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Liam

medium length films

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http://www.indiewire.com/2015/04/attention-filmmakers-heres-why-you-should-make-medium-length-films-62586/

thoughts on this?

seems a little contrary to general advice I hear to keep short films short (or to add 30 minutes to your 50 minute film, because at 50 minutes it's nothing.) - though it does acknowledge it's awkward and not great for festivals

I often end up with a script around that middle length, while trying to write a feature, and feel pretty disappointed because of it, but I don't want to change the story... so I'm just trying again to hear that everything I do is great and I should never adapt -_-

 

for real though, I'd like to hear opinions

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Well I believe there used to be a rule with the MPAA regarding motion picture length, for some reason 70 minutes sticks out in my mind, but I could be off. I believe most festivals consider anything over 45 minutes a feature. And I have seen a few features listed on amazon prime at around 60 minutes. So I guess it really depends on what your goal with the screenplay is?

If you’re looking to sell the script to a production company, 50 minutes isn’t long enough and any Hollywood producer would tell you, you aren’t writing a feature or you didn’t tell the story properly.

If you’re looking to make your own films from your script, then there are self distribution outlets like Amazon Prime that a 50 minute length is acceptable... but I would try to stay  at 60 minutes or more.

But this is a very interesting topic that I have been thinking a lot about lately, so thanks for posting it. 

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Yeah I drastically disagree with that article, as a medium length one won't help your career much more than making a short would (unlike a feature film), yet is nearly as much effort and cost as to make a feature film!

 

The one exception: if you're making a doco for TV distribution and needs to fit in the standard one hour slot. (Minus adverts!)

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Don't ever make something longer that 15 minutes for a short. If your at ~40 minutes expand it to a feature.


The last short film I worked on was 27 minutes, the runtime absolutely killed its festival potential. Because the festivals can either pick your film or 2 others. Don't force them to make that choice.

14 hours ago, IronFilm said:

Yeah I drastically disagree with that article, as a medium length one won't help your career much more than making a short would (unlike a feature film), yet is nearly as much effort and cost as to make a feature film!

 

The one exception: if you're making a doco for TV distribution and needs to fit in the standard one hour slot. (Minus adverts!)

This is true though, half hour to an hour is okay if your aiming for TV.

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I do understand why that's practical, but I can't imagine expanding a 40 minute film to a 90 minute film..

maybe if I'm basically combining a couple middle length ideas.

But the latest film I'm working on that got me thinking about the topic again was basically interesting to me as a project at the moment because it was a more substantial film than I had done before but only requires 2 actors and 1 location. I could combine a company piece that's also somewhat simple, but at the least it would double the work. Expanding scenes of dialogue or adding.. no idea what.. to make it "long enough" would kill me.. maybe I'll see if I can split it into episodes, but that doesn't feel right for this project either.

Just rambling. If anyone has lengthened a piece by a lottttt, it could be interesting to hear from them

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A few friends of mine got a 25 minute film into SXSW and were able to secure over a million dollars in funding for a subsequent feature from its success. Long shorts aren't necessarily a bad thing... if they're good.

As a rule (and festival programmers repeat this to me), 12-60 minute is a no man's land for festival entry and for viability on streaming platforms (for original content). Under ten minutes is the new guideline for shorts, even. That article mentions a few medium-length projects that got into a few unnamed festivals... and yet you have hundreds of traditional format shorts (and features) getting into A-list festivals every year. So the article is at best pointing out the exceptions that prove the rule, and at worst being provocative and misleading.

As Sandy McKendrick wrote, ""Student films come in three sizes, too long, much too long, and very much too long." Even if we consider ourselves above student films (I don't), it's true for festival entries, too. Your job, if you want to secure financing, is to leave people wanting to see more. In which case, nothing is worse than something that's too long.

....except something that's not long enough to get the point across in the first place.

If you have a story to tell, the story will determine its own length. But a medium-length project will 99% of the time be more challenging to get into a festival or staff pick:

http://filmmakermagazine.com/99583-shorter-is-better-sundance-programmer-mike-plante-offers-advice-on-short-film-strategy-at-the-sundance-next-festival/#.WkqNNSOZMlU

The self-fulfilling prophecy of the equation is that 20+ minute shorts must be EXCEPTIONAL to get programmed. As a result, they'll stand out not just for increased duration leaving a stronger impression, but also for being the best of the best at a given festival.

And if you just want to sell a feature, make a feature and sell it. But that's a separate can of worms...

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1 hour ago, Liam said:

Just rambling. If anyone has lengthened a piece by a lottttt, it could be interesting to hear from them

The first cut of my feature Luggage was 50 minutes. The story itself felt off, as did the duration. So I wrote in 6 dialogue scenes that were easy to shoot, actually helped the story substantially, and got us to 80 minutes, which is the shortest you really want for a feature.

