On Behalf of Short Films

Travis McClain

Bats: R, Throws: R. How Acquired: Traded for a player to be named later. I hold a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Louisville, earned in history. I have lived with Crohn's disease since 2005, and chronic depression since my youth. I bring into each film that I view a world view shaped by those and other parts of my background. I try to be mindful of the socio-political themes and implications of movies, intended or otherwise, and that surely shows in my blog pieces. I also love doughnuts.

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20 Responses

  1. Nathan Chase says:

    Great post, Travis. I agree 100%.

  2. kingofpain says:

    Perhaps as a means to fight discrimination against short films, the “genre” itself should be removed. Why does a genre for a film’s duration need to exist? I mean, we don’t have a “90 Minute Feature” genre and a “3 Hour Feature” genre. Why are there even separate awards for short films? Why aren’t they put up against all the other films as equals? If a movie, regardless of length, can express its ideas effectively, then why aren’t there 10 minute films competing against 2 hour films every year for Best Picture?

    Length is not a genre, or any kind of indicator of a film’s actual content. I say do away with the Short Film genre. Let ’em play with the big boys.

  3. ProperCharlie says:

    I love shorts. It is weird to rank them alongside features, but it’s definitely possible. One of my favourite from 2010 was I’m Here – the Spike Jonze web-only short. It’s on the site and it’s currently in my Top 100, as is the Paddy Considine short Dog Altogether.

    I would keep the Short Film genre for practical reasons. It lets you rank short films against each other as well as view lists composed solely of short films.

    My problem is that I don’t seem to be able to get short films consistently through the submissions process. I submitted four earlier this week. None of them made it through to the main site. All of them are available on DVD, and at least one is a classic – Daybreak Express by D.A. Pennebaker. I tried adding George Lucas’s first short Freiheit too. No luck. Some short animated films are on the main site (e.g. Tom and Jerry’s The Cat Concerto) whereas others aren’t accepted I tried with the Goofy short How to Play Football. It disappeared.

    Can we have some rules on what is and isn’t allowed? All I ask is some consistency!

  4. Travis McClain says:

    Re: “Short Film” Genre – I appreciate your position on the matter. Personally, I almost always rank all movies against one another, so my short films do go head-to-head with full-length features. They do “play with the big boys” on my Flickchart. Still, I would argue that there is some merit to a “short film” genre.

    The short film, because of inherent constraints of budget and length, has certain conventions not found in full-length features. Character introductions are generally abrupt; settings are usually confined to one or two locations; the very scope of the story is somewhat constrained. On the surface, none of these elements seems important, but there is a sort of milieu created by the totality of these things. They may originate with the short run time, but they create a set of criteria not too dissimilar to those of, say, the horror genre or teen sex comedy.

    I can therefore see a valid reason for continuing to keep the genre (it’s at least as legit as “family-oriented comedy”), but clearly I’m in favor of Flickcharters ranking short films alongside features. That is, after all, my thesis here. ;)

    Regarding film contributions that haven’t gone through, I honestly don’t know enough about those specific suggestions to know what became of them or why. Really, the only criteria I’m aware of is that we’re trying not to include content that was originally produced for TV, though there are, of course, exceptions.

  5. kingofpain says:

    It seems that the logical conclusion to take from the blog post is that the Short Film genre must go. A 3 hour Epic is no different than a 2 minute stop motion Short a guy made with some paperclips. It’s the story and how it is told. Why are we singling out films as being temporally challenged?

  6. kingofpain says:

    @Travis McClain
    One of your points in the article is that Short Films can express ideas with less screen time. That is also true of a 90 minute film vs. a 3 hour film. Should 90 minute and 3 hour films have genres too? The stories are told differently based on how much time the films have.

  7. Travis McClain says:

    Ah, but we do have a genre for 3 hour films: Epics. And I would argue that those, too, deserve a distinction all their own, because nearly any movie ambitious enough to justify that kind of run time is grand in scale and scope. The Epic, like the short film, has conventions all its own. For starters, there are not a lot of contemporary epics. Being set during important historical eras, or even depicting key events, is common in large part because the Epic cannot be bothered with our mundane world as it is.

    Again, I personally rank all titles that I’ve seen against one another. It’s not uncommon for me to have an Epic vs. a Short Film. Your argument against the genre continuing to exist is intriguing but ultimately I feel it’s academic. Eventually, that line of reasoning can only lead you to abolishing all genres. I would say that if it’s that bothersome to you…don’t heed genres. Leave them to Flickcharters who do have a use for them.

