Short film

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A short film ( English short (film) or short subject ) defines itself as a counterpart to a long film exclusively by its film length . A film that is up to 30 minutes long can be considered a short film, although the term itself was not generated until around 1915. A short film, like a full-program feature film, can serve all film genres .


Short film in early Hollywood

The story of the short film started in the early days of cinema. Back then, all films were basically “short films” because they consisted of one act . This changed with DW Griffiths Judith von Bethulien (1914) and The Birth of a Nation (1915). At the end of the 1920s, films lasting an hour or two were no longer uncommon. Certain categories of films remained, such as cartoons or comedies, especially slapstick. In these categories the short film was still a household power, for example with Laurel and Hardy or the little rascals . For many film studios, short films also offered the opportunity for experiments. But over the years the studios lost interest in short films. Compared to feature films, the short film was in poor shape. It was television in the 1950s that brought down short films in Hollywood . On the one hand the audience got smaller and smaller, on the other hand the production costs were higher - and so it was no longer possible to support the medium of short film. The cinema chains no longer wanted them either, because due to the competition from television they tried to accommodate as many film screenings as possible in one day - the short films were thus taken away as program fillers. Thus, the short film in Hollywood came to an end, brought about by the same reasons that caused it at the beginning: economic conditionality.

The short film outside of Hollywood

In the 1930s the gap between film as an art and film as a business widened. After the Second World War, more and more filmmakers began to experiment with the usual conventions of "ordinary" film.

With “ Meshes of the Afternoon ” (1943) Maya Deren shook the fundamental form of film narration. This is one of the most important and influential works of experimental cinema and the avant-garde movement in the American film industry. Dissatisfied with the formulaic style of popular Hollywood cinema, other filmmakers also set out in the 1950s to revolutionize the language of film in their own way. It was in this decade that the first demonstration opportunities for such unconventional work emerged. The 1960s can be seen as the heyday of experimental short films, which ended at the latest with the advent of multiplex cinemas in the early 1980s.

The American short film from 1970

In the 1970s, the first film departments at universities in America emerged. These film schools and the growing number of international festivals created a kind of new genre in the short film environment: the “calling card” film. Most modern short films by film students are not experimental, but rather have a narrative structure. The main purpose of these films is to demonstrate a student's skills. Many of today's famous directors have started like this, such as Steven Spielberg ( Amblin ' ), George Lucas ( Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB ) or Martin Scorsese ( The Big Shave ). Often short films are just one way to make a name for yourself in the film industry and finally to be able to make a feature film. Because usually feature films are the terrain in which you can achieve money and fame. But short films also offer renowned directors the opportunity to experiment without great financial pressure. Experimental short films are particularly common in music videos - they are the most obvious and also the most popular form of non-narrative short film.


The length of a short film is usually less than 30 minutes. However, the limits are not clearly defined here. Different length restrictions often apply to short film festivals. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences regards a film that is less than 40 minutes long as a short film. The Berlin International Film Festival defines the maximum length of a short film between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on the section. The German Short Film Award sets the limit at 30 minutes. Within the framework of the German Film Funding Act (FFG), a short film, including opening and closing credits, has a maximum duration of 30 minutes ( Section 40 (4) FFG, up to 2017 a maximum of 15 minutes, Section 14a (4) FFG old version). For films that exceed the 30-minute mark without being full-length, the term medium -length film, which is rarely used in German-speaking countries, has become established in the Romansh area .

Reception today

In common parlance today, the term short film is often used in connection with non-commercial film projects. Often the short film is also equated with the student film because of its popularity with learning filmmakers .

In the meantime, however, the short film, like its literary counterpart the short story , is understood as an independent genre with special expressive possibilities. Due to its brevity, the short film opens up artistic possibilities for filmmakers that the long film lacks. Even successful movie directors sometimes come back to the short film format. With the introduction of the DVD , the short film is enjoying a certain popularity as a DVD accessory and thus offers an additional offer for special editions.

Despite the difficult situation in commercial cinema, the short film is recognized as a separate category with important film awards. At the Academy Awards , Oscars are awarded in three different categories exclusively for short films ( short fiction film , animated short film , documentary short film ).

In the case of special short film projects, directors (sometimes in a competitive situation) create short films on a given topic, which are then presented as a whole in feature length. Well-known projects are 11'09 "01 - September 11 (2002), Ten Minutes Older (2002) and the 99 Euro Films (2001). In the latter project, no film was allowed to cost more than 99 Euro to produce. Due to the thematic sequence of several Short films can become an episode film , as happened in the Homage to Paris Paris, je t'aime of famous directors such as Tom Tykwer and the Coen brothers.