Right now I'm working on a couple different screenplays. For one of them I'm tossing around the idea of making it into a mini series of four to six 45 minute 'chapters'. There are a few ways to market those. One of which is to slap the first two together to make a 90 minute piece that I could show in a theater. 

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I had a short script then took that concept and wrote a feature. But I was never quite happy with the feature script, so I did a big re-write and ended up with a script that I and others like a lot. But after all that, you could read the short and the final feature script and not see much evidence that they have anything to do with each other.

I haven't really had an issue with ending at a middle length. My shorts range from 3-12 pages. When I'm working on a feature, it never enters my mind that I'm finished short of 80 pages. I usually have plenty of story either in my head or in actual outline form that I know it's feature length before I start writing.

I have a mostly two-character road trip feature percolating now. If you'd like to bat around ideas more specifically, feel free to drop me a dm.

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8 hours ago, Liam said:

I do understand why that's practical, but I can't imagine expanding a 40 minute film to a 90 minute film..

Then nix the idea and find another script.

 

The easiest and cheapest cost savings can be done during the script writing phase! Such as abandoning it entirely.

 

40 minutes for a narrative scripted film is smack bang in the middle of no man's land.

 

**OR:**

Turn it into a web series, if it can be easily sliced up into fairly self contained chunks.

6 hours ago, HockeyFan12 said:

 So the article is at best pointing out the exceptions that prove the rule, and at worst being provocative and misleading.

This.

 

6 hours ago, HockeyFan12 said:

As Sandy McKendrick wrote, ""Student films come in three sizes, too long, much too long, and very much too long."

Haha! Great quote.

It does seem to be a commo  flaw of amateurs/students that they take on far to ambitious projects. When a shorter piece would have come out as much more high quality, & with less pain in the process.

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@Liam i agree with everyone else lol

fwiw, heres how things have gone with me lately...

i recently got a lot of good feedback in this thread about length regarding a proposed episodic series of short pieces

long story short (pun intended), i decided that id be better off with a short film – under 10 min. i figured that i could boil down my ideas into a shorter piece. so i wrote something, 10 pages, and although it came out ok... i just wasnt in love with it. its not me. my original concept was for a horror thing with verrryyy slow shining like pacing, and trying to turn that piece into something much shorter just didnt work for me. i have to borderline love anything i write in order to try to shoot it, and what i had come up with felt cliched, and at the least, something someone else could write

but doing all that was really good for me. once i saw things clearly i released my grip on that concept, and then was my paw was open to receive new blessings of filmmaking!!!

and somehow all that stuff totally resulted in me coming up with something almost completely different:

• its short as can be, like 5 min or less ( = easier)

• theres no dialogue ( = omg easy)

• theres ~3~ characters instead of like 14

• theres one location instead of many

AANND

• MOST OF ALL, i like it way better. it feels like something id make, as opposed to something thats kinda forced

so, whats the moral of this story, and how does it relate to this thread? i dont know @Liam, i dont know

 

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Damn it, this is all so difficult for me.

I do appreciate all the input of course.

I assume it wouldn't be helpful for me to list successful medium length films? ("exception that proves the rule" will forever be nonsense to me, but no matter how many I list, I suppose technically they are all exceptions).

Any room to compromise even a little? For one thing, I'd always only do the film I'm able to.. So maybe it won't make it in a single festival, but just so that there IS a next film.. I may not have a choice.

Would anyone be more willing to click a video that's 80 minutes.. a double feature of two 40 minutes films? Or something like that?

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Personally, I do think there are stories that are too complex for a 10-20 minute short, but too simple for a full feature. I will often scour Amazon and Youtube specifically for longer short films from unknown directors/writers. I think there's a sweet spot around 40 minutes.

30 minutes ago, Liam said:

Would anyone be more willing to click a video that's 80 minutes.. a double feature of two 40 minutes films? Or something like that?

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23 minutes ago, MurtlandPhoto said:

Personally, I do think there are stories that are too complex for a 10-20 minute short, but too simple for a full feature. I will often scour Amazon and Youtube specifically for longer short films from unknown directors/writers. I think there's a sweet spot around 40 minutes.

I totally agree, it's its own form

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A 30-40 minute film is a risk but sure there are exceptions to the rule... so the question becomes... do you think your script and film will be that exception?

I guess if you’ve already attempted to tighten the script as much as possible or to lengthen the film by exploring subplots but you’re still passionate about the script, then go for it... who knows. 

But to address your original comment... if you set out to write a feature and end up with a 30-40 minute script then there is something wrong with the story, or the idea isn’t conducive for a feature.

