SHORT FILMS SUCK! HUH? (6 Reasons. You’ll love #5 & 6)


Let’s Cut-To-The-Chase: Want to make money making movies?

I’m sure the answer is “Yes” or “Yep” and if you’re from England you’d answer “Blimey…I didn’t know you could” and if from Australia your mates would go “Good on you”.

Now back to money: Wanna make money making movies… Then DON’T MAKE A BLOODY SHORT.

Why? Answer: RTFB (Read The F*ckin’ Blog)


Back to “6 Reasons Not To Make A Short”.

(1st) CREW:

You work with kids. Professionals want to be paid. What do you think you’ll learn with college kids?

Yeah, they’re young. Yeah, they’re energetic. And, yeah, they don’t know what they’re doing. What you learn is who doesn’t show up, who shows up but forgot to bring the camera, who didn’t call the actor, who ran out of gas, who forgot the mikes, who can’t hold a Boom steady… the list goes on.

Make a movie and work with professionals.


In the old days shooting Film (16mm or 35mm) was mysterious and you needed to learn how to Buy Film Stock (Kodak or Fuji, Buybacks, Recans & Ends), Load a Magazine (Arriflex or Panavision, S-Roll or 9-Roll), Expose Film (ASA & ISO, Filters & Gels), Develop Film (Print Circle Takes only), Edit Film (Slice & Splice), Color-Correct Film (Make the sky bluer and the skin whiter) & Cut Film for your Final Answer Print…

Ergo, in the old days you actually had to shoot a short or two to learn how to get to your final product. Today, everything is instant. The learning curve is almost instant. Just find a kid at BestBuy or Fryes who has a GoPro, a Blackmagic or an iPhone, and start shooting.

Thus, with little-to-no learning curve, make a movie… Miracles do happen. (“Blair Witch”, “PI”, “Paranormal Activity”, “Clerks”


You will work much harder making a 9-minute short with multiple locations, wardrobe, stunts, Exteriors, Interiors, Car Chases, Graphics, VFX & Stunts than if you made a 90-minute movie that tales place in 1-location (House, Bordello, Bar, School, etc) and when done, if all you have is a short that you can barely get your mother (she funded it) to view it. What’s the point.

However, if you have a 90-minute movie you can screen for Agents, Acquisition Execs, On-Demand Sites, Foreign Sale Companies, Home Video Distributors… Voilla…

Make a movie… More Bang-Per-Buck.

(4th) AWARDS:

Win awards? Big deal? They are not as important as you may think and never-ever work with an “Award Winning” filmmaker.

Question: Why?

Answer: Festivals give awards to almost everyone who paid an entrance fee and Festival directors/programmers love shorts.

Festival Directors put 10-15 together for a 90-minute projection and sell 20-50 tickets to each producer for his cast, crew, relatives (10-15 shorts xs 20-50 tickets = 200-750 ticket sold) & friends.

Thus, almost everyone becomes an “Award Winning” Filmmaker and within the industry the phrase “Award Winning Filmmaker” has very little merit.

However, if someone wins an award at Sundance do they say “They’re an Award-Winning Filmmaker”?

NO! Because they know that means little… They say “They’re a Sundance-Winner”…

Thus, when anyone claims “Award-Winning” they’re saying they made something that couldn’t get into Sundance, Cannes, Toronto or even Tribeca and has no merit.

Duh? Make a Movie.


Making a short and then making a feature (see below article by Mark Stirton) is like learning to play Ping Pong and then entering Wimbledon. You only learn how to play tennis by playing tennis.

And to play tennis (aka: Hollywood) you need to know how to tell a story… Shorts have 1 A-Story with maybe 1 Backstory that evolves simply.

A Feature Film has 1 A-Story, 3 B-Stories and 4-5 Backstories which are all tied together for a mature Act III with a proper crisis, a thrilling cut-to-the-chase & a satisfying resolution… with a nice epilogue.

Please, Make a Movie.

(6th) MONEY:

You will go broke. No one buys shorts.

Thus, you spend your money and can’t recoup. Of the 500,000-1,000,000 shorts made last year name me 3 (animation doesn’t count) that sold… and made profits.

Therefore, the only thing you show anyone by making a short is that you know how to go broke.

Duh! Make a Movie


New DVD (My DVD Film School teaches how to make Micro-Budget & Low-Budget movies for $1,000-$1,000,000 that make profits….


