FAQ: How Long Is a Short Film?

A short film is defined as an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits.

Creating a short film can be a great way to express your creativity, but it’s important to know how long your film should be. Knowing what length is considered “short” is essential for creating an effective, engaging cinematic experience. With so much variety out there, it can be difficult to know what constitutes a short film. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the common length of short films, the various types of short films, and what best practices you should follow when creating a short film. We’ll also explore the various ways you can use short films to tell your story and the different outlets available to showcase your film. Whether you’re an aspiring filmmaker or just looking to create a short film for fun, you’ll find the information in this blog post invaluable.

How Long Should A Short Film Be? by Daniel Sol

How long is a short film?

A short movie typically lasts 20 to 40 minutes. There is no upper limit to how brief a short film can be. For instance, some could be brief while others could last up to an hour.

What is a short film?

A short film is a piece of cinema that has a limited running time. Typically, they feature a full conflict that introduces ideas and characters to the audience before coming to a conclusion. Short films can be in any genre and target specific audiences, just like longer ones, depending on their content. Additionally, they may have ratings, which aid in ensuring that only the target audience watches the movie. While short films aren’t typically seen in theaters, they can be submissions for competitions, side projects, or even larger compilations.

What are the elements of a short film?

Directors and other film industry professionals take into account a variety of factors when developing a short film, including:


While the length of short films can vary, they are rarely longer than an hour. The movie’s brief running time might have an impact on other aspects, like how quickly the plot progresses. This makes the length of a short film one of its most crucial components because it establishes the limitations on how much content can be included.


A short film’s plot and the way the director crafts it are additional components. The film’s storyline or narrative arc is known as the plot. Because the movie is brief, factors that affect the plot, like the number of characters, scenes, or plot devices at play, may be diminished.

Story structure

The story structure a director uses throughout the course of production is another aspect of short films that might change due to the length of the film. The telling of a story doesn’t solely rely on storytelling conventions, such as the use of images and other distinctive media. The way a story is created through the scenes, images, and sounds is through its structure. Short films have fewer resources and less time to resolve a story, so they have different options for story structure. In comparison to a feature-length movie, a short film might have fewer plot points, characters, motivations, and settings.


Characterization is the process of creating and organizing the characters in a story. Characterization is also how a movie implements its characters. A short movie might not put as much emphasis on character development, focusing instead on what’s important to the story.


A movie’s scenes are the sections where characters can interact and the plot can develop. Scenes can tell a story and advance a plot in many different ways in any film project. For instance, a scene might involve one character telling another important information, which motivates them to embark on a quest. Short films typically have fewer scenes than feature-length films because they have fewer opportunities to use character development, plot, and other story mechanics.


Dialogue is the speech exchanged by characters in a narrative. In addition to dialogue between any number of characters in a movie, there can also be dialogue from outside sources like the narrator. This can help with a variety of things in the movie, like moving the plot along or developing the bond between two characters. A short film’s constrained running time may limit the length and volume of each character’s lines in the dialogue.


Conflict is a disagreement between two elements within a story. A character may be in a conversation with another character, with their environment, or with themselves. Conflict advances the plot while also allowing the audience to learn more about a character’s motivations. Conflict reveals aspects of the character to the audience, such as what they’d do to get what they want or how they feel about something. A conflict may be on a smaller, more intimate scale in a short film than it would be in a feature-length one.

What are some best practices when making short films?

When creating a short film, professionals can follow a number of appropriate procedures, such as:

Limit story elements

Limiting the number of story elements in your short film is one technique that directors can use. Characters, plot devices, and resolutions all appear before the short film’s runtime is over. Limiting the number of story elements used in the movie might be beneficial for the directors and writers. For instance, if you’re planning to write a short film with a difficult conflict resolution at the conclusion of your story, think about limiting story elements elsewhere to allow yourself the necessary runtime to present your resolution.

Build your story around the time limit

Always consider how long you want the story to last when writing your short film. To ensure that each of your scenes receives the appropriate amount of screen time, it can be useful to use a drafting tool, such as a plot chart. It’s crucial to make sure that everything you outline in the script can fit into the film because it is so short.

Limit dialogue

Keeping your short film’s dialogue to a minimum can help you stay within the time constraints. Make sure characters aren’t repeatedly saying the same thing in the movie and that everything they say has a clear purpose. It can be helpful to go over each line of the script and determine whether it adds anything to the story or if you can omit it in order to make your dialogue more effective.


How long is a typical short film?

Although there is no strict Hollywood regulation regarding the length of a short film, in general, a short film is a movie that is up to 50 minutes long. That said, 20 minutes tends to be the average length. A short film can be live-action, animated, or computer generated.

Can a short film be 10 minutes?

A short movie can last anywhere from fifteen seconds to 45 minutes. Make your short film script as concise as you can because it will be less expensive to produce the shorter it is.

Can a short film be 40 minutes?

Most film festivals define “short film” as any movie that is between 40 and 50 minutes long; however, in the context of traditional narrative storytelling, even a movie that is just 5 seconds long and has a beginning, middle, and end qualifies as a short movie.

How many scenes is a short film?

The typical length of a scene is one to three minutes, or one to three pages in your screenplay. You can get away with including a few quick scenes that last under a minute in a short film. This implies that you might only have about 15 scenes in a 15-minute movie.

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