The Rise of Short Films in a Digital Age

The Rise of Short Films in a Digital Age

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By Natasha Cooper

The History of Short Films

Short films have an incredibly long history within the world of film.  In the beginning of the art form’s inception, short films made up the entirety of film work until there was further technological development of the craft. It was until about 1913 that all films were fifteen minutes or less in duration.  While eventually, feature films that were much longer became the dominant structure of film and storytelling, comedies, documentaries and children’s animated specials mainly remained short, and were very popular.  During times when film and creators were becoming more experimental, the length of a film was often utilized to express objection to formal structures of films that had been established.  This was prevalent throughout the 1930s, when both technology and practices within the film industry had been normalized, and therefore could be challenged.  By the 1960’s, many emerging directors were using short films to start off their career.  Some famous directors who entered their careers through the creation of short films were Roman Polanski, Jean-Luc Godard and Federico Fellini.  Additionally, many film students might eventually find themselves in a class where they are asked to direct a short film, which can be both a challenging and rewarding task.

Because of the long history of short films, and their presence from mainstream media, academia and within experimental film making, there are many perceptions of this kind of film.  In current times, the short film would generally be a film around 30 minutes or less, and this format is still holding up, and in fact seems to be growing in popularity once again.  There seems to be a few reasons for this which we will explore.

Changes in Technology

These days, just about everyone has a smartphone which has astonishing amounts of tools and applications to create with. A smart phone camera and video editing programs have opened the doors for many aspiring filmmakers to make films in varying durations with technology they already have access to.  This has led to an influx in short films.  Additionally, the internet and various social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok etc., make it easy to upload and share your work with others and gain exposure.

Streaming Services

As more and more people have begun enjoying film and media entertainment through the usage of streaming services, this has led to a larger variety of the types of film being included on different streaming platforms.  There has been a growing demand for more short films on streaming services which is being recognized and responded to.  This has led to these streaming services showcasing more short films within their collections and even having specific categories for them. Netflix is one of multiple platforms that now has different collections of short films including categories of animated short films, independent projects, and even a collection highlighting short films that have won Oscars.  This exposure of short films on popular streaming services is resulting in a growing interest in this kind of work.

Shortening Attention Spans

The very technology discussed previously that has made filmmaking more accessible to digital creators is also arguably to blame for people’s shortening attention spans . The American Psychological Association states that shortening attention spans is a real thing, and can mainly be attributed to the fact that it is the new norm for people to be attached to their phones and computers all day.  This can explain why sometimes audiences simply want to watch a YouTube video, or a thirty-minute episode of their favourite TV show.  However, short films are also a great option for someone who wants to sit down and watch something, knowing they do not have two hours’ worth of time or attention to give.

The Future and Benefits of Short Films

So, while short films have had ebbs and flows within their production and audience appreciation, recent trends in streaming platforms, growing accessibility of technology all mixed with societies shortening attention span, arguably can assure many that short films are not going anywhere, and in fact may be thriving.  They have stood the test of time this far, and it seems there are still many more ideas that can be expressed and showcased through this medium of film.  Next, are some benefits as well as a list of opportunities and tips to consider when working on a short film.

They Are Less Costly

For emerging filmmakers who might be tight for cash, short films are a viable option to get your work out there with a budget that works for you.  By using the accessible technology and simply spending less time in the production stages, short films are a great option to consider for those wanting to tell a story.

The Creative Challenge

To be able to present a plot that is both concise and resonates with an audience is a huge artistic challenge.  Being capable of this shows great talent from the creator, and the fact that short films are gaining popularity once again as well as a variety of mediums to share short films will hopefully reassure short film directors that it is possible for their work to be appreciated by the masses. Also, beginning to work on and complete short films are a great way to create or expand upon a creator’s portfolio.


As said before, the internet is a great starting place for creators to get their work out there.  There are also many festivals and competitions as well that are dedicated to showing short films.  Below are a range of festivals creators can think about attending or submitting work to.

There are many opportunities in Canada and beyond for those interested in becoming involved in the world of short films.

Virtual Film School Canada

If you are interested in one day creating a short film, or any other sort of captivating media, consider checking out some of the training courses offered at Virtual Film School Canada.  Courses in screenplay and script writing, new media technologies, and all stages in the production process are offered to help ensure emerging creators are equipped with all the skills they need to be successful.

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