Conventions of short films

Short film refers to any film not considered a feature film in terms of length. Although length is the most obvious characterisation of a short film, films of this type will share codes and conventions which seperate them from other forms of video.


A short film will most commonly last between 3 to 20 minutes, however the length varies greatly and can last as little as a minute and up to 40. Short film competition Depict! specifically asks for films lasting 90 seconds, playing on the idea that feature films will usually last 90 minutes.


Storylines are generally kept simple and easy to follow and will be based over a short period of time. The narrative is usually condensed and there will be limited dialogue. Instead characters will be developed through images and actions rather than extended and lengthy dialogue sequences.


Due to the length and simplicity in storyline, a short film will usually introduce between 1 and 3 main characters as creating back stories and developing characters is again limited. This is also done in order to keep the audience engaged and be able to follow the storyline without being bombarded with information and new people. Short films will usually last only long enough to connect the audience to few characters and will not have a developed enough storyline to hold a large cast.


Including a twist is a common convention in short film although this is not a general rule and not all short films will use this format. However, a twist allows the film maker to tell a short story in an interesting way and they are able to do this as the short storyline gives less clues to the ending.


Overall short films allow for much more creativity and abstraction. They will often be made up of a number of creative shots and soundtrack making up an artisitic and sometimes quirky piece. The director or film maker are able to use more creative flair placing their own signature look on the piece as there is less pressure to make a profitable film for a large audience.Well established directors such as Matin Scorsese, Spike Jones and Tim Burton, make short film despite their popularity and success in mainstream for these reasons.


Budgets for short film are usually quite low. Short films are unlikely to make any money which effects the amount spent in the making and they are often made by first time film makers or experiemntal artists and film makers with no or little funding. This effects the overall look of the film creating a more home made or arty look. There are exceptions of this however where a film made on a low budget looks near professional and others which will have a large budget to spend on making.

Niche Audience

Short films have a lot smaller and niche audience than mainstream due to the creative nature, length and simple storyline. Although laregly accessable, many are not aware of short film. This is laregly due to popularity decreasing through the 30’s onwards, and the limited access in mainstream forms such as prime time television and cinema. Short film also varies in genre and style and will appeal to a much more specific audience.


Short films are used to convey a strong emotion to the viewer whether this is laughter, pleasure, sadness or anger, sometimes making comments on morals or society in the process. Short films can be a lot more powerful in this way as it is easy to make something appear differently to how it is or to get the audience thinking about a particualr topic without having the time to make up their minds while watching, leaving them to contemplate after the film has finished. There will also usually be a stronger connection to the characters as they are shown closely throughout, with the creativity allowing for more humour and pleasure.

Online distribution

Unlike mainstream film, short films are laregly accessable for free through the internet. There are many sites who distribute short films online from independent to established sites such as the BBC. This is the easiest and most effective way for short film to reach audiences as they are very rarely shown at cinemas or on television. DVDs can be brought with selections of short films on, however, they are most widely accessed over the web. As short film is based much more on creativity and expression rather than mainstream and profit, it is much more important for the film maker to reach a wide audience and distribute films to them for free.

Opposition to mainstream

All of these codes and conventions laregly make short film in opposition to mainstream. They hold a very different format and style to each other and short film will usually try to give audiences a different outlet of film to the mainstream.

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