(Below is an article written by a doer, a self taught Scottish Filmmaker who made shorts and feature films. He, Mark Stirton, writes from the school-of-hard-knocks and wants to help you save time and money by not repeating his mistakes about shorts)


All Short films suck. Bit of a sweeping statement? Didn’t George Lucas and Martin Scorsese direct short films? They did indeed, and they sucked. In the case of Scorsese, the only time he ever got really pretentious was with a short film. It is a format that invites pretension, practically survives off it actually. I myself have directed several short films before I wised up and became a real filmmaker. Did my short films suck? Fuck yeah.

Now I must be honest here and confess to a certain personal issue I have with short films; I keep having to sit through the bastard creations! You see, the films that I direct frequently get screened at film festivals. Which is lovely and fine. However, ten minutes before many of the screenings I get introduced to some rosy faced little git that someone (not me) has decided to let screen his or her short film, before my one. Then I have to sit through this god forsaken, black and white, endurance test of a movie.

This is such a no-win scenario for a festival attending feature director. If the short film is crap, the audience will spend the first 10 minutes of my film trying to shake the damn thing off. Or worse, if the short film is fantastic, they spend the first ten minutes thinking about the short film they’ve just watched. I don’t want that! I want those thoughts provoked when I’m good and ready, not during the important opening minutes of my film.

I should point out that this second scenario has never in fact happened to me yet, because, all short films suck. Admittedly this argument doesn’t work for film festivals devoted to just short films, but no large group of men armed with weighty metal bars with nasty pointy bits welded onto the end has ever been around to force me into going to such an event.

But I have a much deeper reason for hating short films and everything to do with them. It’s a dirty little secret that the BFI and anyone else funding short films won’t tell you, but it’s true.

Deal Site - Slate   (Shhh, listen… creating a short film in no way shape or form prepares you to direct a feature film! The only thing that making a short film prepares you for, is creating short films.

People get very confused about short films. Hell, the industry seems confused and since I’ve directed both forms several times now I’ll spell it out. It’s not the same sport! It looks the same, but that’s all. It’s a bit like training someone for years to play Ping-Pong then entering them into Wimbledon. They might look the same… a ball, a net, a playing area, but that’s it. They only look the same. I can’t express to you the aggravation in my soul when I finished my first feature length project, only to realize that all those short film I’d directed, meant absolutely nothing when making a feature film. Worse, they can actually be detrimental if you pick up bad short filmmaking habits, and I did.

But it gets worse. The cash strapped UK film industry actually spends hundreds of thousands of pounds funding this worthless dribble. I suppose the theory is that if you learn how to control a short film, it will in some way prepare you to direct a real film. Trouble is, directing feature films doesn’t even prepare you for the next one. But don’t we need to teach the new generation, some traditionalist will no-doubt ask. Well yes, but do we have to teach them Ping-Pong? If I didn’t know better I’d suggest that it’d lead to a generation of British directors who would struggle adapting to the feature length format and we’d end up with nothing but American films dominating… the… UK… box-office… Hang on!!

Short film funding was useful once, a long time ago. Before 4K edit suites could fit into a lunchbox and good quality cameras were something you’d only see if you were very wealthy indeed. Those days are gone. They’ve been gone for quite some time now actually, but we still continue throwing money at God awful short films that teach nothing, prove nothing, waste money and annoy the smeg out of me at film festivals.

OK big mouth, how do we change things then? Well it’s simple. No more short films. No more funding for short films. Spending 100.000 on a short film that will get no distribution, teach nothing, bore the crap out of people and annoy Marky, is not what we should be doing. And if you’re a director spending that sort of cash, on a short film, you should be ashamed. Grow a set and direct a feature. And if you really, really need to direct a short film, it better be a bloody original idea! It better be this generations ‘La Cabina’, cos I’ve sat through too many shameless rip-off to take much more. Oh, and if your idea features Zombies just do me a favour, buy a blindfold, put it on, then walk into rush hour traffic.

And it’s for your own good as well. None of my short films made a penny, didn’t teach me anything (well practically anything. Turns out that certain levels of violence directed towards actors can actually be interpreted as assault) and worse, taught me some bad directorial habits that simply don’t transfer well to the feature length format. But the second I created a feature film? IMDB listing, distribution, US certification, oh and money. That’s right folks, British films can make money! Who knew? And if I’d known now, what I knew then, I’d have made a feature film 5 years earlier and saved a heap of time and pointless effort on a redundant form that rarely, and I mean very rarely, manages to entertain. If it still has a place, it’s in schools. Creating a short film at school would be thrilling I imagine. Great place for short films – created by short people.


