The Ultimate Challenge: Going from Short to Feature

Hobo with a Shotgun originally started out as a fake trailer in a competition

I’ve often felt that most of my concepts for films can be expanded. You see, I like to build upon concepts – worlds that are different to our own. Part of the problem is that doing a feature is much more costly and time consuming – from inception to distribution. Overall, it’s not going to do well if you’ve got an underdeveloped concept, a concept with a gaping hole or one whose lore is not explained. Virtually any concept can make it to the big screen, but making sure it does well is key.

So I’ve decided to do a checklist of whether your idea should be a short or a feature. Most of my films, I feel can be done in a feature – whether character based like Consolidating, or world-based (i.e. the emphasis is on the story and the narrative’s interaction with it’s world). Anyway, put your concept through this process to see if yours should be a feature (and in the future I will also provide advice on doing features).

 

  1. Is the story/characters/concept finished? – Is there more you want to say or do with your idea? Is there any room for building upon it? Is there a “what happens next”?
  2. Can you make things interesting? – Or will that just convolute everything? Don’t have extra story for the sake of extending it, have it because you can twist the characters, concept or world in interesting and thought provoking ways.
  3. Do you have the facilities to produce a feature? – It’s all well and good having a grand idea, and even a story that remains intriguing right until the end, but if you have no means of producing such a film, then it’s all for naught. Looking for investment, you may end up compromising your original vision to make it more commercial (say for example adding in a certain factor just to acquire specific funding – such as changing location and characters).
  4. Commitment – This one’s pretty basic, you need to be able to commit to the project for a potentially much longer time. It also means you need to find others that can commit also. Be prepared to spend a lot of time with the same group of people.
  5. Distribution and exhibition – It’s pretty pointless producing any film, especially a feature, if you have no way of showing it. Thankfully this can usually be easily remedied by sending it in to film festivals and even asking local businesses to screen it for you. Just keep your options open, but also plan from the beginning how you’re going to deal with the final film.

Freddiew does a lot of shorts on Youtube - and he realises that the ideas he comes up with won't work as well in a feature length format - which is fine!

It’s not just a case of whether it’s going to be good as a feature, it’s also how you’re going to do it. You can always hand off the actual filming side of things to someone else (either a friend or sell the script to someone who wants to make it), but just bear in mind, once it’s out of your hands, you have no control over it. They may ask you “what did you mean by this?” or “I think this would’ve been better, what do you think?”, but it’s not obligatory. And if you’re one of those people who sell off your script and then publicly denounce the film version of your work, shut up! If you sell your work, you have no rights to publicly complain about others’ variations on it.

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