Why Make a Short Film? 10 Ways Short Films Can Easily Boost Your Filmmaking Career

Why make a short film? It’s a question we’re asked a lot by young filmmakers in our filmmaking courses.

In a world where feature films tend to dominate on streaming services, at the cinema and in conversation, it can be difficult to see the value in producing short films, where – admittedly – it can be more difficult to find an audience.

So why bother to make a short film at all? Producing short films delivers several benefits to filmmakers, whether they are just starting out, experienced, or on a development journey.

Why make a short film? Two filmmakers are filming on location by a lake.

Why Make a Short Film?

Here are some of the main reasons it’s beneficial to make a short film…

  1. Skills Development:
    • Hands-on Film Production Experience:
      Filmmakers gain practical experience in various aspects of filmmaking, whether that’s writing, directing, producing, editing, or any technical aspect of production. Even for experienced filmmakers, it can be helpful to make a short film if planning to cross-over genres or thinking to experiment in new styles. It offers the opportunity to try things out and explore, without having to commit to months and months of production.
    • Soft Skills Development:
      Short films provide opportunities to develop a range of helpful and transferable soft skills, again without getting too involved, too early on. Learn to solve real-world problems that arise during production, learn to collaborate with others (or with specific individuals), develop critical thinking and decision-making skills, practise how to take on specific responsibilities, deliver on outcomes and meet deadlines.

      “I think it’s a mistake for young filmmakers to just buy digital equipment and shoot a feature. Make short films first. Make your mistakes and learn from them.”
      Jason Reitman
  2. Portfolio Building:
    • Showcasing Talent:
      When you make a short film, it acts as a powerful tool to showcase your skills, style, and creativity as a filmmaker. This is useful for seeking funding, collaboration, or employment opportunities. Often, collaborators or sponsors will ask to see a portfolio of work, including short films, before considering whether to work with you. This is also true for seeking development opportunities, such as making an application to film school or training programmes.
  3. Networking Opportunities:
    • Industry Connections:
      Filmmakers make a short film as a means to network within the industry, connect with other professionals, and build relationships that may lead to future collaborations.
  4. Cost-Effective Production:
    • Lower Budgets:
      To make a short film typically requires a smaller budget compared to feature-length films. This can make them more accessible for independent filmmakers with limited resources.
    • Shorter Timeframes:
      To make a short film also takes considerably less time (and also potentially much fewer collaborators or crew) than to produce a full length feature film. For this reason, it can be much more effective in terms of timescale to build a personal film portfolio, with the need to involve fewer people and complicated schedules.
  5. Film Festival Exposure:
    • Film Festivals:
      Short films are often accepted into film festivals, providing exposure to new audiences and the potential for recognition. Film festivals are competitive and a huge number of entrants apply, so the short film categories can be a way for newcomers to stand out.

      Film festivals are also attended by many different representatives, who can form a vital part of your network. This includes agents, producers, distributors and many more of the contacts who form the “industry” part of the industry.

      Getting your work shown in front of people can lead to awards, recognition, and opportunities for further advancement in your film career.
  6. Experimentation and Innovation:
    • Creative Freedom:
      Filmmakers have more creative freedom when they make a short film, which allows them to experiment with storytelling techniques, visual styles, and innovative ideas without the constraints of a longer format.
    • Research & Development
      Often, this experimentation can lead on to ideas for longer form projects, or other formats that wouldn’t have come about otherwise.

      “I love doing features, but it’s a very different ballgame. Sometimes I yearn for short films again, working with a small team, getting my hands on the clay.”
      Nick Park
  7. Quick Production Turnaround:
    • Time Efficiency:
      Short films generally have shorter production timelines compared to feature-length films. This allows filmmakers to complete projects more quickly and move on to new ideas and challenges.
    • For portfolio building, this can be a real advantage, as it enables filmmakers to put together a collection of different ideas, styles and techniques that represents a range of skills, much more quickly than producing feature films.
  8. Audience Engagement:
    • Online Platforms:
      Short films can be easily shared on various online platforms, reaching a broader audience. This can help filmmakers establish a presence and gain feedback from viewers.
  9. Learning from Audience Feedback:
    • Audience Response:
      Short films provide an opportunity for filmmakers to receive direct feedback from audiences. Learning what works and what doesn’t can be valuable for growth and improvement.
  10. Proof of Concept:
    • Pitching Ideas:
      Short films can serve as proof of concept for larger projects. Filmmakers can use them to demonstrate their vision, storytelling abilities, and technical skills when pitching ideas for feature films or series. This can be instrumental in achieving financial backing or support from production companies, distributors etc.
Why make a short film? Two aspiring filmmakers line up a shot on an industry camera.

Producing short films can be an ideal stepping stone for filmmakers to hone their craft, build a reputation, and make significant strides in their careers within the film industry.

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