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How long is too long for a short film?


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#1 Christopher Frey

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 03:42 PM

Hi,
This is my first short and I'm starting shooting next week, but with the script written (for the most part. Have main dialogue written and scene sketches only want to leave open improv. for my actors) I have come to the estimate of about 20-25 minutes. Is this too long for a short? In other words would this hinder it's ability to succeed in the festival circuit?

This has recently occurred to me when I finished this adaption of a novella. The script ended up at about 60 pages, but I don't want it to be a "short film", but it's not long enough to be a feature and extending the script would deter from the story-- anyway that is not the topic of the post.

Thanks,
Chris
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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 04:13 PM

There have been multi award winning 25 min shorts, but usually the shorter the better. You stand a better chance being accepted into a festival if the film is much shorter, say 10 mins or less (5 mins or less is even better). I'd avoid going longer than 15 mins unless you've got TV single drama slot in mind.
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#3 e gustavo petersen

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 04:23 PM

If it's good, it's good at any length. The trouble is that everyone thinks their long short is good. From my experience at film festivals, shorter is better. It's easier to fit in programs - better to have six or ten shorts in an hour block then three 20 minute shorts. Also shorter shorts (if they're also good) often get more screenings because they're easier to fit in other programs. I also tend to find that no matter how good the short is, people are annoyed by one that's too long.

my 2 cents. good luck.
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#4 John Brawley

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 05:33 PM

Hi,
This is my first short and I'm starting shooting next week, but with the script written (for the most part. Have main dialogue written and scene sketches only want to leave open improv. for my actors) I have come to the estimate of about 20-25 minutes. Is this too long for a short? In other words would this hinder it's ability to succeed in the festival circuit?
Thanks,
Chris



If you want to get into film festivals with your short, every minute that you go past 10 will mean your film has to improve exponentially.

There are two reasons you should aim to make you film less than 10 minutes if you want to improve your festival life.

There are of course specialist short film festivals as well, but lets' treat them separately as they aren't usually the prestigious film festivals we all lust after.

If the festival programs shorts ahead of a feature, then anything longer will generally mean they can't turn around the films and the cinema before the next session has to start. (cleaning, seating, q&A's etc)

So if your film is longer than 10 mins, your film can only really be programmed into a session with a bunch of other shorts. Most festivals will only have a couple of these, usually based on a competition of some kind and short sessions, quite frankly...they don't sell.

If it's in a session with a bunch of other shorts and it's 25 mins long it has to be OUTSTANDING....

Even then programming decision are often based on the other films they might screen with.

Make sure you watch a lot of films. Chances are, you are making a film that has already been made. Short films are just so prolific it's amazing how often the same film gets made.

I have worked as a selection panellist for a number of years on several international level film festivals. For one film festival we would watch literally on average, up to 20 films in 2 hours, once a week for 15 weeks. Thats a lot of films.

We were to recommend 10 films for selection. They would only get programmed IF the festival had a slot for them and a feature they would work well with. They specified we could only recommend 2 films longer than 10 mins and really discouraged us from selecting anything longer than 20 mins

We didn't watch most of the shorts through to the end. Most of the films had been made before. Don't kid yourself. There is a LOT of competition out there. You should be completely ruthless with yourself about the film from beginning to end.

The other reason 10 mins is good is that it forces you as a filmmaker to have some discipline. Most shorts are too ambitions in ideals and too lazy in execution.

Take a REALLY simple idea and do it well and short. Your film will get into festivals.

That might not be what you want or want to hear, but that's how to increase your chances.

jb
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#5 Max Jacoby

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 05:38 PM

If your film is under 15 minutes it can get into practically any festival. Cannes for instance has a 15 Minute limit on short films. The next limit is 20 Minutes, anything above that and it becomes tricky. Over 30 Minutes and most festivals won't accept your film anymore, no matter how good it may be.
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#6 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 08:35 AM

If it's in a session with a bunch of other shorts and it's 25 mins long it has to be OUTSTANDING....


jb


The only one that I know of is Damien O?Donnell's "35-Aside" (26 Mins) made in 1996, which won over 30 awards. It's much tougher now at that running time and it was also intended for TV broadcast.


The films made in the same scheme are shorter these days - less than 15mins.
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#7 Alex de Campi

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 11:59 AM

A lot of major festivals won't take anything longer than 15 minutes, including credits. And really, if you're going through the angst and cash sink of a short film, you want it in festivals. So do your homework and check entry details at Cannes, Tribeca, Berlin and Sundance. I think Venice is invitation only... but those are the festivals that really matter. (You could argue Edinburgh if you only want to work in the UK, too...)

My gut instinct says 25 minutes = too long.
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#8 John Sprung

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 12:31 PM

If you can hit 22 minutes and change, you have a half hour TV show. Make 22 more of 'em and you have a season. ;-)



-- J.S.
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#9 Jim Keller

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 01:07 PM

Having once run a festival, I can state from experience that we looked much more favorably on shorter shorts, for the simple reason that there is only so much screening time available and we truly wanted to accept as many different pieces as possible. We could fit six five-minute shorts in the same amount of time as a 30-minute short, so a 30-minute short would've needed to truly blow us away to be accepted, but a two- or three-minute short just had to be favorably reviewed by a majority of screeners.

I'm also of the opinion that learning to tell a story economically is essential to your development as a filmmaker, so the ultra-short is a great medium to explore.

Now, that said, being a tiny festival, we accepted every feature that was submitted. The moral of the story, I guess, is that if you can't tell the story in under ten minutes, tell it in ninety. :)
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#10 Jay Taylor

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 09:39 PM

Hey guys,

This is somewhat off topic, but?

I recently read on Wikipedia (so who knows if it's at all accurate!) that the Academy considers a feature length film 40 minutes or longer.

Anyone know of a 40 minute feature?


Jay
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#11 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 23 July 2008 - 12:49 PM

Hey guys,

This is somewhat off topic, but?

I recently read on Wikipedia (so who knows if it's at all accurate!) that the Academy considers a feature length film 40 minutes or longer.

Anyone know of a 40 minute feature?


Jay


Yes it is http://www.oscars.or...les/rule02.html

Hmmm... means I've already directed my first feature, I just thought it was a long short.

I suspect the 40 min features will be mostly documentaries or perhaps animation.
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#12 Josh Bass

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Posted 23 July 2008 - 01:10 PM

There seem to be a lot of fests that consider anything up to 45, 50, sometimes even 59 minutes to be a short film. How many of these they actually SHOW is another story (sometimes you can find a list of the films shown in the previous year's incarnation, with a short synopsis and hopefully the length included).

I myself am circulating a 23-minute film (DOH!) and a 12-minute film (less DOH!) through the super low-end fest circuit right now (I didn't bother with the big ones because, you know, come on. . .my miniDV, no-name actor having long-ass movies ain't gettin' into those).

If the original poster is here in a year or year and a half when I finally know how many fests my films got into (out of about sixty, cumulatively), I will report back. So far each film has made it into one fest, with about five rejections for each. But then again, I made a 5.5 minute movie that everyone who sees it seems to love, and that was met with mostly rejection too (granted I only submitted it to around 10-15 fests), so what the hell do I know? I certainly won't make anything over 15 minutes from now on, without a damn good reason.

Good luck.
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