Not long ago, when somebody said the words “short film,” we were taken back nearly a hundred years to a black and white screen. Whether it’s Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, or the Marx Brothers, their feature films were our short films.
Short films are defined as "an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits,” but the majority of the time they stayed within the 20-30 minute mark. Until recently, short films stayed out of the mainstream. Today, with online media content on the rise and society’s attention span in decline, short films are making a gargantuan comeback. Check out some of my favorite short films and why they are changing the world of both entertainment and advertising.
Let’s start with entertainment. The Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film or some variation of the award has been around since the 1930s, but who watches these short films? Shortoftheweek.com wrote, "This year marked an interesting milestone for the Oscar nominated animated short films. For the first time in recent memory, people actually watched them.”People are beginning to watch more and more short films on their PCs, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. David Salinas, the CEO of the branding agency Digital Surgeons, states “The trend started because of the length of time people are spending on the Internet, multiplied by the cost of delivery via free sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and more.” Simple, convenient, and free with an endless variety of content.
One of the best short films of the past decade is Jordan Bayne’s The Sea is All I Know. It did in fact make the shortlist for the Best Live Action Short Film at the Oscars in 2012, but didn’t end up getting nominated. However, it is one of the most viewed short films on Vimeo, and is brilliantly directed and lead by Academy Award winner Melissa Leo. If you want a good cry, or just to admire an extremely well made short film, take a look.
The power of online video platforms and social networks is sometimes unfathomable. A few days ago, a Power Rangers short film directed by Joseph Kahn (Torque, Detention), was released on Vimeo, and began trending on Facebook. It’s a dark, gritty, insanely violent and sexual recreation of the kids show. Imagine Kill Bill meets Transformers. Hopefully that gives you an idea on how far this film has drifted from the original series. Within a few days, Vimeo had taken the video down. However, Youtube was able to post the film and has kept it up. After a week, it has hit nearly 12 million views. The fan film is gaining international recognition.
That’s the impact Facebook and YouTube have made. Both sites have over 1 billion users. They are able to deliver the best content to the world from any device. 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Every month the number of hours of video viewed on Youtube doubles. With that said, most professionally made short films are uploaded to Vimeo. It’s an independent filmmakers heaven, with a niche audience searching for quality work.
Although short films are becoming more popular, one can't talk about short films without discussing their presence in advertising. Companies are starting to ditch the boring, less-than-a-minute commercial format for the exciting opportunity to make a “mini movie.” As Screenrant.com puts it, “Commercials re pigeon-holed into a 30-second time frame by the mainstream standards. But the ones that escape those boundaries and explore the human experience of witnessing something that cannot be explained are the ones that stay with us.” Again, thanks to Facebook and Youtube, well produced commercials are being shared and enjoyed by millions. Salinas continued, "Millions of dollars are being used for seeding the content through influencers, social media, and paid platforms via YouTube, Facebook and Twitter’s ad platform.” Here is an example of a short film commercial for an unnamed car brand.
“Shapeshifter” has over 300k views on Youtube and we don’t even know who they are promoting. Yet the quality and cleverness of the video peaks our highest interest, and captures our attention until the final clip. Another outstanding short film commercial was made for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It’s animated, and features the top footballers in the world. Nike could have easily promoted the World Cup with a simple, 30 second live action commercial, but decided to take a creative risk with an animated short film. The result? See for yourself.
Dozens of websites are now solely devoted to promoting short films. Whether it’s Facebook, Youtube, Vimeo, Reddit, etc., short films are everywhere online and people are responding. Not only are short films providing free at-your-fingertips entertainment, but they are the future of the advertisement industry. Coke was one of the first major corporations to hold a short film competition where anybody from anywhere could submit a homemade commercial for prize money and publicity.
Today, the commercials that resonate with us are short films. The Creative Project summed it up: "The internet has proven the appetite for short film is there. The challenge moving forward is not to change the experimental inclination of the short, but rather, to create a market that values and spurs the progressive nature of the short even further.”