Friday, April 12, 2013

The Anatomy of a Short Film

As part of the Florida Film Festival, a panel discussion was held on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 between 1:30 and 3PM in the Full Sail University in the Entertainment Business Auditorium, located next to the Full Sail Live Venue, (141 University Park Drive, Winter Park, FL).  The panel discussion featured industry experts and members of the Full Sail University Film degree program faculty as they took a closer look at the unique components of the short film genre. From story structure issues and thematic considerations, to logistical considerations and new modes of marketing and distribution, this event offered an inside look at the anatomy of the living, breathing short film making process.

The main theme that was stressed again and again was that short films need to be character driven and involve universal themes. The short film is a great place to experiment and it is a safe place to fail. It was pointed out that many beginning film makers will try to do too much in their first short. There can't be sub plots and too much back story. Bottom line, the short needs to be, well, SHORT! Three minutes was the suggested duration. Longer films don't get placement in film festivals because the promoters want to show as many films as possible. Students fall into the trapping of using complex camera moves and crane shots but you need to ask yourself, "is the shot really forwarding the story?" Story is king and queen.

A student walked up to the microphone and asked, how he could get backers interested in his idea. A moderator said, "First and foremost, you are selling yourself and then the movie idea." He asked the student to give him his elevator pitch for the movie. The student began and honestly I stopped listening because the convoluted story took too long to tell. The moderator shouted,"Bing! Time is up, this is my floor." Everyone laughed. He stressed that the student needed to trim his elevator pitch to be sure he had the person's interest. The internet has made it so that stories need to be told quicker.

Panelists offered up films that they love that should help a film student to develop story. Films included, Touch of Evil, The Third Man, When Worlds Collide, and Some Like It Hot. That evening I went to the Enzian to see a program of animated shorts. My favorite film was, "Marcel, King of the Tervuren". it was a great character driven story about a rooster who looses his eye and his brood of hens to his son in a cock fight. Marcel returns and then fights and kills his son. The style was painterly and bold. The Bill Plympton film, "Drunker Than a Skunk", had it's world premiere at the festival. It is a Western drawn entirely with ball point pen. The character designs are quirky and amazing. At the film maker talk back afterwards, Plympton said that an animated short costs him about $1000 per minute to produce. Drunker Than a Skunk cost him $5000 to produce. He traded an amplifier for someone's work on the sound track. His wife Sandrine did all of the color work and once his son, Luca, is old enough, he'll be part of the production team. Of course, being able to do 100 drawings a day helps. He stood on the stage holding his new born son along with his wife who helps him with each film project.

Plympton's three rules for making a short film are...
1. Make it SHORT!
2. Keep it CHEAP!
3. Make it FUNNY!
As he said, that describes many of his past girlfriends.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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