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3.19.2008

The "Flow" of Shorts

Nathan asked me today why so many shorts don't "flow" as well as something like "Flowers" (which we think flows along nicely). I'm not really sure, and not just because the question is vague.

I've already written about the difficulty of making a good short, but this is a different aspect. This is editing as much as writing. This has to do with how your story progresses... or doesn't.

One of the first problems is that the story itself may be disjointed, too complex, or cover too much time. For a film to "flow", the ideas must be linked and naturally follow one after the other. This is best illustrated by good comedians. Their "sketches" often begin with an idea, move to another idea linked to that one, and then end coming full circle back to the first idea. This natural flow makes them masters, and comedians who just hop from joke to joke aren't nearly as enjoyable.

Your movie can also be ruined if your ideas that flow are not connected well enough in editing. The general rule of thumb is this: "Get into a scene as late as possible and get out as soon as you can."

This means that you do not need your character to walk down the hall, out the front door, down the walk, to the car, open the door, get in, start the engine, and drive off. Now, if the point is that something important is happening during this time, fine. But if the point of the scene is that your character is driving somewhere, cut to him opening the door and climbing into the car. Boom. You're done.

Far too many shorts are killed by taking too long with an idea or scene. Something may be hilarious, moving, or just great, but then the editor lingers on the shot, the idea, the mood too long and we are no longer moved.

If you watch "Little Black Rain Cloud", the first few minutes are rather boring. Unfortunately, Nathan's professor required that the film be at least three minutes (a terrible requirement for a short, but that's a different issue). The ideas flow pretty well, and we keep things moving. But the ending is fantastic. The rain starts falling inside the umbrella and... cut.

Sure, Nathan could have sat there with me dripping wet. I could have even added a line of dialog: "I just can't win, can I?" But that would have been horrible. The laughter that started would die off. As it is the film ends with the audience laughing. Perfect.

Oh, and if you feel up to making a short, check out the SFMUG. Some cool awards. Check it out.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

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