Local Filmmakers Demonstrate the Benefits of Making Shorts


Slacker 2011 Premiere: Waiting in Line

By Whitney Pyterek

The Austin Film Society hosts a Moviemaker Dialogue about once a month and from me to Austin filmmakers, you must go! "Short Filmmakers Bridging the Gap to Features" included filmmakers David Zellner, Clay Liford, Kat Candler and Kelly Williams. Moderator Holly Herrick, the AFS Associate Artistic Director, did a fabulous job getting the panelists to talk about their craft.

I am not a filmmaker myself, but I definitely left feeling like it was possible to make it in the industry if I ever got enough courage to jump in. There was a good balance in opinion between the four panelists. However, everyone said that you must make short films if you have any aspiration of making a feature film and you have to put just as much energy into a feature film as you would any short film and vice versa.

I learned that short films are the most valuable piece of your story as a filmmaker. Short films are what help you build relationships at festivals with other filmmakers and programmers. The word on the street is that if programmers have enjoyed your shorts, they look forward to your features and your chances of getting a spot in the program are a lot greater.

A few disclaimers if you have never made a feature film: Sleep before you start the project, be prepared, take your time in post-production, and get lots of feedback. Kat Candler, with shorts and features screened anywhere from Sundance to Tribeca, says it is invaluable to know the editing process and allow that to affect your writing, and then let your writing affect your editing.

From my experience, most Q&A sessions with filmmakers can get deep when dealing with inspiration for a film, but the one question no one is allowed to ask is how much it cost them to make the movie. I think the best piece of advice any filmmaker got out of this meeting was learning where to get funding and not to be under any illusions that this job is easy. The panelists gave a number of different organizations to look into for money to fund movies and recommended that your first two features should cost no more than $50,000.

Kelly Williams offered that when pitching your script there are four things to keep in mind: What do you bring to the script? Is there a really good role to cast? What is it going to cost? What is the marketability? The most encouraging part of the conversation was that all four panelists were successful filmmakers and live comfortably while really doing what they love. Candler cautioned the audience, saying "It takes a long time and is really hard. You have to love this with everything you have or you won't make it."

Moviemaker Dialogues are a great resource for filmmakers in Austin to learn from experienced filmmakers about their craft and the business of film making. They take place in the AFS Screening Room and are free to AFS Make, Love and Premiere Circle members, $5 for Watch members, and $10 for the general public.

Whitney is an apprentice at the Austin Film Society.

[Photo credit: "Slacker 2011 Premiere: Waiting in Line" with Clay Liford and Kat Candler, by J. Kernion. All rights reserved.]


Fine review and I couldn't agree more. My favorite films at AFF and SXSW have been shorts. And believe it or not you can get into these with a film pass! In addition, before the Academy Awards I always make it my business to see the shorts that are nominated. Extra cookies for you on Tuesday Whitney!