I was asked earlier in the year to be a guest speaker at the London Rolling Film Festival, it was for budding film makers to showcase their short films and receive feedback from their peers (an excellent idea, you should never rely on self-valuation). There were 22 entries all being screened that night, so there was a very vibrant crowd, a lot of wide eyed enthusiasm and unrealistic ideas about the industry.
After all the shorts had been screened I was asked to stand up and address the crowd whilst a winner was being chosen by the judges. So I was introduced and I gave a brief intro to me and my credentials within the industry… I seemed to have their attention… so I figured I may as well provide some harsh reality by asking them a few questions.
Question 1: How many people here tonight want to make feature films?
Practically everyone in attendance rose their hand.
Question 2: How many of you have made more than one Short film?
All the budding film makers rose their hands with self-satisfied grins on their faces, so my next questions was…
Question 3: Why?
My audience became deflated…
Now a good short will become your calling card while you build up your showreel material, after all a good 3 minute short can provide all your technical and creative accomplishments for a potential employer to see just as well as a collection of snippets of your various bits of work as your portfolio expands… But why make more than one?
The example I gave was this:
*Please note – the making of shorts for this particular article is more aimed at Directors/film makers not Actors/Producers etc*
I go to Vistaprint and I have a business card printed up… I don’t go back to vistaprint the following week for a different design… that’s my business card, I’ve already put the thought in and ended up with a design, colour scheme and layout that I feel best represents me… I don’t second guess myself and sure as hell don’t spend more money to do a different batch to achieve the same thing – telling people my details and what I do… so why continue to make shorts???
You have made your calling card…now use it to go get yourself that low budget Indie feature film job (and you then use that for the mid-level budget one and so on)… don’t use it to do another short… what’s the point? All you are telling the world is you can’t get a job making a feature… ok, that may be a tad too blunt… there is a lot of competition out there and a lot does fall on who you know not what you know… so I apologise… and I will rephrase it… Making a bunch of shorts tells the industry that you do not understand the industry… It is called ‘ShowBUSINESS’ not ‘ShowART’ (a phrase borrowed from film guru Dov Simens) and there is no money in shorts… even high profile festival winners, there is no profit to be made from a short… so you churning out 20 of them just says you like to waste money… But I hear you cry… ‘They don’t cost much to make’… True… say you spent £100 – £500 on a short… that’s an amount that you can write off… perhaps you crowd funded it, perhaps your long lost relative said ‘I believe in ya kid’ and fronted the money… whatever it was… you spent that money… times that by 20 (or more… or less… the amount is irrelevant… you get the point I’m making here) and suddenly you realise you could of made a feature, that would provide experience, perhaps even allow you to make a return on it and you have something on the CV that producers/investors etc would look at and take seriously… In this day and age of digital convenience I don’t understand why every new film maker isn’t making a full feature as their next project after their short… I know wannabe film makers that have wanted £80k to make a 20 minute short… I know budding film makers that have taken over a year to film 10 minutes… I know two talented film makers that have won an award from Cannes and another from Tribeca and still gone back to making shorts… WHY????
On a side note: winning an award is great… gives your work that seal of approval… of course the award only matters if it’s from one of the top 6 festivals held… other than that… who cares… and even then if you do not capitalise after a win at Cannes, or Sundance or Berlin within 2 years… it means nothing as there have been 2 new, fresher winners now on the market… a win doesn’t give you an automatic job… it just gives you the additional credit as you continue to knock on doors…
Personally I blame film schools – you pay your tuition, you spend 4-7 years earning your degree, you are taught a bunch of antiquated and pipe dream ways that have no bearing on the real world of today’s film making and for what… to understand and make 2 maybe 3 shorts???? Give me a break… the amount of fresh out of college film students I’ve met who just can’t understand why on the micro budget feature film they are on, doesn’t allow for individual Heads of Departments, or why the clapper doesn’t have a clapper loading assistant or why there isn’t a green room or catering bus… and the list goes on… the reality is for the money you spent learning old ways to make a film you could have actually made a real feature film… and understood a little more about the industry.
So remember… a good short is your calling card… you only need one… use it to move to the next step otherwise 10 years down the line… you’ll still be scrimping and saving to make the next short that you’ll enter in the next nothing festival alongside all the newer, younger entry level film makers out there… don’t become that old creepy Uncle or mutton dressed as lamb Aunt that won’t leave the cool kids party… get in, get out, move on…