Why Short Films Are Useless

When venturing into the world of making short films it can be difficult to know where to start. Whether you are a recent media graduate or completely new to the idea of making your own films, the sheer volume of other products out there on the festival circuit and on the internet mean you can only add your fish to an already jam packed pond.

Considering how much influence mainstream cinema has on many new filmmakers it can be a near impossible task to think of new, engaging and original stories and concepts. The ‘next to nothing’ budget doesn’t help many ambitious filmmakers achieve the results they were hoping for either.

Predictable Short Films

Making ‘short’ films is the best work around for many of the budget issues. Using programs such as After Effects and Photoshop is another work around to get those super high quality special effects we usually see in multi-million dollar movies.

The fact is that many short film makers cram their ambitious plots into 10 minutes and under just to get them into as many festivals as possible. They then couple them with cheesy effects that are at the very least cringe worthy, not forgetting gunshot1.wav downloaded from 100%freesoundeffects.com materialising regularly.

I must point out that not all film makers do this however. The other side of the short film spectrum sees cleverly constructed plots that make use of the time limitation set by festivals. Yet these are usually films with specific build-ups to plot twists or comedy catches that lose their replay value after first view.

If we step back for a moment and see short films as their own entity and not as a showreel or calling card for some hotshot producer to come and give you a job, it can be a lot more of an enjoyable experience. The digital video camera, dare I say, will also become an incredibly powerful tool, rather than a shoddy film impostor. Just look at Tan Chui Mui’s ‘A Tree In Tanjung Malim’.


Create An Identity

Realising I may have already alienated many filmmakers I’ll get to the point. We all have easy access to video cameras. A video camera can go anywhere (almost) and can capture moments in time that other devices can’t. Hence using a video camera should be celebrated and not hidden away under bags of filters and ‘magic bullets’.

If you know your craft as a videographer, you’ll create beautiful video. Capturing these moments in time and piecing them together will take you on a journey and prove to be an engaging watch.
By ‘moments’ I mean events, objects, people, animals etc.. in our everyday life, from the clothes drying on the line and the factories spewing out smoke to your journey to work in the morning, the arrangement of a pile of rubble in your garden and the roofing tiles of your home.

This is not a revelation however, as many filmmakers have been doing this for decades – Humprhey Jennings being one of the most prominent. Just watch Listen to Britain (probably the biggest influence on our Video Poetry series).


Choosing the right medium

Without sounding too pretentious (although it is difficult when discussing art forms) it is similar to the comparison between novels and poems. Both are written forms of expression, however neither are a longer or shorter, more expensive or cheaper version of the other. In this comparison the short film is the poem, and the video camera will give you the freedom to express that poem naturally and easily in its own form.


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Manjeet S. Gill


Film maker and writer for the Black Country Cinema collective. My work often revolves around Asians living in contemporary Britain. Main influences include Ozu, Koreeda and Hou.

  2 comments for “Why Short Films Are Useless

  1. 10/08/2010 at 10:26

    Some nice advice here. I think when learning to write I spent about 10 years writing what is essentially a lot of junk. Despite my best efforts to be original when I look back on my writing I realise I was unconsciously rehashing stuff from films I’d already seen. As a result, the work felt hollow. I agree with this article in that the filmmaker should pay attention to the world around them, and look at themselves. Personal observations are so much more interesting and valuable than some flashy special effects showreel gimmick.

    • Black Country Cinema
      Black Country Cinema
      01/11/2011 at 20:34

      I am sorry for the very late reply, we haven’t been keeping an eye out on the responses. When I wrote this, only after looking back at our work from that time, I can say that we still had very limited knowledge. We are all constantly discovering and learning, but strive to express inner thoughts and feelings honestly and unencumbered.

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