December 22, 2015

What Short Film Could You Make for $800K? This Japanese Festival Wants to Find Out

Short Shorts International Short Film Pitch Competition
Big budget short films are a rare breed these days, but this contest aims to prove the format's viability.

Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia and Avex Digital Inc. have teamed up to bring this massive opportunity for short filmmakers. If you've got a "thrilling, exciting, moving" idea, you could be in a position to produce it to the tune of $800K. All you need is a 250-word plot synopsis of your short film and a great way to utilize the short form format to its full potential. It makes sense: attention spans are shrinking, the market is flooded, and short film format agrees with media habits of mobile culture. The Short Shorts International Short Film Pitch Contest and application process look pretty straightforward and worthwhile. Plus, it's free!

"We are looking for pitches for short films that will stir the emo-tions and have the ability to thrill, excite or move audiences."

At a glance:

  • Submit a 250 word synopsis (written in English or Japanese) of your short film idea along with a logline, photo references, your bio and past work by February 29th.
  • Five finalists are chosen in March 2016 and each awarded $4,000. If you make it to this round, you then submit your screenplay, proposed cast, locations and budget.
  • One finalist chosen out of the five will receive an additional $8,000 and $800,000 to make their film.
  • The final product of the winner will be screened at the 2017 Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia, an annual event devoted to short films in Tokyo.

In today's film market, it's hard to imagine spending this much money to produce a short film. The Associated Press reports that Rieko Muramoto, the executive director of Avex Digital (the company putting up the money for the contest) feels it's a "worthy investment for finding fresh content for online services, pioneering a genre and nurturing talent." She also says that she's not doing this to "make a quick buck." Well, I hate to break it to you Muramoto, but spending $800K on a short film probably isn't a way to make a "quick buck" — but thanks for the vote of confidence. It's good to know your heart is in the right place.

When I heard of this contest, I immediately started to think of great short films made on relatively big budgets — and I had trouble. Usually short form in this budget range are commercials, music videos, or commissioned work by large companies as PR (i.e. Scorsese's $70M short). I had to do some digging to find some solid examples. According to IMDBPro, there's tons of shorts made for more than a million dollars, and very few are narrative. Many larger budget short films are documentary or animation, which makes sense given the resources both of those formats require (time!). Tim Burton's 29 minute Frankenweenie cost ~$1m ($2.2m in today's money):

The AP says that Tetsuya Bessho, (who founded Short Shorts festival in 1999) "likened the best short films to the minimalist but fine-tuned concentration of haiku poetry."

The contest doesn't specific whether it is primarily looking for narrative, documentary or animation, but the 1 year turnaround makes me think they are especially on the lookout for narrative films (</speculation>).

Will you be submitting to this contest? What are your favorite big budget short films?     

Your Comment

12 Comments

Well, that sounds like a challenge...
How long is 'short' in this case?

December 23, 2015 at 8:09AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
8924

Looks like you can select the range of the film in the application. "Over 20 min" is the max on the application, so that leaves it pretty open.

December 23, 2015 at 8:47AM

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Micah Van Hove
Writer
director, producer, dp

Indeed: 'Over 20 min' is not setting a limit at all...

December 25, 2015 at 9:39AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
8924

Under the "How to enter" section, it states:

"Please note that the projected run time must be less than 25 minutes."

So 25 mins is the limit.

December 26, 2015 at 12:39AM

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Ben Howling
Writer / Director
492

Yeah, I was kinda' wondering the same thing. 250 words is a lot for a short story, you can write a treatment to a feature film in 250 words.

December 23, 2015 at 9:17AM

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Oh yeah, we'll definitely be entering this.

December 23, 2015 at 9:57AM

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Has anyone found if this is %100 legitimate? I trust NFS but the last few things I've seen like this turned out to be scams.

December 23, 2015 at 3:33PM

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Daniel St. Amand
Writer/Director
81

Hey, I just checked the website and I think Micah may have got the math wrong. I believe the maximum amount that anyone could get for the short film is closer to $25-$30K, not $800K. Just a heads up. Plus, this makes the contest a little more believable, instead of a contest offering nearly a million dollar grand prize.

December 23, 2015 at 8:33PM

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Damen Biddle
Filmmaker, Film Enthusiast, Film Critic
74

As of today, 1 Japanese Yen equals 0.0083 US Dollar, so 1,000,000 yen amounts to little more than 8,000 USD. Not a bad deal, but not quite as earth shattering as this article makes it out to be!

December 23, 2015 at 11:51PM, Edited December 23, 11:52PM

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JR Lipartito
Director
74

My apologies, this article is actually has most of the info right and I was just reading through the numbers too fast. The only detail Micah seems to have missed is that in addition to 500,000 yen for being a finalist, 1 million yen for best pitch and a 100 million yen budget, the winner will get yet another 1.5 million yen prize "after confirmation that the pitch will be realized as a short film." In other words, and unless I'm still missing something, the winner receives roughly $25,000 in prize money AND an $800K budget for their film.

December 24, 2015 at 3:18AM, Edited December 24, 4:01AM

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JR Lipartito
Director
74

I've put together the beats for a short plot that might work for this competition. While I've written scripts, I don't have the skills to shoot it, especially in Japan with a local cast and crew. Anyone out there want to collaborate on an entry? Reply letting me know how to contact you privately, and if we can get over usual non-disclosure crap, and figure out how we'd work together, I can send on the beat sheet for the script.

February 11, 2016 at 10:49PM, Edited February 11, 10:49PM

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John Mathuna
Writer
81

A question was listed in the FAQ for this contest:
Q: Once the pitch is submitted, what happens to the copyrights?
A: The entrant retains all copyrights at this stage. If selected, however, the copyrights will be transferred to ShortShorts and/or relevant third parties related to the competition.
My question: what does that mean? the copyrights will be transferred… We lose the rights to our own story?

February 16, 2016 at 1:57AM

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Earl Martin
Story Teller / Director / Actor
91