  8. kingofpain says:

    I just knew you’d bring up Epics. It is true that Epics are generally long, but not all long movies are Epics. Take the experimental film Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Pretty much the whole movie is Delphine Seyrig doing household chores, and there aren’t many locations used. It’s not an Epic in any traditional sense. And it probably lacks the budget of many movies half its length.

    I’m not trying to be a contrarian, but making these distinctions interest me. I don’t consider Short Film to be a real genre, and so I don’t believe that removing it would endanger other genres. Short Film says nothing about a film’s content. All other genres do. The only thing Short Film says is that the movie is less than a certain length, which can easily be determined by looking at a DVD box and checking the run time.

  9. Travis Easton says:

    For those saying the “genre” must go, there’s no reason to remove the genre on Flickchart. It’s just a filter.

    While Nigel and I both argue and argue that animation is not a “genre”, it is still nice to have it listed there so you can see, for instance, your top 5 animated films. For that reason I’m for keeping it around, as well as the filter for short films.

  10. kingofpain says:

    While I was being somewhat facetious when I said that Short Film as a genre must go, the argument makes sense if you agree with the blog post. Even Animation says something about the content of the film. Short Film says absolutely nothing. There are 72 min. films, 135 min. films and 16 min. films. The duration says nothing about the content.

    The post advocates treating shorter films the same as feature length ones because they are all trying to tell a story. The length of a film shouldn’t matter. Designating a film as “short” is saying that it is different from other movies. That it should not be evaluated by the same standards. Either Short Films should be ranked separately because they are substantially different and need to be identified for their “shortness” OR they are not substantially different and should be treated like every other film no matter what the length. The article appears to support ignoring the length of short films and treating them like every other movie. So, if you agree with the post, why would you need a Short Film genre?

  11. Nathan Chase says:

    We designate things like Animation, Short, (in the future – Silent, Black and White), so people can filter their rankings according to those attributes – not because they’re semantically accurate as “genres”.

    There will always be users who wish to divide and conquer their list in various ways, so we do what we can to enable them to accomplish that.

  12. Travis McClain says:

    My argument stands: there are storytelling conventions unique to the short film. I reject the notion that we should deny their unique properties in the course of assimilating them into the general population of films. Suggesting that it’s an either/or situation presents a false choice.

    Also, good luck checking the back of the DVD; as I noted in my original post, short films aren’t exactly well represented on disc. It’s great if you have that kind of DVD library–and know its contents that well–but I suspect many a Flickcharter–like the average movie fan–has no idea that short film compilation DVDs are even out there.

  13. kingofpain says:

    The checking the back of the DVD case thing wasn’t meant to be completely literal. The point was that a film’s duration is an entirely different characteristic than a descriptive genre. The only thing that I use a film’s duration for is to determine the level of time commitment I’ll need to watch it.

    The definition of a Short Film is 45 minutes or less (according to Wikipedia). Surely a 45 minute film uses different storytelling conventions than a 5 minute one. Should their be several categories for Short Films based on duration?

    In your post, you mention that budgetary reasons are why some films are made as Shorts. However, all low-budget films require a different style of filmmaking than larger budgeted ones, regardless of length. Should we also have a Low, Moderate, Big, and Huge budget genre? If how the story is told is all that matters , then length and budget should be irrelevant.

    I am curious as to whether you believe that Short Films should compete against feature length films for awards. Should a Short be considered for Best Picture along with any other film? Like I said previously, I was being somewhat facetious about removing the Short Film genre (because your post was about discriminating against them). My real interest is in determining whether Short Film is actually a different art form from feature length film rather than anything like a genre at all. It is either/or. Either Shorts can completely be compared to every other movie regardless of length, or they can’t. Length and budget shouldn’t be a factor.

  14. Travis McClain says:

    It depends on what your definition of “different art form” is. On a technical level, all films are the same art form, be they animated, documentary, short film, etc. In that context, no, there is no difference between a short film and a full length feature.

    There are, however, differences within the medium of film that distinguish short films just as there are differences between biopics and musicals. I think it would be a mistake to think that “short film” by itself is a sufficient description; a short film can be a comedy, drama, thriller, etc. and those genre tags should also be applied.

