10 Most Asked Quetions About Short Films

This blog is written by Phil Parker. Co-fouder of BCre8ive and in the context of examples, and discussions, of short films being held at Visegard Animation Forum in Czech Republic. Short film covers, of course, live action and animation, as well as web videos.

Q1. What is the major reason for a short film not working?

The screenplay is under developed. This is still the major problem with most short films. Not enough time and effort has been spent on solving the narrative problems in the screenplay prior to making the film.

Q2. Do shorts follow the classic three act structure?

In that all narratives have a beginning, middle, and an end, yes. So even abstract avante garde, and music videos, have a three act structure. This is the means by which the narrative is shaped in relation to the audience to ensure their engagement.

Q2.What makes a good short idea?

This depends on the length of short being made, but essentially it must have some means of engaging an audience – be it an interesting subject, character/s, visual approach or dramatic question.


Q4. What makes a great short?

An idea which is expressed in the appropriate dramatic form, at the right length for the central idea, with a strong visual style, sharp characterisation, a strong central tone, and, where necessary, great dialogue i.e. the same as any length of film or video.

Q5. Is it easier to make a good short than a longer film?

In practical terms – yes. In dramatic terms – no. The reason being that people struggle to judge the right length for their short film. The differences between an idea which will work at 90secs, or 5/15 minutes or half an hour (all short lengths) are fundamental, and stretching out an idea, or cramming it in to too short a length often ruins the film.

Q6.What is the major criticism of most shorts?

They are either too long, or too short.

Q7.How long is a short?

Most festivals work on the basis of anything up to, and including, thirty minutes. One or two festival allow up to an hour or slightly beyond.

Q8. Why do most shorts have a ‘Twist in the tale’?

Because its better than having ‘A Jack in a Box’. The difference being that the twist in the tale is adding a final element to the narrative which adds a twist or comic moment to a narrative in which all the stories are already completed. In other words the twist in the tale is a bonus. However.the ‘Jack in the Box’ ending is about the creator/s presenting a big surprise to end a film, which seldom works as it cannot match up to the long build up prior to this last moment. A good example of the twist is the ‘You guys are all the same’ line from the end of  ‘The Big Story’.

Q9. Why make a short film?

Because you have a great short screenplay. Any other reason is secondary and if allowed to dominate will probably ruin the film. With 300 hours of videos being up loaded to YouTube every minute the need to be good is demonstrably important.

“ideas come from everything” Alfred Hithcock

Q10. Is a short film a good calling card?

If it is good, yes. Primarily for the producer, director, main actor and some crew but the screenwriter, and others can use it for credits, and to attract attention to their next project. However, for onging series, or long episodic projects it also works well on the web, helping to build a community of supporters, and possible funders.


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