What is short-form vs. long-form storytelling?
The majority of films and TV you see nowadays follow a long-form storytelling structure. Meaning they tell you most of what you're going to get leading up to the media itself, and the story will usually span over a longer period of time or have a greater run time.
On the other hand, short-form storytelling is ambiguous in lead-up and has a much shorter output.
Love, Death & Robots is a prime example of a short-form show. Today, we want to look at how the show is structured and what we can learn from it.
Take a look at this video from Savage Books for a glimpse into the psychology of short-form.
Long-form stories are, well—longer.
Game of Thrones is an excellent example of a long-form show that ultimately didn't work in most audiences' eyes. The fact that it was drawn out so long, and didn't have a strong enough ending, actually may prove to be its biggest fault.
Fans had so much time to theorize and anticipate what was going to happen, that when the ending did finally come... it was extremely disappointing to most.
Several character arcs ended in unsatisfactory ways.
Not to say long-form is risky or unproven. It's a model that has worked for many years, but times are changing.
Netflix's Love, Death & Robots is a great example of short-form storytelling. Almost every episode is under 20 minutes, and the trailers provide zero context for any plot.
This results in the audience not having too many expectations because they're not given much. However, the downside is that revealing your stories in this way can be risky. Long-form media is a system that is almost bulletproof because the people in a way already think they know what they're going to get.
With short-form, you gamble with the ambiguity and hope that people will be curious and interested enough to tune into your stories.
Style and substance
On the upside, an anthology show such as Love, Death & Robots is able to subvert your expectations every single episode. The show has a format where every installment is a completely new plot and even has a different animation style!
In contrast, shows that span multiple seasons following one plot can tend to feel drawn out and boring over time. LDR's model creates engaging, short, concise stories that are always changing and can be consumed quickly.
The question to ask yourself is: would you rather consume one very long story or 10 shorter stories? Of course, everyone is different, but having the option is great.
Why you should care
Every day, our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. Thanks to social media and the Internet, we're used to an instant gratification system where we're rewarded just for swiping on a screen. TikTok was built on this idea.
It's getting harder to reach a wide variety of people with a time-consuming piece of media. So, what do we do?
We adapt! I think short-form storytelling is an excellent way to get your vision across in a small amount of time while keeping your audiences engaged.
Not everyone has the time to watch a seven-season drama with 40+ minute episodes.
I remember starting to feel this way with one of HBO's mini-series. After finishing Mare of Easttown, I was very impressed with how big and emotional of a story they were able to fit into a seven-episode limited series. Upon finishing it, I also felt satisfied, and glad that I didn't have to wait until the next season to find answers. It was almost a middle ground between movies and episodic television.
In the end
As mentioned before, everyone is different. Long-form and short-form content will both be around for a while, and will each make their own impact.
Though, next time you're developing a project of yours, keep in mind the short-form model and its storytelling benefits!
It could potentially be the right fit for you.
What do you think of short-form media? Are you a fan of Love, Death & Robots? Let us know in the comments!