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A2 G324: Advanced Portfolio in Media

Short Film Definitions

Short Film – Wikipedia Definition

“Short Film”, is an international, academic term used to mean a contemporary non-
commercial motion picture that is substantially shorter than the average commercial
feature film. There is no clear definition of the maximum length of a short film, the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences classify it as 40 minutes, while the
Internet Movie Database refer to any film lasting less than 45 minutes as a short

What Is A Short Film?1

Dr Bevin Yeatman (1998)► of The University of Waikato, New Zealand states
that Short Films are usually defined in one of two ways:

1. The Professional Filmmakers Definition: professional filmmakers

define short films in terms of what they are not, i.e. feature length film.
2. The Film Student’s Definition: students (who produce most short
films), tend to define short films in terms of what they do, i.e. concisely
express and idea.

In 1998, Dr. Yeatman asked a number of New Zealand directors, producers, and funders
involved in short film practice, “What is a short film?” The following are some of their

• 'Drama, Experimental, Personal, Documentary, Animation, etc. which is produced on

film or video up to 15 minutes in length, or 30 minutes in terms of short featurettes.'
David Reid (producer).
• 'Probably anything sub 30 minutes narrative/non-narrative designed to
entertain/challenge a theoretical audience.' Paul Swadel (film maker/video artist).
• 'A film shorter than a feature film - usually then, shorter than 70 minutes. Recently the
focus has been on theatrical short films which tend to be less than 15 minutes,
preferably under 10 minutes.' Catherine Fitzgerald (Director of Creative and Industry
Development for New Zealand Film Commission).
• 'A short film is strictly speaking any film of shorter than feature length, made for the
exhibition on the cinema screen (as opposed to video or television). In reality, one
can define it more flexibly to include dramas…where the most likely distribution is
television and video, but where the artistic impulse nevertheless is more cinematic
than televisual.' Christina Milligan (Ex-chair, Short Film Fund[2] , New Zealand Film

YEATMAN, BEVIN. (1998). What Makes A Short Fiction Film Good?, On the Art of the Short
Fiction Film , p.o.v.filmtidsskrift – A Danish Journal Of Film Studies [Online], no.5 March 1998,
available At: http://pov.imv.au.dk/Issue_05/section_4/artc2A.html, Arhus: Aarhus University, [Last
Accessed: 08/09/09].

A2 G324: Advanced Portfolio in Media

Piece Of Film?2
How Long Is A Piece
According to John Hardwick► a director of short films, pop videos and

…short films are more comparable to poetry than to plays. In the

same way that poetry can bend language and suggest (rather than
declare) meaning, short films are able to explore the vocabulary of
cinema and emphasise mood over narrative structure…short films
do tend to revolve around the single idea or event. A woman wakes
up to discover she has become monochromatic in a world that remains coloured; a
man has to balance caring for his son against attending a job interview. Both these
scenarios are simple, contained cameos - an idea worked out, a portrait
concluded…They are ideas that wouldn't make the finishing line in a feature film but
work well enough for the duration of a short.

Short films work best when they are courageous and prepared to experiment. A short
film does not have to tell a story. It can be a rant, a joke, a journey, an essay, a poem,
a portrait, a painting, a piss take.

Conventions Of Short Films

1. Less than 45 minutes long.
2. Short Films can be of any genre and can be fictional,
documentary, or experimental.
3. Short Films can be live action or animation or a mixture
of both.
4. Short Films can be narrative or non-narrative. If they do
have a narrative then it is unlikely to be multi-stranded,
and may be open ended. They tend to communicate a
single idea or theme.
5. Short Films are similar to short stories in that they
consist a narrative structure that conveys a succinct
story in a short amount of time…
6. …or they can be more like poems conveying an
emotion or mood. Short Films are often highly
experimental or surrealist (such as Un Chien Andalou
(1929) ►), exploring the vocabulary of film.
7. Short Films are mainly made by students or
aspiring filmmakers as a way to learn they craft
and to act as a ‘calling card’ as a stepping stone to
feature films or television (e.g. Alive In Joburg
8. Fan Films are amateur films created by fans of a
particular film or TV programme (Star Wars, Star
Trek, etc.) who create their own films (such as
Starship Exeter: The Savage Empire►) within that
franchise – they can be highly sophisticated and
feature impressive special effects.
9. Short Films are often exhibited theatrically at film
festivals but are now more likely to be distributed
via DVD or the Internet via specialist websites or
10. Short films are more likely to feature a monologue
than feature films.

HARDWICK, J. How Long Is A Piece Of Film?, britfilms.com [Online], available at:
http://www.britfilms.com/resources/shorts/ , [Last Accessed: 07/09/09].