The creation of short films began in the early 1900s in the United States. The main theme of these shorts in the beginning was centered on comedy, and became very popular. Everyone was excited to get together and go see a film. Shortly after they became popular, around the 1930s short films started to lose their status. What began to happen was the larger companies that helped invest in these short films, bought them from the owners and began turning them into more expensive and longer, feature films. This action was called “block booking” (Kamau, 2011).
However this was quickly made illegal by the Supreme Court so all the large companies ended up having to sell their studios. Another contributor to the fall of short films was the growing popularity of television in people’s homes in the 1950s. The only short films that were seen by the public were the ones television shows bought and played. This left only independent filmmakers to create short films. Sadly, short films evaporated from the entertainment world, before entering the 1970s.
Short films slowly made their way back on the scene in the 1980’s and had a variety of genres. They are now considered “contemporary noncommercial motion pictures” that are shorter in length than big feature movies (Kamau, 2011). There has never been a concrete answer about how long a short film should be, what it should include and so on. Groups such as the Tampere Film Festival and Irish Cork Film Festival are working together to create a set of rules for short films. This may cause controversy for many people because the idea of short films is that it is very free, to do whatever one wants. Each individual can follow their own direction giving each short film its own individuality.
These groups believe that a set of rules can help maintain short films and keep them in existence for generations to come. Short films need theories just as short stories do in literature (Jaakola, 2007). These rules will help to continue to attract audiences of all different ages and groups. Today there is a never ending amount of short films that exist and they all leave a lot of room for creativity. However, the only way these want-to-be filmmakers can reach the public are in art festivals, like the Sundance Film Festival or Tampere Film Festival, or by utilizing media platforms like Facebook and YouTube. The existence of these festivals is important because they are the voice of these short films, to help them evolve and attract more people to short films (Jaakkola, 2007). Making short films is very popular today among the youth and for people who wish to be a filmmaker one day. A big reason for this is because it is very inexpensive to create a short film and in some cases, it’s even free.
Short films are rising in popularity thanks to filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro and producers like Sam Raimi who support, create and search for short films and prove that it is possible to attract a large audience to something many would have doubted. Short films may actually have the potential to save Hollywood (Zeitchik, 2010). Hollywood has reached the point where there is a loss of passion and creativity for a movie. Short films began with the pure creativity and love to create a film; for the individual person’s pride and enjoyment. Now there is this heightened importance to create a big, over the top movie that will sell. The priorities in making films are now distorted which in turn produces recurring, lackluster films with similar plots and effects just because filmmakers know it is what people will pay to see. How much longer though will this satisfy us?
As moviegoers, we are so spoiled by films made available to us today and we forget up until the 1970s, a short silent film was something a family looked forward to going to see together and enjoy to their fullest (Hart, 2001). Now every movie is competing with one another to have more action, more effects and quirkier animation; what will happen when everyone gets tired of that? There is something amazing about the simplicity of short films, the availability, the cost and most importantly the uniqueness and lack of remakes and competitiveness that feature films have today.
Joseph Levy who has produced a few short films on the Internet including “George Lucas in Love” said, “There is an increasing awareness in Hollywood that aspiring filmmakers are being empowered by cheaper, more accessible technology” (Hart, 2001). Many people may disagree about the internet being a great medium for short films because it is too accessible and lacks demand. However, it gives aspiring filmmakers more of a chance to make it. It used to take them years to try to show their films in different festivals year after year. Now with mediums such as YouTube, these amateurs have the opportunity to be exposed to millions of viewers in a matter of days.
Short films are not only economically effective but also save you cost and time. Filmmakers and producers are slowly going to remember the enjoyment of creating shorts and that is what will bring popularity back to the short films. Bertrand Lee, a director of short films agrees and believes this is where a director gets to show his skills for creating a short film. You are allowed to experiment with different ideas and making mistakes are considered okay; in comparison to big feature films that have an intense structure and money is time and time is money (Foo, 2002).
With short films growing in popularity there will also be more expectations for the actors in the films. If you look back at most short films, the actor only had 15 minutes, or even 5 minutes to shine. This means displaying every gesture, emotion and word to the best of their ability. Big feature films today, actors have a couple hours to show their talent and the film is not as closely focused on them as an individual, which also leads to poor acting and a disconnect from the audience. Another positive aspect short film will bring to the table is challenging the artists and actors to really have talent; to really be able to adapt and become this character and capture the audience in a short amount of time.
Some people disagree with short films being the answer to saving Hollywood. Dave Justo, a producer, photographer and videographer believes if anything, Hollywood is getting bigger. “There are less people, but those people are making huge amount of profit. With the internet, you have a new generation of people who have a really short attention span and sometimes it is easier to watch a 10 minute movie and not embrace yourself in a 2 hour long feature film. That kind of film goes along with the generation that is coming along. With music, film, it’s how people are”. He believes we are getting less attentive so short film feeds that need to have something straight to the point and with YouTube it is very evident.
“It sucks in a way because you can’t fully immerse yourself in to the character you’re watching and do not feel you have as much of an emotional attachment. It takes time to build rapport with the character or mutual relation to find in yourself in that character.” Justo feels you can’t fully relate to the character in a short film and that it does not give the full effect that a full length movie gives you. “If Hollywood isn’t Hollywood in 5 years it will be some other company that has the biggest production. (Short films) It’s like a Google filter for movies, with short films, you have what you want, right there, there’s no hour and a half of excessive things” Justo does agree that with short film it is more about individual creation for whomever is directing or writing and their exact thoughts rather than this polished, generic film like in long feature films.
Slowly over the years the amazing qualities of short film and how it once was in the 1900s, has been warped and translated into a less original, constantly repetitive and aggressive industry. “Effects are tamed attractions” (Gunning, 2001). We are gradually losing that pull or connection that once existed between the film and the spectator. Hopefully filmmakers, directors and Hollywood will start to acknowledge the power in short films and that they might be what will save Hollywood from drying up of repeats, uninspired films, and lack of creativity.
Foo, J. (2002, December). A nation’s cinema starts with shorts. Retrieved from Mini Cinema website:
Gunning, T. The cinema of attraction: Early film, its spectator, and the avant-garde. The question of
realism (pp. 229-235). Retrieved from http://www.english.tamu.edu/pers/fac/bhattacharya/files/cinema_of_attraction.pdf
Hart, M. (2001, January 14). Film: A comeback for short films is linked to the web. The New York Times.
Jaakkola, M. (2007, March 11). A long future for short films. Retrieved from Festival News website:
Kamau, R. (2007, April 10). A brief history of short films. Retrieved from Associated Content website:
Zeitchik, S. (2010, May 10). Can shorts save hollywood? Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from