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Old February 21st, 2011, 06:30 PM   #1
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The big choice: Feature or Long Form Short

Okay guys - I wrote what I think is a brilliant script that tackles all the type of work I'd like to do in the immediate future showcasing my strengths both as a director and writer.

The script has Sci Fi, gangsters, action, and tons of special effects and some snappy chatter from characters.

The trouble: The script is 48 pages!

What do you do in this situation - do you go for 90 pages - hoping to keep it brilliant by stretching out all three acts and adding a love story? (no love story in this) knowing that you can sell a feature?

OR

Do you go for the short - hoping TV might pick it up and that it can be an amazing calling card for raising money for a feature and also knowing that realistically - this is the amount of resources you have to produce at the moment and it could beget more paid work for the rest of the year.

I have the dilemna - I know others here have been there - what do you guys think?

John
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Old February 21st, 2011, 10:03 PM   #2
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Re: The big choice: Feature or Long Form Short

Maybe you have this covered, but why is this such a big choice for you since you have answered your own question here:
Quote:
I wrote what I think is a brilliant script that tackles all the type of work I'd like to do in the immediate future
It seems to me the situation is something you created. If you set out to write a feature film, then you will end up with the requisite number of pages (90-120). Any screenplay book (I recommend Syd Field) will teach you how. Professional writers know what they want before they put one word on paper.

If your story has no scope whatsoever for any sub-plots or additional scenes, then how are you going to make it a TV series (if that is what you had in mind)? If you mean a 'made-for-television' movie, then it might be a good idea to talk to the people you feel could be potential buyers and see what they think.

Hope this helps.
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Old February 23rd, 2011, 06:48 AM   #3
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Re: The big choice: Feature or Long Form Short

I think he's referring to that rare item the one off TV drama that fits into the one hour slot, which is.different to a feature film.

I'd be wary about just stretching the script. A love element alone won't work unless there's a reason for it being there and in some way it's going to have an impact on the main character and their story. You're probably going to need at least another half hour for a feature film (say 30 pages).
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Old February 27th, 2011, 09:31 AM   #4
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Re: The big choice: Feature or Long Form Short

Cut.

Cut it mercilessly.

Get it under thirty pages, then shoot it and circulate it on the festival circuit. The script will be better, the budget leaner and the screening time more palatable for festival planners. Use the awardsl to get funding to shoot the feature you have been polishing up in the meantime.

OR

Take what you've got, cut it into 'webisodes' that run less than ten minutes. Create a website, generate heat by posting webisodes every month.

OR

Take what you've got, turn it into a graphic novel. That way you don't have to shoot it at all. Shop the graphic novel as a spec script.


These are a few of the routes currently being worked by indie procos.

Good luck.
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Old February 27th, 2011, 02:38 PM   #5
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Re: The big choice: Feature or Long Form Short

I would add that 15 minutes or under, or even less than 10, is better for a short film for festival circulation, from everything I've read/heard. 30 is really pushing it. Just 'cause they technically "accept" submissions of that length doesn't mean they ever show them!
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Old March 1st, 2011, 12:24 AM   #6
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Re: The big choice: Feature or Long Form Short

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Threat View Post
What do you do in this situation - do you go for 90 pages - hoping to keep it brilliant by stretching out all three acts and adding a love story?
John
You know what happens when you take a 48 page story and wrap it in a 90 page movie? You get 48 pages of story and 42 pages of squat. Don't stretch your script. That's how bad movies are made.

Instead, (and I think I got this from Syd Field) take your 48 page script and mercilessly slash it down to 25, maybe 30 pages. You now have a riveting first act of what will be an absolutely brilliant action packed, edge of your seat feature. Then write the following 2 acts.

Anyway... my vote is actually for you to make a short. There's not much love for shorts over 20 mins in the festival circuit, and unless you score some wins, there's not much chance of anyone buying it for TV.
Is there any chance you can cut it to 15-20 mins?
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Old March 1st, 2011, 03:41 AM   #7
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Re: The big choice: Feature or Long Form Short

Yes, for short film festivals less than 15 mins is best, less than 10 mins is even better.

I'd also be worried if the script is just the type of work you want to do, rather than a story you want to tell.
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Old March 1st, 2011, 04:54 AM   #8
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Re: The big choice: Feature or Long Form Short

There is a lot of good advice here I feel.