(Raindance is a superb UK Film Festival in London around November where European buyers actually buy/purchase/option shorts… give it a shot… Plus, you might stumble into being invited for BIFA)

So, in closing, take all that money spent on short films and give it to directors willing to only make a feature film. And any directors convinced that a feature film can’t be made for that small an amount of cash, well that’s OK, we don’t need those guys. Let them go off and wait for the right huge budget to realise their presumably expensive vision. The rest of us can make movies. If this actually came to pass, you’d have a line of directors round the block ready to reinvigorate the stagnant, backwards looking, stuck in the mud, visionless UK film industry.

You can call me after it’s done and thank me.

Mark Stirton
Mark Stirton is a self taught Scottish film director based in Aberdeen Scotland. He is well known for his Raindance selected cult comedy One Day Removals which was made for a very small budget and for the sci-fi movie The Planet, which was released on DVD in the USA and Japan.  Check out Mark’s next film production website Hats On Sticks

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22 comments on “SHORT FILMS SUCK! HUH? (6 Reasons. You’ll love #5 & 6)”

  1. Ezra

    I think the author makes some valid points but has he considered that few people will want to watch a drawn out one-location feature over a well-made short? Agents, investors etc. are busy people and aren’t going to sit through your stilted 90 min coffeeshop feature when they could watch ten glossy shorts in the same time?

    Short films are supposed to be a calling-card, a foot in the door, not an immediate source of financial return. Admittedly, a large proportion of them suck, but that’s the fault of people failing to properly invest in showcasing their work, not in the format itself. There are equally a large number of straight-to-DVD features that are complete rubbish and a waste of time because of shoddy amateur work and low standards.
    British film-making (and indeed all film-making) is largely dominated by people with money to spend, be they established investors or the arty children of those investors- it’s not exactly a working class hobby. These people do pay for crews and equipment, mostly at a knockdown rate but they do pay. How do I know? I work for them, as an armourer, as a fight coordinator. It’s not as good money as a feature film but it fills in the gaps between major gigs nicely.

    I congratulate the author on his success and I support his views on the state of BFI subsidy which like most organisations is looking to box-tick rather than highlight talent. However, I feel he has generalised in the light of his success and missed some fundamental points surrounding the significance of the short film.

    1. Greg St. Pierre

      I agree with your assessment. I learned plenty from my first short film, which did in fact win a Best Comedy award (a bad thing, according to the author). The award was great and unexpected but the best part by far was watching my team’s hard work pay off with 300 people laughing for nearly 10 full minutes (the film is about 12 minutes). Screw anyone who tells me my crew and I shouldn’t have had that experience. I LOVE film and storytelling. The fact is, the odds are so stacked against an indie project ever making money, feature length or not, that one might as well just enjoy the process.

    2. I&;2v17#8e been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this blog. Thank you, I will try and check back more often. How frequently you update your site?

  2. Carlos

    I enjoy making shorts , yes a feature is in the works . My shorts/media exposure will be my demo reel for private investors

  3. Wish you’d told me all this 30 years ago.

    Actually, back then it was really expensive to do a feature. I figured out everything these authors say, but didn’t have the money to do a feature (video quality and production equipment back then wasn’t what it is today). I’ve also judged film festivals and fought with the other judges who thought that only the “grainy black & white films with eerie violin music and no discernible story” (I invented a whole category for them) were worthy of an award even though 90% of the student shorts fit that category. And my own shorts would lose out in festivals to those shorts, even though mine were fun stories with high production value (you can check them out on YouTube these days).

  4. Why do these two articles blast shorts, but there’s the little Raindance logo about 3/4 way in, with a little blurb about how cool it is? As a writer, I think shorts have value, if purely due to the great feeling I get when I finish a little vignette of a story. Being stuck in the doldrums of endless re-write of my features, it’s nice to take a day to be back in the flow of original creation and spin a short.

  5. Mike Chinea

    While shorts have value in their own right the moral of the story is don’t make a short to make money.