    It is not an either/or choice; that’s entirely too simplistic and reductive. Short films can–and should be–compared with full-length features. They should also be recognized as being a specific kind of cinematic storytelling, because they do have conventions unique to that format. Those two positions are not mutually exclusive.

    Regarding the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and their Best Picture award, yes, I think a short film should be worthy of consideration. I also feel that documentaries and foreign-produced films should be in the running. But just because I feel that films of all lengths and genres should be considered for Best Picture doesn’t mean that the short film, documentary and foreign film categories should be abolished.

  15. kingofpain says:

    My problem with the Short Film category is that length is something all movies share. All movies have a running time. Not all movies are Comedies or Documentaries. You’re saying Short Films are “unique” because they have less of a running time than features. So, at what length does a Short Film start becoming less unique? A 25 minute short has more room to work with than a 5 minute one, right? So is the shorter film more unique? It seems like this could be applied to low budget movies as well. Are movies made cheaply more unique than big budget films? If telling a story while working with less constitutes uniqueness, than low budget films should get a category too. A low budget Sci-Fi flick might require more ingenuity to create than a big budget one. It’s also a specific kind of storytelling. That should be acknowledged.

    If it was just about telling a story, that would be one thing. But you want the distinction made that Short Films are telling a story with less. But if the distinction must be made, then are they really equal to features? You seem to be saying that shorts are equal but special because they aren’t equal. When it comes to Foreign films and Documentaries, those are on an equal playing field with other features. They don’t need to be acknowledged for their shortness.

  16. Travis McClain says:

    Again, you’re conflating uniqueness with inequality. It’s entirely possible to celebrate differences without compromising equality. What prevents shorts from being ranked like features is the perception that they are inherently inferior. That’s the barrier I’m addressing. The existence of the short film genre tag is not part of that barrier.

  17. kingofpain says:

    I’m not conflating anything. I just don’t feel that having less running time constitutes uniqueness. If a movie says what it needs to say, the time it takes to do it doesn’t make it special. Like I said, there should be low budget category as well if having less of a characteristic that all movies share is considered a genre or category. Anyway, though, the stuff about removing the genre wasn’t entirely serious. As I was saying, it was more about addressing whether Short Film should be regarded as the same as features.

    Personally, I’ve always preferred films with characters I can spend time with and that have a little fat here and there, if the fat adds some flavor. I don’t think of shorts as inferior so much as separate types of entertainment. They’re occasionally interesting, but rarely do they stick with me. A Short Film may be able to express some idea well in 5 minutes, but I guess I prefer more elaboration. Maybe I do regard them as a different sort of art form from features.

  18. ProperCharlie says:

    Yay, my shorts have been added!

    Now to add some more…

    My point about the Short Film genre is essentially the same as what nathan said. It’s a way of filtering. Keeping it for practical reasons isn’t a comment on whether or not it is a genre.

    Whether or not it is an acutal genre? Difficult to say. I think that short films have their own set of genres that are unique to them. For instance what I grew up calling cartoons. Five minutes of animation that makes you laugh. Preferably with extreme pain inflicted on at least one cat. There are also music videos, public information films, promotional films and advertisements, serials, and student pieces. It also lends itself to documentary work. There are many short docs.

    A question is which of those genres should be on flickchart and which shouldn’t. I’d love to know. Short films are definitely something different and not just movies that happen to last 35 minutes or less.

    I guess what I’m saying that short films aren’t really a different genre, but a different form of film. But until there’s a field for that on the database, keep it in genres.

    What would be good would be some way of letting people who only want to rank features to filter out shorts from the movies they’re presented with…

    Until then Nolan fans, which is better Doodlebug or The Dark Knight?

  19. kingofpain says:

    I’m slightly torn on whether I think Short Films are just shorter films that can be ranked with other films or a different sort of film altogether. For the most part, I think they are different enough from features that they should be separate. I’ve watched lots of cartoons and other kinds of short films in my day, but I’ve never felt the need to compare them to feature films. I’ve always seen them as a different type of entertainment. I’ll watch and compare any and all types of feature films (with a few exceptions), but not Short Films. I’d compare them against each other, but I don’t want them mixed with the features. I’m not opposed to shorts. I just don’t want to rank them with features.

  20. Guest says:

    My favourite short films are probably Doodlebug by Christopher Nolan, Vincent by Tim Burton and Validation by Kurt Kuenne. They’re all available on YouTube.
    I also made a short film after seeing this blog
    This is it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koKn2hzpvDk