By Ben Feuer

Short films have been around for as long as film itself.  In the olden days, filmmakers used them as experimental laboratories, places to play with new cinematic techniques and technologies.


Frankenstein Goes to College, an early Edison film


Gertie the Dinosaur, the first keyframe animated film

Today, short films are used as industry ‘calling cards’. Much as a short story can get a novelist ‘discovered’, a fantastic short film can get a filmmaker her first opportunity to direct a feature.


Todd Haynes (Carol) got his start animating barbie dolls

So you’ve decided that you want to join their ranks and make a spectacular, award-winning short film of your own? Slow down, hero. Even before you brainstorm, you’ll want to run though a basic checklist to ensure that you’re ready to create your magnum opus.

• Watch 100 Short Films

This is not an exaggeration nor an approximation. This has, in fact, been scientifically proven to be the precise number of short films one must watch before making a great short.

Okay, that was obviously a complete lie. That said, you should watch at least that many short films before trying to make one. Watch recent festival successes on websites like these … they’ll help you get a sense of what people are looking for. Take notes about what you liked and what you didn’t like.  Keep a record of your favorite shorts and watch them three or four times — figure out how often they cut, how much dialog they use, what style of camerawork they employ.

• Attend a Local Film Festival

Sure, you can also go to film school or haunt your local art house theater (provided you still have one), but attending a film festival is a great way to meet other people who share your interests. Who knows? You might even find a few willing collaborators …

• Examine Your Life

Sure, but for what? What should you be looking for?  What are the stories, issues and themes that matter to you? Did something happen to you that was unusual or particularly interesting that you would like to share with the world?  Do you live in an unusual place, or are you part of a group of unusual people?  Don’t just copy successful filmmakers — think about what makes you stand out!

• Take Stock of Your Resources

How much time do you have? Money? Access to equipment? Willing friends? You’ll need all of these things to make a memorable short film. Figure out what you have plenty of and what you’re a bit short on, and start seeking out the resources you’re going to need.

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Okay! By now, you should have everything you need to get started on your short film!  Next time, we’ll talk about brainstorming the perfect short film concept.