During the early days of cinema, there was no difference between a feature film and a short film. In fact, it took twenty years from the premiere of the first film for a distinction to begin to be talked about.
As their names say, the big difference between a feature film and a short film is the length of each one.
Generally speaking, a movie is considered a feature film when it has a total duration of more than 40 minutes, although they usually last more than an hour. Most of the films that we see in the cinema are feature films and, for the same reason, they are also the most popular.
However, it would be a mistake to think that short films no longer have importance today. A short film It can be defined as a movie that lasts less than 40 minutes and, on average, they usually last about half an hour.
Although these are the two best known definitions, there are also people who talk about mediometrajes. These would be like a middle point between a short film and a feature film, and would last longer than 30 minutes but less than an hour.
In addition to these there are also the so-called cinema minutes, which are exactly 60 seconds long and are very popular with film students.
The importance of short films
Almost all films made during the birth of cinema are considered as short films according to the modern definition of the word, since the duration of a roll of film did not allow them to film more than 10 minutes.
The Roundhay Garden Scene, shot by French inventor Louis Le Prince, is considered the first short film in history and shows a group of people walking in a garden for 1.6 seconds.
After this, in 1896 it was filmed The arrival of a train at La Ciotat station by the Lumière brothers, which lasts 50 seconds. It is one of the first films to be shown to an audience.
Trip to the moon by George Méliès is perhaps the most famous short film of the silent film era and, also being the first science fiction film, its influence has been monumental.
It took twenty years after the first short film before the first feature film was made.
That movie is exactly 60 minutes long and is known as Kelly’s gang story. It was directed by Australian Charles Tait and shows the adventures of a bandit named Ned Kelly.
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Short films in modern times
Although the historical importance of short films is indisputable, the reality is that today they are still just as important as in the past.
In fact, many of the most famous film directors began by making short films. This is because a good short film can serve to demonstrate the potential of a filmmaker and help him or her find a budget to make a feature film.
A recent example is that of horror film director Ari Aster, who after making the short film The strange thing about the Johnsons got them to finance his first feature film: The legacy of the devil.
There are also directors who decide to make short films simply because they prefer that format to tell a story.
An example is Paul Thomas Anderson, who directed the excellent short film by Anima along with Radiohead musician Thom Yorke. You can find this one on Netflix.
Other directors who have also made short films include Wes Anderson (El gran hotel in Budapest), George Lucas (Star Wars), Christopher Nolan (The origin) y Sofia Coppola (Lost in Tokyo).
There are even films that started out as short films before becoming feature films, such as Whiplash: Music and Obsession from director Damien Chazelle.
As for medium-length films, there are also several notable examples worth mentioning. One of them is Italianamerican by Martin Scorsese, which lasts 49 minutes. Another is The modern Sherlock Holmes, directed by and starring Buster Keaton, with a duration of 45 minutes.
You can also find a variety of incredible cineminutes, especially on YouTube. A great example is I AM NOT AFRAID, by the French Merick and Gohu.
The reality is that you can find incredible works of any duration. Other formats besides feature films are well worth exploring, as you never know what hidden gems you can find.