Personally, I think 70-75 minutes is the sweet spot for a no budget, indie film.

At 30 minutes, you are kinda in no man’s land... it’s a lot to cut for a short and a lot to pad for a feature. But even at 30 minutes, if you explore a subplot or two and then when you add B-Roll you may be able to push it over 60 minutes if you let your scenes play... but that main story better be damn good... especially your first 10 minutes.

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9 hours ago, Snowfun said:

For what it’s worth, the Edinburgh International Film Festival considers anything >30 minutes a feature. Less than that a short.

 

They do that because they only see the world as back and white: shorts or features. 

Nothing in between. (in other words, medium length ones do not exist)

But realistically, folks out there in the rest of the world don't see a 31 minute film as a "feature film"!

8 hours ago, Liam said:

I assume it wouldn't be helpful for me to list successful medium length films? ("exception that proves the rule" will forever be nonsense to me, but no matter how many I list, I suppose technically they are all exceptions).


Sure, if you also list all the failures! And consider the ratio between the two. 

7 hours ago, mercer said:

But to address your original comment... if you set out to write a feature and end up with a 30-40 minute script then there is something wrong with the story, or the idea isn’t conducive for a feature.

Personally, I think 70-75 minutes is the sweet spot for a no budget, indie film.

Agreed. If you go under 70 minutes people won't think of you as a "feature filmmaker", and if you go much over.... well you're putting in extra work for no gain! (but yes, of course if your story really needs that extra ten minutes to tell the story completely then make it be 85 minutes long)

 

7 hours ago, mercer said:

At 30 minutes, you are kinda in no man’s land... it’s a lot to cut for a short and a lot to pad for a feature. But even at 30 minutes, if you explore a subplot or two and then when you add B-Roll you may be able to push it over 60 minutes if you let your scenes play... but that main story better be damn good... especially your first 10 minutes.

If there was 30 page script, I'd say it probably is too far off from being a feature? Either split it up into episodes for a web series if you can. Or go super aggressive and "kill your babies" to get your script well under 15 minutes for a really nice and tight short film. 

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2 hours ago, Thomas Hill said:

Or just go for it. Make the film that you want to make so that you are happy with it, send it out into the world, see what happens then move on to the next project.

I agree with this advice more than what I wrote before.

(Apologies for coming off as prescriptive, I didn't mean to. I recognize that "exception that breaks the rule" is a silly thing to write and presupposes you haven't done your research. You can look up previous Sundance–or whatever festival of your choosing–selections on IMDb and plot their run times if you want a purely objective metric. It might be worthwhile to if you haven't. Of course, this would be boring and require a large sample size to be useful, hence me relying on aphorisms instead of research.)

I'll caveat agreeing with @Thomas Hill with this:

Film festival submissions follow the same logic as FaceBook posts. 

Maybe you want to get a like from as many people as possible. So you work hard to say what you think people will like. You'll probably get a lot of likes!

Maybe you want to share something with fewer people but within a group whose values you share and admire. So you target your thoughts toward that group and only share it there. You'll probably get fewer likes, but they'll mean more to you...

Maybe you just want to scream out into the world and bare your soul. Or bare your soul to your closest friends, or a select group you admire. Riskiest gesture. Most fulfilling? Maybe? Maybe not. Sometimes just being part of a community is fun. I think the 48 Hour films (which I have no use for personally but have nothing against) cater really well to that.

Likewise, maybe you're making something to get into a festival (in which case the statistics of run time matter) or maybe you have a story you really want to tell and share however you can, in which case put that above all else. We don't know what you're after. Only you do. Know what you're doing, what your goals are. Be comfortable with them and their trade-offs. Ultimately, all media are social media. You can answer your own question.

(But imo, make what you want to make. Festivals aren't special. Your vision is.)

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damn this threads on fire, well said hockey

im gonna go ahead and make one more point here, and i hate to say it @Liam, cuz this applies to you just as much as it does to me

> if the shit you make is dynamite, nothing else matters

if quentin tarantino didnt exist and someone made reservoir dogs today itd blow up, whether it was 10 min, 20 min, 30 min, 40 min, 50 min, 120 min, etc. – for that unknown director (us) it would serve a great purpose, make you a star, get you all kinds of meetings....... cuz its HOT

so, my advice is: make something you think is HOT ???

fuck everything else

res dogs is just an example, that was 25 years ago, its a metaphor~! but its true that "if you make a god damn kick ass movie" netflix will buy it and ppl will want to represent you no matter its running time... that other stuff is like "waves on the fuckin beach". "you make a piece of nitro that you throw in an audiences lap – people notice"

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