Contextualising Short Film Production

A short film can be defined as “a piece of moving image which comprises a mixture of video, animation or stills, can be from ten seconds to twenty minutes long and of any genre but normally has a self contained narrative and is primarily distributed or exhibited through film festivals, art house cinemas or short film websites” (Dawkins and Wynd, 2010). Aspiring filmmakers often use short films as a route into feature filmmaking; they can be funded and distributed in a variety of ways. Due to the ease of accessing media and sharing visual content online it is very easy to find a lot of short films on the Internet.

An example of short film production is ‘Spider’ (2007), directed and co-written by Nash Edgerton. The dark comedy follows Jack and Jill on a car journey, a log line for the film is “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye” – Mum. It was first released by Blue Tongue Films in 2007 and won Best Short Film at the Sydney Film Festival and went on to win many more including a win at Sundance Film Festival. It was distributed by Apparition in the USA and by IndieFlix worldwide both in 2010. In a behind the scenes video Edgerton talks about where his ideas come from “most of the short film ideas that I have come from either reoccurring thoughts or dreams” (Nash Edgerton, Blue Tongue Films, 2014). He says that ‘Spider’ came from a few incidents he had experienced with his family.

With any film you need a good idea and then a good script, without this, the film won’t go far. “A poorly thought out script has little chance of yielding a successful finished product” (Rea and Irving, 2015). Due to the nature of short films you need to have a good narrative in order to capture an audience’s attention in a short period of time. Whether it is a simple idea like Nash Edgerton’s ‘Spider’ or something more complex the audience needs to be able to feel something, “Every successful film, short or long, gives the audience an emotional experience.” (Cowgill, 2005) Taking this into consideration an initial idea becomes a script and then various drafts and re writes will happen before any other aspects of the film can take place. Once you have a solid script in place you can begin to create a budget and funding for the film.

In the UK there are a few ways in which you can apply for funding from organisations such as Creative England or various charities that offer funding which then gives you more of a budget to create a better film and enable you to distribute it further. However this may lead to the companies wanting some changes to the script which may affect the initial idea. Sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter allow users to reach a wide audience and crowd fund for their film in a quick and easy manner and also communicate information about their film easily. ‘The Internet is a tool and, as such, can be employed to whatever extent you wish.’ (Rea and Irving, 2015).

When you have a solid script and a budget, the rest of pre-production can occur, processes such as finding actors, location scouting, hiring/buying equipment, music for the film, storyboarding to create an initial vision for the film and so on. A lot of work goes into this stage and can be quite overwhelming for first time filmmakers, dependant on the complexity of the film the pre-production stage can take a lot of time and complications  may arise which may alter the initial vision for the film. When you have a cast and crew you are happy with, you can begin test shoots which can also highlight any issues that need resolving before shooting the whole film. After you have all these processes in place and a shooting schedule has been written you can begin the production stage, this can be very rewarding dependent on how much work has been put in during pre-production.

The production side of things will have the shortest time period compared to the other stages, with short films there is often only a few days filming. Cartwright states that you should follow the 70-30-10 rule, “we should devote 70% of our time to the pre-production process and 30% to post-production with the remaining 10% (if you work to 110% like I do) devoted to the actual shooting.” (Cartwright 1996) This shows that for your short film to be a success you need to spend the majority of your time planning and ensuring you have everything in place for you to be able to shoot your film. After this has taken place, post-production can begin, the footage acquired on shooting days need to be organised ready to edit. When editing the initial storyboards and scripts should be followed in order to keep the original narrative in place, however some direction may change due to complications on set or last minute changes by the director.

After the edit, you have a film but need to get it out there. With many film festivals they won’t accept submissions if the film is available online for anyone to see, so precautions need to be put in place if you want to go down the film festival route, if not, you can just submit online for the world to see. An electronic press kit (EPK) should be created to go alongside your film which can be submitted to film festivals, it includes all the technical aspects, directors statement, cast and crew bios etc. This is a promotional document for your film and careful consideration should go into designing it.

If the time and effort goes into creating your short film, you have a better chance of gaining success. As previously stated, some filmmakers use short films as a route into feature filmmaking and a successful short can sometimes allow opportunities to arise and open doors to other experiences. Below is the short film I referenced and the behind the scenes video.

 

Blue Tongue Films, (2014) Behind The Scenes Of “Spider” [online] available from <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sh6GIDeus0c&gt; [12 January 2016]

Cartwright, S. (1996) Pre-Production Planning For Video, Film, And Multimedia. Boston: Focal Press

Cowgill, L. (2005) Writing Short Films. Los Angeles, CA: Lone Eagle Pub.

Dawkins, S. and Wynd, I. (2010) Video Production. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan

Rea, P. and Irving, D. (2015) Producing And Directing The Short Film And Video. 5th edn. Focal Press

Spider. (2007) Short Film. Directed by Nash Edgerton[Online] Available from: https://vimeo.com/21037121

 

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