Friday, 25 November 2011

Feature Films vs. Short Films

When the three of us finished University we were left with a choice to make: How do we go about furthering our career as filmmakers? We had been involved in many different types of production during our time at University, but now we had graduated we had total control over which direction to steer our careers.

As we mentioned in a previous article, for the immediate future the three of us have focused on independently producing short films. But considering there is very little money or recognition in short films, you would be forgiven in thinking that continuing to make short films is a waste of time and money. After all, feature films get cinematic releases. Cinematic releases get box office figures. Box office figures mean money for the filmmaker. Most short films never make it to the cinema and only ever get watched on YouTube. So why not just make one feature film rather than five short films?
    Bravo Rising:
    Cost £1,000. Took 3 months.
    Scored 52%.
  1. Cost - Feature films are much more expensive to make than shorts. Although we have jobs, we don't earn nearly enough to fund a feature film ourselves. Short films cost far less, allowing you to make more. Even then, short films with high budgets are not necessarily better than those with a low budget. In our second year, we learned the hard way that no-one cares how much the film cost unless it's any good.
  2. Time - Producing a feature film from start to finish can take years. Short films can be written, shot and edited in a weekend.
  3. Risk - Feature films are a huge investment of both time and money. If you spend a full year and £10,000 of your own money on a feature film and no-one likes it, it's a huge set-back. However, if no-one likes your short film that you shot in two days for £50 it's not a huge loss - you can just move on to the next one.
  4. The Innocence of War:
    Cost: £50. Took 2 days.
    2nd place at Fargo Film Festival.
  5. Personnel - Acquiring cast and crew for a feature film is a very difficult process. Personnel need to be available for weeks or months at one time. On the other hand, rounding up a couple of actors and a skeleton crew for a quick two day shoot is far easier.
  6. Distribution - Once you've made your feature, how do people see it? You may have made a 90 minute masterpiece, but if you can't get it into film festivals or cinemas then it's all for nothing. Distribution costs can easily be as much as production costs and even then there's no guarantee that people will see it. The beauty of short films is that they can be viewed and shared online quickly and easily.
  7. Skills - Ultimately, we're still finding our feet when it comes to filmmaking. Making lots of short films allows your to perfect your skills by learning from your mistakes. It'd be a shame to find out after your 12 month, £10,000 feature that shooting a good movie is a lot harder than it looks. It's better to make those mistakes when the stakes are lower.
What it comes down to is that we want to establish ourselves through short films before we move on to making a feature. By making lots of short films we can experiment with different genres and styles to work out what audiences like. From there, we can build a fan base that would be willing to see a feature that we make down the line.

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