Feature Film Vs Short Film: A Complete Guide For Your Understanding!

March 8, 2023


The film industry is vast and diversified, with two primary categories: feature films and short films. Both have distinct traits that appeal to various audiences.

Feature films are full-length motion movies with a broad distribution aimed at general audiences. On the other hand, short films are usually shorter in duration and have restricted theatrical distribution. They can be used to introduce a filmmaker or as a separate work of art.

This article will discuss the variations and commonalities between a feature film and a short film, as well as how each form serves a distinct purpose and has distinct possibilities in the world of cinema.

What are Feature Films?

Feature-length films are motion pictures that are usually the main attraction in movie theaters and streaming sites. Feature film structure often has a broad distribution and is aimed at a broad audience, as opposed to short films or niche films, which can have a more restricted release.

A feature film can be of different genres, including drama, comedy, action, and fantasy. Titan A.E was the first feature film that was released in 2000 all over the internet.

What are Short Films?

A short film is defined by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as "an original motion picture" with a restricted distribution. They can be used to introduce a filmmaker or as a separate work of art.

Filmmakers often use short films to demonstrate their abilities and experiment with new concepts. They can be of various genres, including animation, drama, comedy, and experimental. They are also less costly than feature films and can be an excellent method for aspiring filmmakers to enter the industry.

Feature Films Vs Short Films: A Head-to-Head Comparison

There are a few distinctions that exist between the two. Let's differentiate the two based on their major features:

  • Film Character

Filmmakers can present a greater cast of characters because of the length of feature films. They also make it possible for the characters to have complete character arcs and for the viewer to interact with them on a deeper level.

The spectator is often only allowed to see a brief portion of a character's life in a short. An exposition that tells us who this character is cannot be found in shorts. To be more impactful, short stories often have fewer characters.

  • Film Structure

Most feature films adhere to the time-honored format of three acts, each of which takes place over at least 80 minutes. What characteristics characterize the structures of feature films?

Because the short film has less time to convey a narrative, they often adopt a distinct structure that concentrates more on the opening scene and crescendo instead of explanation and denouement. This is because a tale's suspense and climax are the most exciting parts.

  • Film Time

The timing of the film is among the most noticeable differences. How long does the average length of a first feature-length film last? A feature film's normal screen time is between 70 and 90 minutes.

However, a short film's running time might be as little as a few minutes or as much as 40 minutes, depending on its length. The gap in run duration between shorts and features further produces several variations between the two, such as structure. That's why you see tons of film festivals dedicated to short movies.

  • Film Budgeting

Although there is a clear distinction between the two, it is important to point out that one of the primary draws for filmmakers to create short films is the much lower production costs associated with doing so.

Because of this, short films are frequently used as prototypes intended to garner interest and, perhaps, additional financing for a full-length feature film.

Three-Act Structure of a Feature and a Short Film

Feature Film Structures

A movie's outline might give you a good idea of what to anticipate from it as a whole. It's a blueprint for the film's structure, outlining the film's primary elements and their connections. In Hollywood, the three-act structure is the most often utilized format.

Each act has its inciting incident (the first event that causes the drama to begin) and difficulty (a new hurdle for the characters). Act III is the play's climax when all that has occurred before it has culminated. This success depends on gradually increasing the tension between acts until Act III when everything climaxes at once.

Short Film Structures

Many short films have a three-act structure, so bear this in mind if you're contemplating how to construct a short film. The first act is the prologue. Act one's biggest role is to hook audiences and set the stage for the rest of the story. The second act develops its central theme and conflict.

Act 2 is where the bulk of the action from your logline should take place. Your whole movie will revolve around this one scene. The tale concludes in Act 3. There can be a falling action and conclusion at the end of Act 3, or the third act can conclude amid the climax.

The Bottom Line: Which Film Would Work Well For You? Short Film or a Feature One?

Your aims and resources determine the choice between making a short film and a feature film. If you are a rookie filmmaker looking to display your skills, you should start with a short film.

Short films are frequently less costly to create and can be an excellent method to reach a larger audience. They also enable you to try out new ideas and approaches without the strain of trying to keep a feature-length plot going.

A feature film, on the other hand, a feature film may be a better option if you have a greater budget and a more ambitious subject to convey. Feature films have a broader distribution and can be an excellent method to have your work noticed by a bigger audience.

Rishi KapoorRishi Kapoor

Founder & CEO of Paus

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