ability to work as a group.
  • Delivery.
  • Reflection.

As with any creative idea, your need something to start “the spark”. To do this, you should look at the following;

  • Music: Is there a lyric which may correspond to an idea, or a band/singers name which links.
  • Feature Films: Maybe a certain scene you can interpretate or manipulate differently to provoke different feeling.
  • Hobbies: Are there any strange hobbies which would make people feel differently then there current feelings, stamp collectors, butterfly/flower pressing etc.

One of the key things that I have found with short films is that they are simple with a small cast. It’s virtually impossible to build a complex story into a short, there’s not enough time and that should be saved for features. You can have an elaborate narrative in a short film, as it’s only short in length, it won’t cost as much to make. In regards to dialogue, a lot of short films have very little dialogue, with some having none at all. They let the visuals do all the talking. It works well though as too much dialogue in a short piece can be hard for the listener to understand the story. Establishing the narrative is so important in short films, they don’t change scene often and with a small cast, it’s easier for the viewer to establish a relationship with the characters.


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