Cut! Cut! Cut! Make it Short! – Vrinda Rastogi

“I think that short films often contain an originality, a creative freedom, an energy and an invention that is inspiring and entertaining. I think they are, as Shakespeare put it, a good deed in a naughty world.” – Kenneth Branagh

A short film is any motion picture not long enough to be considered a feature film. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a short film as ‘an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits.’ So, if you’re thinking of skipping the beginning to make popcorn, don’t! You might end up missing the whole film altogether! (But at least you won’t run out of snacks in the middle of the movie.)

All movies at the beginning of the cinema were short films, sometimes running less than even a minute. Imagine being done with ‘Tangled’ in 60 seconds. Rapunzel won’t even have time to let down her hair! In fact, it was not until the 1910s that movies started to be longer than 10 minutes (so now, there is time for her to let down the hair, for Flynn to climb it and hopefully enough for her to hit him with the pan as well- because who doesn’t love that part?)

The first set of films were presented in 1894 and it was through a device called kinetoscope invented by Thomas Edison. So, we have more to thank him for, other than the bulb.

Comedy short movies were especially popular and often came in a serial or series. Who can forget Charlie Chaplin?

This was also the time around which cartoon shorts came into being. Some of these include the works of studios such as Walt Disney Productions (Remember Mickey Mouse!) and Warner Bros.

By the 1930s, with the rise of the double feature, two-reel shorts went into decline as a commercial category. By the mid-1950s, with the rise of television, the commercial live-action short was virtually dead, The Three Stooges being the last major series of 2-reelers, ending in 1959.

The Three Stooges

Cartoon shorts had a longer life, due, in part, to the implementation of lower-cost limited animation techniques. Despite being popular, they also declined in this period. The Pink Panther was the last regular theatrical cartoon short series, having begun in 1964 and ending in 1980 (am I the only one playing the tune of Pink Panther in my head?)

By the 1960s, the market for animated shorts had largely shifted to television.

A short script can’t just be a compressed feature film. Nor can a feature script be a lengthened short. They are two different beasts to tackle — complete with different structures, different pacing, and different results. Short scripts are more than what they appear to be. They have a specific structure to them that focuses on getting to the true core of a character, theme, and concept.

 

Imagine Gully Boy as a short film.

Instead of compressing the whole film into 20 minutes, we would take one part and show that.

For example, we would perhaps take the scene where Murad (Ranveer Singh) goes out with his friends to spray paint all over the city.

The scene would start with Murad getting into the car with Sky (Kalki Koechlin) and her friends.

They would go all around the city, spray painting and rebelling against the society (Loved the ‘Brown & Beautiful‘ and the ‘Nature was here‘ bits!).

The scene ends with Murad adding his bit to the rebellion, with the ‘Roti, Kapda, Makaan, + Internet’ sign.

All the while, the song ‘Jeene mein aaye mazaa’ plays in the background.

So, don’t write short scripts thinking that you are preparing yourself for features — you’re not. Instead, write short scripts to prepare yourself to write amazing scenes, moments, and sequences within a feature script.

It just so happens that short films are considered a category of their own. Because short films just weren’t short enough, right? Fresh Guacamole (2012), an animated short film is the shortest film to be nominated for the Oscars at one minute 40 seconds.

There is even a film called ‘The 1 Second Film’. The irony of it is that the movie has a running time of one hour 30 minutes. That moment when a second seems like an eternity (or in this case, an hour and a half!).

But for those of you who like longer films, an experimental film called Modern Times Forever runs over 10 days. TEN DAYS!! Gives a whole new perspective to ‘forever’, doesn’t it?

In short– pun intended –if you’re one of those people who can’t sit still for long, or like quick but impactful movies, short movies may be your thing. Just make sure to be ready with the popcorn beforehand.

 

-Vrinda Rastogi, Amity International School, Noida

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