Most aspiring filmmakers pine away for the day they’re offered a three picture deal from a major studio like Universal, Warner Bros or 20th Century Fox for a feature length film; but since there are better odds at being electrocuted or winning the lottery, your best bet as a student and future director is to take a better look at the short film forum.
Most, if not all of the films you’ll make while attending a film school program will be shorts. A short film by Industry standards is any film with a running time of 40 minutes or less. They can be shot in black and white or color, have a low-budget or no budget, be live action or animated. Indie filmmakers and students use short films as their personal calling cards to showcase their filmmaking skills, styles and themes. Successful execution of the short film format proves to the University or the Studio Executives that the filmmaker has a firm grasp of the filmmaking process and further encourages them to financially back or distribute a prospective feature length film.
Short Film Festivals are held at the local, national and international level, including those prestigious heavyweights the Cannes Film Festival, AFI Fest, and the Sundance Film Festival. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gives short film awards to both students and Industry professionals. In 1971 the Academy awarded Robert Zemeckis with the Special Jury award for his short “A field of Honor.” Zemeckis would go on to direct the Back to the Future franchise and win an Oscar for Best Director for Forrest Gump.
A well made short film can be just as emotive and visually engaging as a feature length film. Yet short films are not mere glimpses into a story, or one trick ponies meant to dazzle the audience and disappear just a quickly, but they can be molded into a larger film narrative. The vignette format of French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Goddard is structured like so many shorts joined in a thematic narrative. The film Coffee ad Cigarettes, directed by Jim Jarmusch, is an extremely enjoyable film comprised of shorts filmed by the director over a span of 20 years.
In other words, learning to create evocative, visually exciting short films will help you get the recognition required to eventually land that glorious three picture deal you’ve always dreamed of. While you don’t necessarily need film school to pick up a camera and start shooting shorts on your own, attending a film school program will give you the skills you need to become a great storyteller and filmmaker.
Get information on film production degrees by using the form on this page. School representatives will guide you through the process and answer any questions you might have.
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