We love short films. 1 to 35 minutes (even more) of drama, horror, or comedy. Like a short story or a poem, they represent the essence of a full length film distilled to its rawest emotions. There are thousands of short films. Some of them have gone on to be huge feature films. Here is a short list of some of these films that became memorable features.
Jay & Seth Vs. The Apocalypse became This is the End. For movie fans, there is nothing more awesome than seeing their favorite stars get into trouble. This is the End was a hilarious film with stars like Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, and James Franco in what felt like a real fight for their lives. This movie started as a short film called Jay & Seth vs. The Apocalypse. The Rapture was never this funny.
12 Monkeys was one of Terry Gilliam’s (Monty Python) greatest films. It started as a French short film call Le Jetee. Gilliam crafted the short film into a movie that brought together a few stars like Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad Pitt. With a few additions and loyalty to the original concept, Gilliam created a sci-fi classic that rivals nearly any other film in the genre.
The Wilson brothers, Luke and Owen, are major stars now, but they started in a short film called Bottle Rocket. When the feature film was made the two brothers stayed on and went on to become Hollywood favorites. The feature film was simply a longer version of the 13 minute short. The film is a cult classic and one of the best examples of how to pack an hour and half of drama into less than 15 minutes.
“I picked up a Kaiser Blade that was sittin’ there by the screen door. Some folks call it a Sling Blade, I call it a Kaiser Blade. It’s kindly a wood handle, kind of like an axe handle. With a long blade on it shaped kinda like a bananer.” Once you have heard Billy Bob Thornton deliver that line, you never forget it. Most people don’t know that that was the title of short film, Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade. This 29-minute film launched the career of a gifted actor and created one of the most iconic characters in Hollywood history, rivaling Boo Radley for creepy and sweet.
There are dozens of films that have gone on to become brilliant motion pictures from shorts. Another example is Damien Chazelle’s Oscar winning Whiplash, a short film that initially started as a premiere at Sundance. The key is to remember: You are writing a poem that needs to tell the tale of a novel. Boil it down and make it intense. It might become a legendary film.