A special feature is the experimental project The Five Obstructions (2003) by Jørgen Leth . For each of the five short film episodes, the filmmaker Lars von Trier made restrictions and specifications that the director had to implement in the film.

New opportunities through the internet

The short film has had a revival since 1995 thanks to file sharing and download portals on the Internet . With this new medium, he plays his home advantage of brevity, and can be copied or shown to friends on the computer. The international fame that short films such as the German forklift driver Klaus or the Polish Katedra von Baginski have achieved would not have been possible without a copy on the Internet. Films like the Adicolor series or Bernard's Blue Screen of Death show that this new generation of short films blurs the line between advertising and podcasts . While normal-length films are currently hardly being sold legally on the Internet, short films have reached market maturity on the Internet and are available on YouTube , Vimeo and many download portals. The organizers of the renowned Sundance Film Festival even published short films that were shown in the program on their website. With the help of the distribution through the Internet, short films regained their attractiveness, so that some cinemas or private television stations began to show interest in them again, and again showed short films in their programs. Because of these new distribution opportunities, there is a real chance for filmmakers to make some money off of short films. However, whether short films can ever become commercial and there will be people who can make a living from them is very questionable. Nevertheless, it will continue to exist - be it to create art or as an entry into the film industry.

Short film and advertising

At the Berlinale 2015, a tendency in advertising was attested to use short films as a differentiated film format with corresponding emotionalization and target group-specific storytelling. In addition to the film curator Maike Mia Höhne and the director Ralf Schmerberg , the head of brand communication at a vehicle manufacturer also commented on the trend towards short films in advertising. Conversely, there are also short films that parody the advertising film aesthetic, for example in the case of MCP, an award-winning thesis at the Parodie Filmakademie Ludwigsburg. The director Haase had an advertising slogan for a braking aid, recognizes dangers before they arise, satirized insofar as the vehicle assistant allows a boy to be run over, who later turns out to be Adolf Hitler . According to Jens Jessen, the parody is directed against philosophically exaggerated advertising that seeks to give products a metaphysical aura. In fact, however, the production of viral videos, their production in advertising and the parody of advertising hypes such as viral marketing also go hand in hand. This is tied to the filmmaker such as advertising specialist Dominik Kuhn , who has established himself as an expert for viral campaigns in industry and television broadcasters with relevant parodic short films.

Festivals and Organizations

Selected short film festivals

Support associations

Film distributors and distributors

  • Interfilm Berlin , international short film distribution and distribution, short film festival
  • Short film agency Hamburg, short film distribution, short film festival and rental, DVD publications, DVD download
  • W-film Cologne, short film cinema with the label NIGHT OF THE SHORTS
  • Future Shorts (UK)
  • The short film rental
  • sixpack Verleih (distribution for short films, experimental videos, animated and documentary films from Austria)

Associations and institutions

  • AG Kurzfilm , Federal Association of German Short Films
  • German Short Film Prize on the go, cinema tour of the nominated films that have been awarded the German Short Film Prize

Short films on German television and on the Internet

The oldest forum for short films on German television is Kurzschluss auf Arte magazine . 3sat regularly shows short film nights accompanying the Oberhausen short film days . The third programs also regularly show short film nights at a later time, such as the WDR with kurzundschoen , hr with fresh film - The Night of University Films or the SWR with short film roles . The broadcaster BR shows several times a year short film nights that are grouped around a specific topic. Once a month the program Unicato presents the world of short films in the broadcasting area of MDR television .

The television station 13th Street shows short films from the genres of action, crime, thriller, mystery and horror in the series Shocking Shorts . The Shocking Shorts Award is also presented in this context . DVDs are also released under the label. There is usually hardly any space for short films on commercially oriented private television ; the Tele 5 station shows short films from the Shocking Shorts series at irregular intervals . The regional television station RNF has been showing short films from the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region in its short film magazine Bermuda Shorts since March 2010 . Since January 2015, the regional television broadcaster NRW.TV has offered the opportunity to submit films as part of the NRW.TV Short Film Night. It is a weekly series of programs. Another exception are the music videos shown on the music channels .


Web links

Wiktionary: Short film  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Short Films  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Film lexicon of the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel , accessed on February 4, 2014.
  2. | Berlinale | Archive | Annual archives | 2015 | Program - storytelling in short films and in advertising | Storytelling in Short Films and Commercials in the Era of Mobile Media Usage | Storytelling in short films and advertising in times of mobile media consumption. In: Retrieved December 24, 2015 .
  3. a b By Jens Jessen: Advertisement: There is no braking for Hitler. In: time online. August 29, 2013, accessed December 24, 2015 .
  4. Dominik Kuhn: How emotions spread viral messages. Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University , April 4, 2012, accessed on December 24, 2015 .