When in discussion with people about short film length, people always come up with these rules like 9-12 minutes is ideal. Now this is nonsense – a short film needs to be as long as the story needs. Whether that’s 9 minutes or 40 minutes.
So I decided late one night to just start looking at the list of Oscar Nominated movies… just digging through the past five years, I discovered that the average nominated short film was 19.3 minutes. In the morning, instead of getting “actual work” done, I decided to comb through all the Oscar Winners, put their run times in an excel spreadsheet and do some basic data analysis. I went back only to 1957 because that’s the year the Oscars stopped distinguishing 1 reelers from 2 reelers. Here is the data:
And for reference here’s Precious Images and Omnibus
So forget any rules about length you hear – tell the best story in the best way you can – that’s how long your film needs to be. That doesn’t mean there aren’t tactics in terms of film length especially when it comes to festivals – and we get into that in our course: How to get your short film screened at Festivals