Moving from short films to feature films is a big deal for filmmakers. The extension of length, writing, finance, crew and general effort can be daunting for many and an exciting new challenge for some. The reasons for moving into feature films are endless: filmmakers could develop visions that necessitate longer time and dedication, or they could decide that it’s time to move into the industry of features, or simply the move might be one motivated by the constraints that come with filming short films. Whatever the reason may be, there are large leaps that must be carefully considered before the transition is made, the consequences of miscalculations or unexpected events are graver as a larger project is at risk.
The first bit of advice requires a certain amount of experience in short films in order to execute, that is to learn from your mistakes, or to put it nicely, take your short films as a learning curve. When asked why short films should be made by filmmakers who aspire to make features, the Sheffield Institute responded by saying: “Some aspiring directors and producers use short films as a self-critique of their abilities. A short film is a cheap way to determine if you should move on to feature films, or if you need more experience in certain aspects of film production.” To try and understand exactly what a feature film will necessitate from the individual, this self-critique is of utmost importance. Being pragmatic and careful can only go so far, but it’s the actual experience with film that will deem which strengths and weaknesses a filmmakers holds.
Be aware of money. Short films will give you experience when entering the industry of feature films, but it does not prepare you for the type of money that is involved usually with the latter. Short films (for the most part) rely on cheap short cuts, ways to be financially efficient and a strong awareness of its costs and budget. Ultimately, the feature film will require way more than a similar film in the format of a short piece, so the small payments for certain gear, locations and actors will turn into cautious calculations over the sums needed for each part of your project. This advice cannot be stressed enough, as it will be the make-or-break point of any film production. Regardless of the idea behind the film, its quality or actors, one must know what they’re financially getting into if they wish to produce their vision correctly. So an additional tip to add to finance is: look out for grants, look out for sponsors, meet people at parties or mixers who are interested in your film and see if you can gain any real support for your film. One good way to gain support is by setting up and promoting a Kickstarter account.
Short films allow much low quality to be passed off as an artistic choice, they grant filmmakers the ability to get away with an amateur feel which simply cannot work if your movie is intended to last longer than an hour. Therefore: Get better equipment. A better camera, better recording gear and better software for effects will do countless favours for filmmakers. If you’re getting into feature films, then be able to afford equipment that will stop your feature from looking like an extended short film. In the same vein, getting the right team to help manage with the film is as important as having the right equipment.
To return to the issue of money and support, perhaps one of the best examples of this obstacle being surpassed is the case of film director Edgar Wright. Initially gaining recognition in his short films, Wright won several competitions throughout the year and made a name for himself as a prominent short filmmaker. By the time his focus shifted to feature films he was being interviewed by reporters who were familiar with his old work, giving him the opportunity to garner both financial and non-financial supporters for his future endeavours. So a practical piece of advice to ensure one has the resources for feature film production is to push your short films toward competitions, festivals and newspapers. Get people interested; try to get out there with your films so that by the time a feature film is in the works, there will be eager supporters waiting for its release.
One final aspect of the transition for film that requires dwelling upon may seem like the most obvious one, but it also shows the most important difference between a short film and a feature film. The level of dedication will be immensely higher, regardless of how complicated the production of a feature film is. In an interview with Directors Guild of America, visionary director Christopher Nolan explained the process of making his first feature film, Following, as a departure from his short films: “We were all working full-time jobs, so we’d get together on weekends for a year, shooting about 15 minutes of raw stock every Saturday, one or two takes of everything, and getting maybe five minutes of finished film out of that.” The time-consuming nature of a feature film separates itself from a short film as a journey with several more consequences and disadvantages. One must be sure of what script they want, what actors and crew and equipment they want, and mishaps amplify from costing a few wasted days to costing several months to a year of work. A feature film is a commitment that is not to be taken lightly.
All in all, there are several more aspects that could be discussed in regards to what makes the transition from short to feature an easier process, but eventually you’ll realise that you can only be so careful. Assure that you have the necessary tools and availability to commit to a feature film, but do not let your planning intimidate you. The feature film must be done, and the best way to move away from short films is to simply try and film your feature.
By Thomas Rososchansky