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10 Reasons Why You Should Make a Short Film

I cannot recall how many times I've heard or read social media posts from emerging filmmakers asking the question, "Why should I make a short film, especially if I can't earn my money back?"


The short answer to that question is that it's typically easier, faster, and more affordable to shoot a short film, which later enables you to showcase your abilities as a creator. However, if you're an aspiring or even an experienced filmmaker, there are countless other benefits of producing a short film.

10 Reasons why you should make a short film

Unlike a feature film, the short allows the filmmaker to upend traditional storytelling and experiment with the subject matter, themes, emerging technology, etc. If you're smart about how you approach developing your story's concept and completing the finished picture, you can produce a project that could take you all the way to the Oscars.

Ahem… take note of the 2019 Academy Award-winning Best Animated Short Film "Hair Love" that Matthew Cherry created. The short has spawned a TV series ordered by HBO Max and was also adapted into a children's book narrated by Beyonce's oldest daughter, Blue Ivy Carter.



While shorts can provide some serious career recognition and awards, the most remarkable thing about short films is the creativity that goes into making a compelling visual story. You can really take some artistic risks with your project. It allows the filmmaker unadulterated leeway in creating a cinematic world for their characters without investing a ton of time, money, or energy into the project. If the short plays well with festival audiences or studios scouting for good material, you may have the opportunity to expand your story into a feature film.


There are plenty of other benefits, so let's dive a little deeper into the potential rewards of creating a short.


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PS: Some of these are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I may get a commission for recommending the product to you.


Here are ten specific reasons why making a short film is worth exploring:


Opportunity to Hone Skills


Making a short film provides excellent practice. It allows you to fine-tune your visual storytelling skills. You may be surprised, but it's pretty tricky to tell a short story without it coming across as overwhelmingly cumbersome.


Writing, directing, and shooting a short film is an incredible process to use as a learning exercise. It allows you the freedom to learn new genres, technology, equipment, production management, directing styles, editing styles, and storytelling techniques.


"Honing your skills is about gaining the confidence to create a feature film."

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Breaking into a New Career Path


If you're someone who wants to break into a different area of filmmaking that you usually don't participate in, then creating a short is a great way to build a portfolio that can showcase those skills.


For instance, I usually produce movie projects (Because I Love You, Flashes, Created Equal), but I recently directed a short film, "Karma: The Tale of a Woman Scorned." My intentions are to start building my director's portfolio so that I'll be able to display my visual storytelling abilities as a director.

The final locked picture of a short will offer audio/visual footage for a director's reel, a producer's sizzle reel and/or cinematographer's reel, or any other crew member that needs visual material for a portfolio.


The short projects you partake in may also offer some respectable credits to your resume to support your new work activity in the motion picture industry. Your new portfolio could lead to potential job offers in that new position.


Stepping Stone


Traditionally, shorts can potentially be used as a "stepping stone" to bigger and better projects. For instance, the short film "Whiplash," directed by Damien Chazelle, screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, which led to the making of the feature film version that went on to win three Academy Awards.


As previously mentioned above, the animated short "Hair Love" opened the door to bigger and better opportunities for the creator, Matthew Cherry. Before the success of "Hair Love," Matthew had a pretty decent independent career going. However, after receiving an Oscar for his award-winning short, you can see that his list of television directing credits increased, and that's on top of his HBO Max deal.


These success stories may be rare cases, but are you willing to bet on yourself?


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Experimentation


Generally speaking, shorts cost far less than features to produce, so it allows you to experiment a little bit and even fail.


For instance, if you're given a million dollars for a feature film project and fail, you're more than likely going to struggle to find someone willing to invest in your vision again. Whereas, if you're doing a short project for $1-10k, at most, you lost time, energy, a little bit of your investment, and you maybe gained a bruised ego. Something you definitely can bounce back from.


If you want to run wild like Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, Christopher Nolan, or Guy Ritchie, have at it. Shorts are meant to be a low-pressure way to experiment with different aspects of filmmaking. Although, you still have to keep budget constraints in mind.



Shorts are a great way to present and test weird, unusual, and fascinating stories on your audience. If your concept is misunderstood or not accepted, it allows you to go back to the drawing board or trash it completely.


Easier to Create


During this age of affordable digital film equipment, most aspiring creators can create a short project with little to no budget. Some creators are even creating content from their cell phones-- making it a reality that anyone can produce their own film.


So, there's no reason not to create content. The opportunity is there. You just have to be willing and determined to pursue your filmmaking objectives.


Suppose you have an unbelievable idea and the resources to bring it to fruition. In that case, there are award categories out there for you to capitalize on, such as the Academy Awards and The Emmys short-form categories.


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Calling Card


The best entry point for an aspiring filmmaker is through the creation of an outstanding short film. While the appeal of shorts in the commercially viable sense is almost non-existent, a celebrated short film can get you noticed by some major players.


Creating an impactful short film that showcases your artistic voice and proves that you've got the chops has the ability to get you recognized. One of the best tactics to gain this visibility is by submitting your film to festivals to rack up on laurels. This recognition adds credibility to your brand and also helps pad your resume and bio.


Your credibility as a filmmaker helps reinforce your career aspirations as well as your attractiveness to financiers and studios.


Proof of Concept


Another common use of the short is the "Proof of Concept." The impression is for you to create a short film related to a feature script you've written so that you can prove the worthiness of your feature's concept.


Also, a proof of concept helps you distinguish yourself from other creators who only have a screenplay to present. Moreover, this type of short helps interested parties grasp the vision and gets them eager to jump aboard.


Your proof of concept could be shortened version of your feature film, or it could be a scene excerpted from your feature's storyline.


