I recently had a conversation with an actor friend of mine, MJ Mattiaccio. It's the first time I had written down my thoughts on short film length. Many people had been telling me that at 29 minutes, my film was too long. I worked with my editor @Walker Whited wsquaredmedia.com and we tried everything we could think of to speed it up, but it didn't work. So, I settled on 29 min and said, "if it's too long than so be it." I wish someone had told me it was ok to have a 29 minute short film. I was tremendously nervous until we started receiving acceptances to festivals and then those nerves quickly fell away. You should also know many festivals have a 25 minute max length rule, so if your gunning for one particular festival, take the time to jump on filmfreeway.com and find out their rules. Here is MJ and I's text dialog and my first time to put these thoughts to paper. I hope you find it helpful.
MJ - Hey man, hope all is going well. Since you've got more experience in the bigger festivals, what would you say, in terms of length (short), is more desirable for the screeners to accept the project? I mean, I have no doubt it'll look great. Got some pros working on this. Trying not to sacrifice the story but also need to better the film's chances. I've seen enough bad films to know I've got the right people working on this. It may be a major stretch, but I'm gunning for Tribeca!" https://www.facebook.com/mj.mattiaccio
ME - So MJ, first things first, this is just my opinion and it’s a little different than many on the length. Short films (under 30min) doesn’t matter as long as the work is stellar and the subject matter is broadly appealing. As soon as you start narrowing the audience through genre or story, then run time becomes critical for acceptances. Only because 83 Days is based on true events (historical in nature) and a drama (broadly appealing) and social justice (again popular right now), can we get away with a 29 minute screen time. When you start to deviate from these categories, you have to shorten your length to increase your odds. The shorter the better. Make every second count but don’t rush the pacing unless it’s an action thriller or something that calls for it. Finally, I would say anything under 22 minutes, odds increase dramatically, and again under 12 minutes, almost double. If your film is 22 minutes long, it has to be 4 times better than the average of the festival you're entering in to make it. At 12 minute run time, 2 times better. Hope this helps.
These are my thoughts on short film lengths for festival entries. Do you have a formula that works for you? I would love to hear your thoughts.