Life is best in shorts.
Bite-sized filmed content is more important, more exciting and more fruitful for emerging talent.
Here’s five reasons why short form* has a long future.
* My definition: Short = Commercials. Music videos. Serial shows structured in 20-minute episodes. Anything less than 30minutes. Reality. Factual. Drama.
One: Short form is the constant companion
Think about it – short form film is embedded in our every day. Commercials on broadcast TV and Youtube. User-generated items on social media. The way we consume our daily diet of news, laughs or drama.
Short form content is the constant companion. And so, it shapes our lives more than we think …probably more than your closest friend.
Start with Commercials. They drive our economy, change our choices. And more than we know it, commercials changes lives. I know that the course of my career was shaped by watching the inspirational Christmas commercials on English TV a decade ago. Anything guaranteed to make your parents well up must have a special power. 90 second fables. 10 second video posters. Smart marketers are paid to know how to connect with an audience. I learnt so much. I knew I wanted to pull on heart strings with film from an early age, watching advertising.
Still from John Lewis Advertisement, 2017
Short form user generated content is the rival for headspace the professionals don’t want to admit. An hour can pass very easily scrolling through YT or Insta. And that’s an hour that you have not spent watching anyone on a production company payroll.
Two: Short form is the teacher
So many great film directors began in advertising. (Think of Ridley Scott, who began producing commercials with his brother Tony long before he became the Hollywood titan.) And directors, cinematographers, editors…they all easily switch between branded content, broadcast, the streamers and theatrical.
Professionals can learn so much from user-generated: about connecting with an interest, about speed of production, about not getting hung up about bokeh.
Of course, my film school days were all about producing shorts – dramas, public service, etc. And we learnt that a short is not a fraction of a feature film. No, a short is a format with all its needs and its own advantages.
When I created and directed The Balloon Girl to draw attention to child abandonment, I knew I could do something with this format I could never do with a longer film.
Still from The Balloon Girl
Three: short form is the crazy cousin!
And there is no crazier cousin than the music video. Surely, the most creative art form there is. Yes, of ALL art forms. The banquet of goodies that bounce onto our screens every year. Every emotion. Every story. Production values from hand-held iPhone to cinematic sorcery. Filming and editing techniques. Use of VFX. Cross-overs with arts – dance of course, live of course, fine arts, graphic design.
Commercials should try to hang onto their hand. Because music videos will take you to the craziest party.
Four: Short form is your popular friend.
Viewers LIKE short form content. It fits better with the pace we live at. It means we can sample more quickly from this banquet of choice. So, commissioners for broadcast channels and streamers LIKE the short format. The sitcom has always been in my definition of short. But look at how much high production value content Netflix, Apple and the rest are splitting into sub 30minute episodes.
And this matters.
Because the world benefits from creative stuff only when it gets seen. Or read. Or listened to.
So, surely, the point of being creative is to convey your wonderful works of art, the outcome of your endless agonising over detail.
And conveying your awesomeness, nowadays, is best done in short format.
Look at some numbers : The movie Titanic is usually offered as the most watched mainstream release, with almost $4billion at box office (in today’s money). That’s about a third of a billion paid admissions. Over 25 years. But now look at the 8.1billion global Youtube views of the music video Despacito, launched 6 years ago today. With the reasonable assumption that the average viewer doesn’t watch more than 20 times then that’s AT LEAST 400million viewers. In a fifth of the time.
Still from Despacito music video, 2017
Five: Short form is your next boss
If you are a young talent, you are probably going to be hired to produce short form content for commercials or influencers or music videos. It’s how I’ve begun my career. It’s how I first got into the festival circuit.
I have found my life is best in shorts.