Independent film as we know it in feature length continues to have its renaissance thanks to more Oscar attention and the public hunger for better stories. But perhaps you’ve watched the Oscars and puzzled over the nominations for best short subject. No doubt you’ve uttered some sarcastic asides about whether anyone actually sees those short films.
You’d be surprised at how many people see those short subjects. With the Internet, especially, the demand for making short films is more extensive than you may think. Raindance.org points out that many websites need short films, and the opportunities to market them on YouTube are there so they have a better chance to go viral. This may help you down the road if you submit a short film to a film festival.
But you have plenty of other incentives in creating a short film to help your film career. You may be tempted to want to go the distance first to leave a mark. However, living in an age of people wanting entertainment in shorter formats, a short indie film can make a significant impact rather than stretching a concept into two hours.
Encapsulating Your Creativity
Having a shorter running time, you have a chance to show off a more creative vision without any dry stretches as you might have in feature length. No matter how great a story might be, some plots just aren’t conducive to being stretched into a long format. It’s a lesson that some of those “Saturday Night Live” sketches turned movies could have learned from.
You can blame the above on the big studios not being in the short film business, which they may want to reconsider. It’s also something you can learn from since brevity allows for a real impact if you have enough ideas to make every short minute count.
Cheaper Budgets and Less Post-Production Time
When money is a major issue and crowdfunding seems unrealistic for a feature, a short film won’t cost you nearly as much in production costs. If you have a compelling script, all you need are some simple location shots, good acting, and your camera ingenuity to create something that’s festival worthy.
This isn’t to say it’s going to be a breeze. You may have to spend some extra time in the editing room to make sure everything has the proper pacing so it doesn’t feel like you crammed a feature-length movie into five minutes. Regardless, you’ll still have much less time spent in post-production than you would with a feature. Editing a feature will be the equivalent to placing thousands of puzzle pieces into something cohesive. If doing that on your own, your friends and family wouldn’t see you for a couple of months.
Promoting Yourself for Future Industry Backing
Releasing one or several impressive short films can get the general indie (or mainstream) film industry interested in you. Making a two-hour epic doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to impress big names in the movie business. They’re smart enough to know that good stories can be told in short formats, and they’ll know you’re much more resourceful when you succeed. Conversely, doing a bloated two-hour production might send red flags to future industry backers.
With the Internet giving so many opportunities now for short films to be seen, theaters may not even be necessary. Even if they were seldom seen in theaters anyway, short films are always eligible for Oscars when entered in festivals.
Your only real danger is the short film category becoming as overcrowded as indie features have. It’s why you need to create a short that stands out amid all the thousands of others, or face the biggest hurdle in creativity today: Being canceled out, or overlapping with a similar idea.