Breaking into the one-minute barrier
Though a "micro short film" can be anything we want it to be, let's take a look at the one-minute micro short format. This is what we focus on in the Miniature Film Festival, of which I am the founder and festival director. It can be surprisingly challenging to put together a micro short film, and many people will struggle with the format until it becomes part of their filmmaking DNA. This is particularly true of one-minute films, as distinct from trailers and other fragments of larger work. But thankfully it is both a fun and rewarding challenge!
Why is it challenging? Well, one issue is time. We are talking about films here, and films have beginnings, endings, titles and credits. These consume time , though some ingenuity can let you blend story and titles. Your one-minute film can easily drop to 40 seconds of working story time, net of these beginning and ending components.
Another issue is the level of complexity that the one-minute form can comfortably contain. With around 40 seconds of working story time, there may be a practical limit on story components like number of characters the film can handle. You can set up a certain amount of back story and situation with a opening title slide or some succinct narration or a quick visual reveal of some action, for example a theft or a broken dog's leash with no dog present. But basically, you are looking at getting one idea across in a minute, including titles. Related to this is the challenge of story arc. Even "dog is lost, child is heartbroken, something special happens, dog comes back, child is happy" is still going to be a tight squeeze into a minute!
The one-minute form perhaps lends itself best to a one thought, one message type of theme. Messages or themes like "be nice" "first appearances can be deceiving" "life is sweet" "work sucks" "underdog wins" can all be good, fun, challenging fodder for a short story, lending themselves to a clever reveal or reversal near the end. Having seen and screened over 80 micro shorts from all over the world in the 2015 Miniature Film Festival, I can attest to the fact that we are limited only by our imaginations and our ingenuity! The festival audience agreed, going from laughter to tears in 60 seconds.
Here are some essential ingredients and tips for you:
Robert David Duncan, award-winning director, actor, writer and producer with a passionate interest in art, storytelling and the whole amazing journey called life. Founder of Fat Punk Productions and Festival Director of the Miniature Film Festival.