I really like the story, I'm passionate about what I do and honestly, a lot of the films and pilots I make out of my own cash are projects that I like and would love to see, but that no one else is going to make.

This film is one of those, it probably wouldn't fly as a spec script to sell, and stretching it to 90 minutes, just would work with the subject matter. I agree, we all see films that in reality tacked on 42 minutes of filler. I'm not interested in spending my time doing that just to have a feature under my belt as a director.

I'm interested in directing a piece that I think is amazing, and that can beget other work, so I can make more films. I think this film can come in at 30 mins easily.

As of right this second, I'm getting reads of the script and leaning toward shooting it. I've got lights, and a rig, and the willingness to put up my own cash and ask some friends for theirs as well.

I can always cut a ten minute version of it now that I've reviewed the script, but my own pleasure and satisfaction could only come from seeing the whole film thru and learning from that experience.

Your responses have been helpful and it's still a heavy battle in my head, business vs creativity
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Old March 13th, 2011, 01:56 PM   #9
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Re: The big choice: Feature or Long Form Short

The producer in me is saying "Don't make something you can't sell"

It takes a lot more work to create a well crafted piece of drama/genre than it does to write - and going to all that effort if you don't already have a clear pathway in mind to who will want to both watch but also exhibit/screen your project is fool hardy.

The advantage of the world today is that there is more room for projects of different duration, be it made for TV movies or projects released on the web, but you still need someone to program it who is trying to generate real revenue before it becomes a commercial work.

If it's a non commercial work, then it's either a portfolio piece, art, 'fan' film making or a vanity project.

A portfolio piece with a script of 48 minutes, I would say is best recrafted as some kind of hour long television drama series pilot. There is a market for that, but more importantly as a portfolio piece if you shoot it as that on your own dime you can use it as an example of your ability to direct an hour long series pilot. Whether or not the script is great in that instance is less important than you directing within the necessary conventions of the medium of television, as well as showing your flair.

Your unlikely to sell the pilot (but you never know) but it might get someone interested in using you on something similar.

Alternatively, you can look at breaking it up into three or four 15 minute chunks, and partnering with a web video platform as a series of webisodes. The financial model behind this is solidified yet, but it there are lots of more experimental digital agencies creating advertising content in different ways, but anything with a single section longer than 15 minutes isn't viable on youtube at the moment and thus won't be easy for you to self distribute on the major platform if it doesn't work out.

If it's art, do what you want with it. But it doesn't sound like Art.

I know it's an original piece, but I use the term fan film loosely because it defines an area of hobby based film making where most of the practitioners aren't really serious about doing this for a living, and it's something they do on top of other jobs. It's a fantastic, expensive hobby that could lead somewhere else, but that's not what the project is designed to do. Again, it sounds like you want to make this to help you generate work opportunities - unlikely to happen if you think just distributing it to those on the web who will enjoy it, rather than a targetted platform or audience, is the way to go.

A vanity piece. This is you making something because you think if you make it, everyone will love it and you and you'll get recognition and accolades. This isn't the way things work - if you make something for you alone and don't put any thought into how other people are going to at least be given the opportunity to see it (and being up online doesn't count, because it will be lost in a sea of other content that people are starting to pay serious money to promote).

Don't make a vanity piece, it's not only a waste of your time, but much worse it's a waste of everyone who you get to help out. Unless your insanely wealthy and can pay everyone what they'd get on a paid job - then do whatever you like. :)
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Old May 11th, 2011, 07:01 AM   #10
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Re: The big choice: Feature or Long Form Short

Thanks Craig!

That was very helpful. I did have in my mind that i could pitch it to tv as a drama pilot ( it's in the sci fi genre ) which is a field I don't natural get paid work in unless I bend the occasional music video in that direction via treatments. I wouldn't classify it as a vain project and I am far from rich, but I don't mind spending my own money ad never feeling bad about it if I believe in it.

I would raise some money to match my own investment in it, and I think it could lead to various conversations from film, tv, web series to video games. I don't have an agent at the moment, although that could change shortly, but even then, agents are awesome, if you are at the top to middle of their list of clients.

Ergo, I have to make this fight happen myself and I am in it. I am still investigating extension to a feature.

What is the lowest number of minutes one can get away with being called a feature? 70 min?
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