Short Film is any film not considered to be feature length, No definite time boundary is set but the Academy of Motion picture arts and sciences defines a short as 40 minutes or less. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) draws the limit at 45 minutes long.
The earliest records of short film date back all the way to 1894 with Thomas Edisions ‘Kinetoscope’ A device created for personal viewing. These aswell as the early projected films of the time were usually just one shot of footage or interest films detailing major events such as A royal event.
1895 may have presented the world with the very first horror short. take a look at this footage and judge for yourself.
unimpressive? well consider the audience of the time, those seeing this piece for the first time unaware of the concept of video appearntly fled in terror fearing that the train would drive off the screen and run over the audience. It’s quite an interesting thought and must have certianly been an eye opener to the sort of emotion that film could bring out of people. [Source]
As film was beginning to stand on it’s own legs it began to imitate over forms of entertainment such as magic shows and variety acts 20 minute shorts showing off these types of shows would be broadcast at music halls and fairgrounds.
The early 1900’s had however seen a major revolution in filming and editing techniques and these breakthroughs brought to the world classic shorts such as Georges Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon (1902) The first feature length films are recognised to have came around at the start of the next decade. as Feature-length film grew in prestige and marketability, shorts continued to be traditionally shown alongside news items of occasionally live acts
This included up to and including the second world war where short films formed updates and reasons for the war currently going on across the planet.
Dr Richard Famer sees the second world war as “something of a high-water mark for the short film in Britain”, though not everybody liked them. “While the government was extraordinarily keen to place its messages in British cinemas, cinema managers and patrons were much more ambivalent,” he says.
“Some short films, especially those that showed British servicemen actively fighting the war, proved to be very popular, but there were also concerns that the cinema would gain a reputation as an ‘interfering marm’ if it dedicated too much time to short government films and not enough to the [predominantly American] feature films upon which the magic of the pictures rested.”
The clear differences between the fantasist feature length American films and the informative government shorts played a major role in short films decline in popularity during the 50’s and 60’s The popularity of motion movie trailers also added to the shorts consistent disappearance from mainstream cinema chains. however they were still popular with visual artists. Some consider short film to be the ‘Les Enfant Terrible’ of the art world some artists have used this medium as an opportunity to experiment. Short film makers recieved a major mainstream outlet for their art in the 1980’s however with the creation of Mtv.
The main problem with this though was that the narrative of the video had to follow the flow of the music, music video director Tim Pope says that ideas from music video production and editing were later fed back into feature and short length films that are now commonplace, such as faster edit cuts.
The ninties brought with it digital editing which brought in both affordable and digital recording equipment which was lightweight and easier to use. this lead to a wider range of independent film-making especially shorts. many feature length directors begun their careers in short.
all of these innovations were bringing shorts into the mainstream but one major innovation would bring it to unimaginable heights. The internet.
Fabien Riggall, founder and creative director of short film company Future Shorts says that they get over 1,000,000 hits a month on their future shorts webpage and many believe that shorts suit the landscape of the internet user and the generation using it due to it’s short nature. sites like Youtube and Vimeo have made it easier than ever before to upload and distrubute short films. sites such as the BBC film network are also giving a level of prestige and intrigue into short films, Of course the downside of this is that many more poor quality films have been uploaded and the ratio of good/bad films is probably heavily favoring the bad.
Short film has come a long way since the locomotive train, but where will it go in the future? some put the future of advertising in the hands of short filmakers with pieces like this adding artistic flair to adverts
Others see the playing field between shorts and feature films leveling out and possibly seeing a lot more cinema showings of said short films.
whatever the viewpoint it seems likely that short film has an interesting road ahead, it will be intresting to see where the art form goes in the near future.