Making Short Films

A famous mouse (not that one), an American propaganda film, and a boy named Spanky. A deaf 4-year-old, paper airplanes, and a suicide hotline. These are a few old and new subjects that have won Academy Awards for both live-action and animated short films.

With a running time well short of the standard feature-length film, short films allow filmmakers to tell their tale on a smaller scale. These shorts also allow film production from around the world an expanded opportunity to show the globe their talents.

The U.K., Hungary, Ireland, and Denmark have produced five of the last six live-action Oscar winners. The animated field has been dominated by the United States, although films from Chile, Luxembourg, and Australia have seen the winners circle over the past nine years as well.

No matter where you’re from, however, the shorter format can make filmmakers of us all. Short Film Festivals in the U.S. and U.K., Belgium and Brazil, and Japan and Germany give short movies the exposure they would otherwise not have.

Advantages of Making Short Films

Although the subject matter is important, short filmmakers don’t have nearly the strain on their budget that full-length movie producers do. Most short filmmakers shoot locally, meaning they don’t have to find locations. They can shoot the film in a few days or weeks and can be made with just a few thousands of dollars.

(Yes, we understand that documentary short films, which have their own Oscar, can be just as stressful as any full-length film. These movies can also require months of shooting. There have also been many films shot on the cheap, including El Mariachi, which was famously shot on an incredibly tight budget – less than $8,000.)

Unless commissioned by a major studio for some reason, short filmmakers also have very little oversight. A simple script, inexpensive video editing software, and a shorter amount of editing time make the format very accessible to beginners and veterans alike.

Of course, there are downsides as well. Getting your movie seen on the crowded festival circuit can be disheartening after a few rejections. And the budget won’t allow for eye-popping special effects. Submitting the film to local movie houses or trying your hand at a 24-hour short film contest may be just the solution to getting your name out there.

Animated Shorts

When it comes to animated shorts, the winning studios become a little more recognizable. The Oscar was first awarded in 1932, won by Flowers and Trees from Walt Disney. Disney went on to win the first eight awards and 10 of eleven. Fred Quimby, of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, won a total of seven Oscars with his cat and mouse team, Tom and Jerry.

The original shorts were cartoons shown before the feature films. Decades later, they were
seen as Saturday morning cartoons. In fact, most short films were animated at the beginning because they were cheaper to produce and easier to create.

Recently, Pixar has won five Oscars using computer-generated graphics to make their short films. Claymation, stop motion, and other types of animation have all been nominated or won Oscars. Many animated full-length features often include shorts in DVD releases or as television special events.

The History of Live-Action Shorts

A scene from a short film created by a Film Connection alumni In the days before televisions became staples in the American household, many live-action shorts were shown before feature films. Shorts including Laurel and Hardy, The Little Rascals, and The Three Stooges got lots of laughs and began drawing audiences of their own.

The Great Depression, World War II, and television all hastened the demise of the short film. The Little Rascals and the Three Stooges found new homes on the small screen and can still be seen in syndication. In a way, television series took the place of those short films.

Over the past few decades, live-action short films have received very little airtime on conventional television networks. But the rise of the internet, YouTube, and streaming services like Netflix, have allowed these films the audience they would not have had otherwise. New technologies also give budding filmmakers a chance to make movies on their laptops.

Learn Techniques from a Professional

It doesn’t matter if you’re making a short film, full-length feature, or TV spot, there are standard processes. Filming, sound, and lighting are all important, and if you aren’t sure what you’re doing, it could really muddle the waters.

Film Connection gives those interested in learning about making movies the programs and workshops needed to focus their efforts. Our mentors are industry professionals in real-world production studios who understand the technical, personal, and financial situations filmmakers face.

Film Connection offers programs in directing and cinematography and workshops centered on screenwriting and editing. Upon completion, externs will have learned the actual how-to’s of moviemaking. From how to operate a boom to making connections in the industry. Ready to learn how to get your small film under the big lights? Apply today.

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