Movie Making Manual/Why Make a Short

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This Module is part of the Movie Making Manual

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Short films are often used as the starting place for new filmmakers, but others use them as an art form unto themselves, allowing the filmmaker far more creative control than he or she would have over a feature. However, for those wanting to make a feature, it is commonly considered that one should make shorts first. Why is this?

Filmmaking is a skill that can only be learned by practice. Diving into your first feature before learning your craft on shorts would be like driving your Dad's expensive sports car on the motorway before you'd had any lessons on quiet back-roads. There has never been an easier time to make a short film. Everyone owns or knows someone with a video camera.

Advantages of shorts over features[edit]

  • Lower cost
  • Less time commitment
  • Can take bigger risks
  • Good practice for filmmaking skills (almost all directors have made short films at one time or another)
  • You can basically do anything you want - there are no censorship restrictions for short films (since there's no real market for them), and you don't need to tell a story in under ten minutes. You can just have an insane barrage of jokes and gags if you wish.

Disadvantages of shorts[edit]

  • You'll never make your money back. It's rare to make any money at all from your short.

What do you get (possibly)?[edit]

  • Publicity if you do well
  • Networking
  • Experience
  • Fun (very important)

Publicity and Networking[edit]

The first two are maybes. Keep in mind that there are a lot of shorts out there. Don't expect them to come beating down your door just because you made something witty.

Experience[edit]

It is tough to start out big, and if you do, you can fall flat on your face (and the creditors can become your worst enemies). But, it helps to just try to get out there and shoot something. Taking a look at the outcome of a short piece can teach you a lot about yourself and what you need to improve (and maybe whether you are in the right industry).

Fun  :)[edit]

A short can be done with a bunch of friends in a week(end), or just some student actors. It can be shot with a cheap few hundred dollar handheld, and you can try out all kinds of things that you might feel a bit nervous about on a bigger budget film. You can take it easy and experiment. It can just be fun. If it isn't fun for you, well perhaps it is best that you only made a short.