Examples of short films that work without much overhead?
November 21, 2010 1:23 PM   Subscribe

Short, live-action films that work with limited locations, effects, budget, and actors?

I think I'd like to make a short film, but before I do, I want to soak up as many successful short films as I can so I can get a feel for what they did that worked. Short being anything under 30 minutes.

The limitations mentioned above are important. I don't have a studio, or a budget, or a cast, really. I can get maybe 3 to 5 people involved, max. Sets would be places we could use for free.

So basically, I want to see what's worked for other short films that emphasize cinematography, editing, lighting, a good script, and successful acting by one or two characters. No reliance on CGI, animation, (exotic) costuming, or location shoots that cost more than the gas it took to get there.
posted by jsturgill to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If anything, I would get one of those Canon DSLRs that shoot in 1080p. Many 'real' DPs hate them but for what you are trying to do it would work great.
posted by cowmix at 1:40 PM on November 21, 2010


This is not a Short, but it is an excellent example of what you're looking for. The entire film was shot in a motel room, and the cast had only three actors.
posted by AlliKat75 at 2:23 PM on November 21, 2010

I believe each segment of Four Rooms takes place in a single room (it's been awhile since I've seen it). Reservoir Dogs is a feature but was written specifically to work with limited locations, actors and budget, being the setup and the aftermath of a jewel heist gone bad, without the heist itself. Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (also a feature) takes place in a single setting in a single scene (real time). You might find more inspiration looking at playscripts since most plays are written with small casts and limited locations in mind.
posted by zanni at 2:39 PM on November 21, 2010

"Successful" is debatable, but I have attempted to do almost exactly this. Feel free to contact me if you want more info.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:39 PM on November 21, 2010

I'm not sure it fits your definition of shor or cheap, but Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog immediately comes o mind to me.
posted by maryr at 5:02 PM on November 21, 2010

Some successful shorts:

Jorge, directed by Joel Hopkins.
Genesis and Catastrophe, by Jonathan Liebesman.
Election Night, by Anders Thomas Jensen.

Also check out the Future Shorts YouTube channel.

I would also recommend checking out the Beckett on Film boxed set. Many of Beckett's short plays are performed, and performed well.

Also, think about anthology television shows as a source for this kind of stuff. The Twilight Zone and Tales From The Crypt have many great examples of 20-30 minute stories.


When it comes to tech stuff, make sound one of your top priorities. I can think of any number of successful films shot well with grubby cameras (pushed B&W 16mm film for Pi, standard definition DV for 28 Days Later), but I can't think of any good examples of the reverse. Tinny, poorly recorded sound screams "amateur hour" from all the highest mountains. Don't spring for an überexpensive HD cam, or even a DSLR, without first making sure you have the budget and expertise for quality sound.

(unless you're shooting a silent movie or a music video, in which case ignore me)
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:01 PM on November 21, 2010

I don't know if this is what you are looking for, but check out the Chad Vader series on YouTube. All they seemed to have was a video camera, a Darth Vader outfit, and access to a grocery store after hours.
posted by LarryC at 6:34 PM on November 21, 2010

Did you see this 15 minute short film I posted a few days ago on the blue?
posted by querty at 9:59 PM on November 21, 2010

Take a look at Freddie Wong's videos, particularly his Call of Duty inspired short films. He's also got detailed breakdowns of the kit he uses and his creative process. The results are nothing short of amazing, considering what would have been possible a few years ago.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:44 AM on November 22, 2010

Forever's Not So Long.
posted by brainwane at 3:24 AM on November 22, 2010

La jetée can be viewed here. It's more photomontage than film, but is still one the best shorts and one of the best sci-fi films of all time.
posted by permafrost at 5:29 AM on November 22, 2010

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