You finished your short film and it's the perfect calling card. It embodies you as a director: your range of styles, the twists and turns of your scriptwriting skills, and your ability to create high production value on pennies. In short, you’ve made it awesome. Unfortunately, the programmers at your favorite film festival disagree. You cry on your keyboard, eat a roll of raw cookie dough, and shout "Why?!" to no one in particular. Maybe that's a tad dramatic (or is it?) but nevertheless, I think everybody can agree that it's frustrating not being able to find out why your film got chopped. In the videos below, HollyShorts Film Festival Co-Founder Daniel Sol talks about why shorts might get rejected from a festival, goes into detail about how they program their festival, and mentions why you might want to make a short before a feature.

Thanks to Film Courage for these videos, here is Daniel Sol giving an honest and candid explanation of some aspects that might knock your short out of the running:

Sol seems to suggest that in the short film realm, a tendency to try to fit in too much can really mess with the story -- and ultimately, story is king. Sol's points:

...people are trying to showcase their abilities in many different ways instead of just staying true to the one story you need to tell. You are dealing with a short film, short content.  Feature films can have that type of texture, you can go longer, and into backstory. When it comes to a short, you're not making a feature, you don't have that kind of luxury.

It sounds obvious, but staying true to the story in something as brief as 5 minutes is extremely difficult, especially when there's an industry notion that a short should be a filmmaker's calling card. In case you're now racked with self-doubt about whether your recently-made-short has gone astray, I made this handy-dandy litmus test of festival potential based on Sol's comments. Do you:

  • Describe your short as a mix of impossible genres, say “Requiem for a dream” meets “Meet the Fockers”?
  • Have a 1 minute opening title sequence in your 5 minute film?
  • Fear that while making your short superbly awesome, your story got lost?

If you answered yes to any of the above, your film probably has a greater chance of being rejected by the festival circuit. Of course, there are always other reasons for a rejection, as Sol points out in the subsequent Film Courage clips. He also goes into detail about how they program the HollyShorts festival:

As he says above, your film may not fit in with a festival’s particular program that year. There are also other basic reasons you may never have thought of: the DVD got stuck in the player because of your paper label, or the intern watching it was hungover. It's a perilous journey.

In the last clip, Karen Worden mentions our own Ryan Koo's Manchild project, and his choice to make a short before the feature. Daniel explains why this is a good idea, and why you might want to think about doing it with your next short:

The HollyShorts Film Festival has two deadlines coming up, so if you've got a film that fits the guidelines Daniel mentions above, the Regular Deadline is April 12th with a $50
 entry fee, and the Late Deadline is May 24th at $60

What do you guys think about good storytelling in the short film format? Do you agree with Daniel? Does it take different abilities to pull off a short over a feature?And what do you do, other than cry, when your short gets rejected from that festival you had your heart set on?