  6. You are correct, shorts are waste of time and money, if you want a calling card or demo form a short, don’t, better try to do always a feature from the beginning, if you fail, then make a trailer from that and try again, if you are not interested in earning money from been a filmmaker then do shorts. Event that if some day a want to do an art piece, I’ll do a feature Movie not a short…

    1. Hector:

      You have a good mature attitude to approach an art form which is a business and is actually called “Show Business”.

      Make money in the business and then you can do art.

      Dov Simens

      1. Martin Reese

        What if your feature project is expensive and you want to use the short as proof of concept for investors?

  7. While the tone attempts to discourage the “hobby-ist” approach to film making, the author is unnecessarily negative and misguided about the merit of the short film format. First, the short format is the best training ground for beginners and less expensive. It teaches about story structure that must be covered within a limited time frame. This discipline applies to other professional aspects that include industrial, educational, and commercial production where message and economy in production are vital. Several feature films suffer from meandering structure, many times with directors being lost, not seeing the forest for the trees. This is where cutting one’s teeth in the short format is fundamental. This is also the reason why Film Schools teach using the short format for a number of logical reasons. Half hour television formats are in the “short subject” category as well.

    Film making is much more than feature films which are already risky enough due to economics and competition with already established film makers. A lot of innovative things come out of short subjects, and many times lead to graduation to larger productions. To say that “shorts suck” not only is misguided, but misstated. While the “focus” (that word again) is on the futility of making short films, the statement implies that short films themselves are worthless. That concept alone does a tremendous disservice to those who aspire to be film makers and make excellent films in the process as they use the short format to hone their skills.

    1. Greg St. Pierre

      Well stated. I have a friend in London who’s an up-and-coming director. He did a LOTR fan film called “The Hunt For Gollum” (at 40 minutes it’s long by short film standards but still too short for a feature) which he produced for a mere $5,000. Well, that led to financing for his first feature length film, which found moderate distribution and I believe it made back budget and then some. If you have some talent, short work is a great vehicle to showcase it.

      After my first film won its award at our local festival, some of my competition (two writers for a well-known TV network) approached me and said they loved what we had done. Ended up having drinks with them later. Nothing came of it but it was still pretty cool. You never know what this stuff can lead to.

      But it’s gotta be good.

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  8. Keenan

    This guy is missing the fact that short films can be used as great proof of concepts. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” started as a group of friends making shorts. Most episodes of Louis C.K.’s show are just 2 eleven-minute short films packaged together. Neil Bloomkamp was tapped to direct the Halo movie because of his impressive short film. When that fell through, he took his short film and made it into the feature “District 9.” No one wanted to finance 2014’s “Whiplash” until the filmmakers took a scene and made it into a short. Napoleon Dynamite, Tron: Legacy, Saw… The list goes on and on. Indie darling Wes Anderson continues to make shorts throughout his feature film career.

    Also, the second author says himself that he’s done shorts before… Whether he chooses to believe it or not, what he experienced making short films does effect his decisions on features. If this came from Tarantino who’s first filmmaking experience actually was a feature, there might be some credence, but I don’t buy this from some unknown b-movie director.

  9. Jason

    My first “film” was a feature (shot in video back when video was an amazing 400 lines of resolution) and it was a disaster. After seeing everything I’d done wrong there I decided to shoot 3 shorts, eliminating things that were troublesome in my first feature. I shot a silent movie, a one location, small cast movie and then something a bit more ambitious.
    I would take the advice of not spending $100K on a short unless you have that kind of money to just spend. Shorts should be done for learning, art or just to keep your skills working while you wait for a budget. Shoot ones you can pay for by skipping a couple of dinners out, not by mortgaging your house.

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  11. I enjoyed the article and the comments very much. Whether a feature or short film, this evaluation tool might help your readers.

    Does my film suck? Film Evaluation Form

    It is easily customized and released under Creative Commons license

    1. Kijk jij hebt het echte zomergevoel al te pakken 🙂 Gewoon niet moeilijk doen, maar volop genieten, van je tuin, van de narcissen die je eigenlijk niet mooi vindt en van de poes die eens een kleurtje wilde prevbren..oan alles!!Fijn weekend! Groeten, Corine

  12. Pat

    Maybe you shouldn’t be in this buisness. Any filmmaker that really loves it isint doing for the money. I could care less if money was involved or not, making short films or any kind of films is just an amazing experience. I live for it and want to tell a story that’s never been told before, a story worth telling. That’s what film making is really about, andddd maybe for some people it isint. Good luck with your career

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