January 9, 2016 at 2:51PM, Edited January 9, 3:18PM

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Why are shorts not mainstream?

I've been checking out a really cool site called www.findie.me which is pretty much a showcase for quality short films. It really shows how cinematic and entertaining shorts can be, and it suddenly dawned on me - why aren't they more mainstream?

It seems bizarre that people will pay to sit through two, sometimes three hours for a feature film, but asking them to sit through a free ten minute short seems like a tall ask.

Why do you think that is? Is it a cultural thing?

I know it's down to financing but I'd way rather watch a short or two at the cinema, rather than twenty minutes of TV ads.

What are your opinions on shorts in general? Love them? Hate them? Do they have a place in popular culture?

12 Comments

There was a time when theaters always showed at least one cartoon before the main feature film, for pretty much every film. We have it today with some Pixar movies, but generally all we get are ads followed by trailers and then the main feature film.

Other than Indie festivals that do show lots of short films, I'm not sure that average person wants to see a short film. ( I like them because I am pretty much guaranteed to get one good film in 2 hours of short films )

January 9, 2016 at 5:25PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33053

But that's just it, in a world where YouTube is the one of the most popular websites, why doesn't the average person want to see a short? Would they really prefer to watch 5 minutes of a cat playing a piano than 5 minutes of quality filmaking? Is it just common perception that shorts aren't that good?

January 10, 2016 at 12:34AM

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Youtube is definitely a huge issue. We as creatives can not even team together and demand pay for quality content. We are given a casual talking head, nothing resembling quality narratives. The youtube medium is personal and ultra-low budget, but what is most damaging profitable with no cost to the audience. As a business stand point why would you promote narrative, or doc over the much cheaper webcast. Can this talking head aesthetic last forever though? I do not think so. Cinema however always has a way of staying strong, even if it must evolve( television and video streaming).

January 13, 2016 at 7:46PM

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Jesse Cardoza
Director of Photography, Camera Assistant, Gaffer
134

>>>Is it just common perception that shorts aren't that good?

YouTube works by either...

"Viral" videos that get passed around by friends and are usually something of the moment. ( 6 months later nobody cares about the viral video )

Or people jumping around within a 3-6 minute video ( where they watch the first 20 seconds, then jump to the middle, and then jump to the end ) which is probably not how you want your audience to watch your film. ( I freely admit that I do jump around in YouTube videos if I am bored or not impressed with the content I'm seeing, but I would feel too guilty to do this to a short film because I know how much effort must have gone into making the short. If the short doesn't capture my attention in the first two minutes I just stop watching it. )

January 10, 2016 at 4:16PM, Edited January 10, 4:17PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33053

It's actually the same answer to why people watch mainstream movies instead good one. Audience don't care about artistic side of the movie. They want cheap entertainment + cool characters. Most of the shorts are highly artistic one without good characters. Characters are not good, not because they have enough skill, but short movies are just too short to develop characters. People don't want to be a main hero for 10min, they want to be a main hero for 2h or even more (that's why we see a rise of tv series). To feel movies in artistic way you need to have more developed brain & most people don't have it developed at all. That's why most people don't like Bergman, Lynch & other highly artistic directors.

January 11, 2016 at 2:23AM

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Andy Tokarski
Director, Editor, Colorist
1453

I think your answer shows that people do have a perception of what short films are, as you said most shorts are "highly artistic."

There might be some truth to that, but I don't think they're mostly artistic to the same degree as Bergman or Lynch - the reason their films aren't loved by the masses is because they're quite experimental with their story telling.

IMO shorts are mostly cinematic, and not too artistic for the masses. As I said, I've been checking out the shorts on Findie (www.findie.me) and most of the shorts on there seem really accessible.

Check out this film, Foam Drive Renegades - I think it's a good example of good characters, and something that could be loved by the masses.
https://fnd.ie/vid/PeaW

January 11, 2016 at 5:45AM, Edited January 11, 5:46AM

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It would be interesting to see some higher quality shorts that could fit into the 22 minute format or be tagged along with a feature. I think the main problem that someone mentioned already is being able to connect with a main character. Whether the general audience realizes it or not, connecting & experiencing the journey through the main character is what really draws them to a film. So for short films there just isn't much in the way of a payoff like there is for a feature, trilogy, or even TV series.

January 11, 2016 at 10:11AM

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Derek Armitage
Filmmaker & Vlogger
657

Distribution is a massive issue. Shorts don't run long enough for cinemas to sell, so there's no way to get seen there unless you're before a feature, and that only really happens with Pixar's own shorts before Pixar's own features. (Or at the New Beverly.) Without distribution, it's hard to get finance, and without finance, quality is often an issue.

Also, the bulk of the audience still enjoys film passively rather than actively searching for something on YouTube/Vimeo. It's possible that Netflix could make shorts more popular if they wanted to, but anything that the audience has to actively seek out is more or less doomed. A weekly TV show which packages up several shorts in each episode (like Eat Carpet did here in Australia many years ago) is one solution.

January 12, 2016 at 2:20AM

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That might have been true 10 years ago but not today. Plenty of places to distribute shorter content you just need to have someone on your side that will shop it around.

I just got off of a lengthy phone conversation with a distributor who said that shorter content is "where it's at" right now (in their world).

January 12, 2016 at 5:45PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
3002

Oh, I'm sure there are places to distribute shorter content, but few of them are going to be seen by the scale of cinema/TV audiences. Shorter content is great for sharing on Facebook but dramatic short pieces are shared a lot less than, say, random cat videos.

January 12, 2016 at 8:17PM

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It's only a matter of time. Some company will realize that YouTube is paying creators next to nothing, they will offer people with a following or some popular videos much more money and they will take the best of YouTube and start a short form Netflix/Hulu.

Next to what they would pay to produce a Netflix show, paying YouTubers more than Google would be a piece of cake.

It's just funny because I had this exact conversation with a distributor today. I was surprised as well.

January 12, 2016 at 10:37PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
3002

You guys should definitely check out www.findie.me. It's pretty much exactly what you've both described. A (free) short-form Netflix, in which you don't have to actively seek out content. You just select sliders for how long you've got and what you're in the mood for, and Findie 'finds' you a shed load of films to browse at your leisure. Also, the films have quick mini-trailers so you know what you're in for, as opposed to a thumbnail and and blurb, like most film sights.

Seriously, I love it, and it's got me massively into shorts, which is why I thought to have a discussion about their mainstream appeal.

I guess you're right about the distribution, which is why people don't really have access to short films, but bearing in mind it's a brand new site and probably has a long way to go, do you think Findie could be the answer to bringing shorts to the masses?

January 13, 2016 at 4:00PM, Edited January 13, 4:01PM

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Who knows? I mean, Netflix started out (mostly) as a rival to Redbox. Do you remember how limited the online version of Netflix was early on? Then it grew into what it is now.

So whatever "it" ends up being could start out as something different. Or it could be a dedicated platform. The one I'm talking about is a Lionsgate company so they have money, a brand, and experience. How well it will do is another question.

As filmmakers we just need to be on the lookout for this stuff. The current intake of shorter form (web video) benefits all of us. Big YouTubers making big money will have a trickle down effect. It will just take time but it will happen because there is money floating around (in the form of content from people that aren't happy with how much they are being paid).

So another company could just be LESS greedy than YouTube and get a lot of creators to join.

January 13, 2016 at 6:13PM, Edited January 13, 6:13PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
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