The difference between shorts and features

Aside from the running length, is there a difference in form between a short film and a feature film? Many short films opt to tackle stories that are simply too huge to handle. They try to do too much in their short films, cover too more ground than their resources and skills will allow, and they don’t comprehend the key differences between a short and a feature film.

Short films differ from feature films not only in length and scope of drama, but also in plot structure. A five-minute short film could begin with an off-screen instigating incident that occurs before the film begins, whereas a full film must depict that development.

A sympathetic protagonist is a must-have in a feature film. A short film, on the other hand, can succeed solely because it examines a fascinatingly unsympathetic protagonist. Because you’re asking the viewer to commit a shorter amount of time in your character, rather than the conventional 90 minutes to two hours, this works better in a short than in a feature.

Short films can effectively focus on the conflict in a single incident, whereas movies can focus on any number of incidents.

Short films can effectively address challenging topics that conventional feature films ignore for fear of alienating the general public.

Characteristics of an excellent short film

What makes a good short film idea, or any film idea for that matter? A excellent short film idea should be focused and specific.

It doesn’t have the time to delve into more than one subject at a gradual pace. An original notion is one that we haven’t seen before.

Even if the characters do not win our sympathies, they should engage the viewer emotionally in some way. The story should surprise us and teach us something at the same time.


The best short film plot concepts are straightforward. They are frequently told in a single sentence. They concentrate on a single core conflict, often only one episode, that is developed from beginning to end.

Secondary conflicts may frame a picture, but the main story works best when it develops or hints at its conflict early on and then sticks with it. The stronger the film will be the less it veers into extraneous material.

The simple act of eating a salad becomes the core tension in the live action short The Lunch Date. The concept is straightforward. An elderly woman feels her lunch has been stolen by a homeless man. The conflict and story are developed by her actions in reaction to her assumption.


Conflict can exist as an abstract concept, a circumstance, or an arena, but it must be manifested in a character-driven conflict. Characters who commit to striving to achieve something are the greatest. Their desire/need/goal propels them onward, but they run across issues/conflict.

The antagonist might be a single figure or a group of characters, a physical barrier, a vexing issue, or even an inner doubt. Whatever the opposition is, it must be externalized and shown in relation to the protagonist, your primary character. This antagonism provides immediate tension and attention, as well as the plot’s central conflict.

A short film’s conflict might be subtle or overt. The conflict in The Lunch Date is subtle, already present in the social differences between the two characters, which pits them against each other.


Read more:

Characteristics of an excellent short film (Part 2)

Characteristics of an excellent short film (Part 3)

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