What Your Mom Never Told You About 1 Minute Shorts
If you feel you’re stuck in your filmmaking career, or you’re just waiting for funds for your next film, or you’re just feeling like you don’t know what to do right now and your mother is insisting you get a real job and get married, maybe there is a last minute solution to your life problems: making a wonderfully amazing 1 Minute short!
Why? Simply because:
1) It costs virtually nothing to make – or it shouldn’t!
2) There are more and more festivals dedicated to 1 minute shorts – niches are good!
3) You can actually make money and I can prove it
4) You can get it listed in iMDB and grow your resume
5) It’s tremendous fun to make one
6) You can have it done by the end of next week
7) You have the freedom to do pretty much anything it’s in your heart
8) It’ll shut up you mother… for a few days at least
But regardless of where you are as a filmmaker, making a 1-minute short is not only challenging (in a good way), but also incredibly rewarding for the little effort you need to put into it. You should definitely make one.
A couple of years ago I worked with a fellow filmmaker, Christina Georgiou, who is also a writer and composer, to create a 1 min short for an interesting project. Basically it consisted of 90 1-minute shorts from filmmakers around the world and it was going to be showcased at the Berlin Film Festival. The project ended up being cancelled and we’ve got stuck with this 1-minute thing. The short we made was called Genesis 2:26 and you can watch it in this post.
So what do you do with a 1-minute short? After a few Google searches we realized that there were several film festivals totally dedicated to this niche. We started submitting it and not only we got qualified for iMDB, we also got accepted to several festivals and we won 2 of them. Even better than that, one of the wins came with a sweet 1000 Euros check. So that’s our proof that you can even make money with a 1 minute short.
This is how you make your own.
You only have 1 minute to tell a story. Anything you know about narrative is of little use here. You don’t have time to develop characters, so it’s crucial to use characters the audience is already familiar with. In our case we use Adam and Eve, but you don’t have to use historical or mythological characters; you can use stereotypes. A cop, a librarian, an office worker, or any character that the audience can identify immediately will work. Don’t be afraid of clichés; they work in this context.
The beauty of 1-minute shorts, and why I’m so excited about them, is that you have infinite freedom to do anything you want. You don’t have to worry about mainstream trends, or what distributors are looking for, or whatever stupid thing that may limit your creativity or freedom of expression as a filmmaker.
You need to be bold. Either you make them laugh to death, you shock them to death, or you make them think (to death!), but whatever you do there’s not much room for wishy-washy-I-don’t-want-to-offend-anyone bullshit idea. This is your chance to get that “crazy” thought in your mind out there. This is real filmmaker’s freedom man!
How to structure it:
Commercials are great examples on how to structure your 1-minute story. They last even less then 1 minute and because they must appeal to a greater audience they typically use humor, but you don’t have to. The bottom line is that you need to engage the audience quickly, introduce a “problem” or “incident” and quickly resolve with a clever punch line.
One good exercise on how to structure your story is to go to YouTube and study the super bowl commercials. They are perfect examples of successful mini-movies. Pick one that fits your story and model the structure in a similar manner.
I shot Genesis in about 3 hours. I used nothing but a camera (a 5D) and zero equipment. I decided to shoot it under a tree to avoid hard contrasts and most definitely avoid the use reflectors, lights, or worse: a crew. I did pay the actors $100 each and the DP about $150. He provided the camera and lenses. That was the total cost: $350. The rest was my time to edit it and Christina’s time to write the music, do all the sounds effects and the final mix.
You should be able to shoot a 1-minute short in 1 day. This makes it easier to get a crew to work for free and even actors. For them this is a win-win. They get a full movie for their portfolio and their investment is only a few hours.
If you Google 1-minute shorts film festivals you’ll get a list of places where to submit your film, but don’t be limited by that. Submit it to regular festivals as well. Programmers will love it because they can fit it in their schedule easily and your chances of getting in are greater.
Additionally you can upload it in YouTube and if it goes viral (specially the funny ones) your possibilities are endless.
So now you have zero excuses not to make a film. With 1-minute shorts, the investment of time and money is minimal and they are incredibly fun to make, not to mention rewarding. Some even claim that they have a profound effect on your mental health, but I wouldn’t go that far… however, you could tell your mother your career is going places and you just need more time to hit it big.
Go make one and stay focused!
Information on Genesis 2:26
Directed by Daniel Pace
Written by Christina Georgiou and Daniel Pace
Story line: Adam and Eve have just tasted the Forbidden Fruit. Exploring their unleashed desires, Eve envisions more than she had ever anticipated – but the future is set in stone.
1st Prize at the Videominuto Film Festival 2012 (Italy)
1st Prize 100Films in 100Minutes (Kiev International Short Film Festival) 2013
Curious note: The last verse in Genesis is actually 2:25… get it?
iMDB page for Genesis 2:26