This approach worked for James Wan, the director of the horror film franchise, "Saw." The original Saw movie started as a 9 1/2-minute short film. The short project was used to shop around the feature-length concept to potential investors and distributors.


And, well… you see how that turned out for Wan— eight feature films later…



Exposure


The wild, wild west of the internet is an excellent way of getting your project out there to the masses. It's a great way to get feedback from a wide range of international viewers.


And, the best way to find your niche audience is by placing your film on YouTube. Of course, it will still take you to do a little finessing to get your targeted audience on the platform to view your work. Nevertheless, it's a wonderful way to find film enthusiasts who love to discover emerging filmmakers and build a loyal fanbase.


Placing your short on social media platforms gives your film the potential to go viral, which means the right studio executive's potentially coming across your project.


Yeah, I know… the potential of going viral is like winning the lottery. But if you do nothing—you get nothing. So, it's well worth the effort you've already put in thus far.


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Film Festivals


Another way to gain traction and visibility of your work is by submitting your short film to film festivals. It's a tremendous opportunity to have an audience of industry gatekeepers and filmmaking peers watch your project on the big screen.


A proper festival strategy could give you access to networking with distributors, development executives, production companies, actors, and other filmmakers for possible collaboration.


Furthermore, an official selection to a festival can lead to winning awards and prizes—this type of recognition aids in getting your name out there and linked to a notable project.


For instance, the writer-director duo Jonathan and Josh Baker gained recognition for their sci-fi short film, "Bag Man," that premiered at the SXSW Film Festival.



Actor and producer Michael B. Jordan had come across the short and took a vested interest in seeing the emerging filmmakers' feature film idea come to life. So, that's how the duo was able to take their first directing journey on the major feature film production— "KIN."


The most important thing if you are interested in screening at festivals is to watch shorts that screened at those festivals. All festivals are not made equal, so be sure to check out what kind of films they have screened before. You don't want to waste your time, effort, and money on a festival that screens Arthouse films if you have an action flick.


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Distribution


Although the prospect of distribution is limited for a short film, there are still some possibilities for revenue or licensing agreements. If you created a short film with outstanding production value, a television channel might broadcast it, especially if it fits into a particular theme they are looking to showcase.


For instance, my short film, "Karma: The Tale of a Woman Scorned," aired on Revolt TV's Short & Fresh series during Women's History Month, March 2021. The short's production coincided with the theme of recognizing women. So, my short aired alongside another woman filmmaker's film for that particular episode. You can submit your short via email: films@revolt.tv

There are other distribution outlets for shorts, such as HBO's Short Film Competition at the American Black Film Festival or SundanceTV Shorts.


There's also digital means of distribution such as Fox Soul's Screening Room and Issa Rae Presents / HooRae: Short Film Sundays You can submit your short film via email: submit@issarae.com

You would rarely find a short screened in a theater outside of film festivals. However, some very prominent shorts have been shown before feature films on general release.


For instance, Hair Love screened in theaters before The Angry Birds Movie 2, Jumanji: The Next Level, and Little Women.


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Final thoughts…


As you can see, short films are important to filmmakers. So, whether you're creating shorts to practice, experiment, build your resume, or pitch an idea, producing a short film is a low-cost and effective way to test out your ideas before jumping into a feature film.


Plus, during this digital age of bite-sized, viral videos, production companies and studios are eager to get their hands on short content and creators who booms off this type of material.


Just to recap…

  • You've learned that creating a short is an opportunity to hone skills.

  • You've learned that a short can help you break into a different career path.

  • You've learned that it's a great stepping stone for future endeavors.

  • You've learned that it's great for experimenting with new ideas and technology.

  • You've learned that they're easier and more affordable to create.

  • You've learned that you can use your short as a calling card.

  • You've learned that a short can be used as a proof of concept for a feature film.

  • You've learned that social media is a great way to gain exposure for a short.

  • You've learned that a film festival strategy can help gain traction for your film.

  • And, you've learned there are potential distribution outlets for a short.


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An excellent exercise for you would be to create multiple ideas and strategies on how you can best use short-form films for your benefit.


Remember, this is not a pointless exercise. Planning for your short film strategy begins at the formulation stage. This exercise would be one of your first steps towards figuring out your short film's purpose, plan, and marketing strategy.


Good luck!


Oh, and let me know in the comments how this exercise works out for your project.


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Having equipped yourself with insights about the benefits of making a short film, it's time to embark on your filmmaking adventure. Join me on YouTube to learn the 14-Step Process for Making a Short Film.

 

Of course, Diversity in Cinema Academy has many other resources that I love to share with you, but I wanted to keep this blog strictly about the top ten reasons why you should make a short film.


If I had to pick two resources I couldn't live without for my short film production, it would be these two tools.



Tool #2 - DaVinci Resolve


Aside from the tools above, I also use many other resources to help me prep for a movie production. Some of them are FREE and some are paid.


You can check out some of the other resources that I love using on Diversity in Cinema Academy's resources page. You can view all of the resources for Filmmakers, Content Creators and Screenwriters from the links provided.


From filmmaking tools, to content creation tools, to screenwriting tools... they all can be found in the tools section of Diversity in Cinema Academy's website. I highly recommend that you check out our tools store! :)


If you like it, please help me to share the resources link with a friend. I would really appreciate it!


Okay, that's all for now. I hope that you have found the information I provided helpful!


Enough information, make it happen!


 

ABOUT DIVERSITY IN CINEMA ACADEMY:


Diversity in Cinema Academy is an online digital media company that primarily uses web-based applications, such as an interactive website and social media platforms, to offer aspiring filmmakers and screenwriters an entertaining and educational place to interact with each other and professional filmmakers.


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