Many people would be surprised to discover that some of the feature films they love actually began as shorts. The short film remains one of the most neglected parts of the global film industry. But, that said, it is not all doom and gloom for short films.

Over the past few decades real progress has started to be made towards returning short films to the mainstream. Sites such as Largo films aim to deal with one of the biggest problems of short films, getting them seen. Along with sites such as YouTube, these sites allow filmmakers to get their films out into the public sphere where they can finally be seen.

And it is working. Short film festivals around the globe are recording record audience numbers as more and more people discover their appeal. The 2017 Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival attracted over 160,000 film lovers and 3,500 industry professionals in total last year. This is amazing for an event that was actually started as a university short film appreciation society.

In previous articles, I have tackled topics such as Why It is So Important to Support Short Films. Like all those individuals and organizations around the world striving to celebrate short films, I believe strongly in the power of short films. Not only do they act as a way for cash-strapped filmmakers to get on the ladder but they’re also an incredibly powerful and unique art form in themselves.

Don’t believe me? Well, just try getting the same level of audience reaction and emotion from a 5-minute short film that a feature has hours to get. This is just one of the challenges the short films presents.

One of the key elements of the short film is innovation. Since most short films have miniscule budgets, this often frees filmmakers from the burden of commercial considerations. Films are not expected to make much in the way of profit so the sense of artistic freedom is greater.

This means that there is a really healthy pool of new ideas floating around the short film industry that Hollywood is increasingly looking to tap into. Whether it is the short filmmakers themselves who adapt the film into a feature or an entirely new crew, a number of Short Films that were turned into Feature Films. Take a look at this list to see how many you recognize.

Writer/Director Damien Chazelle had already gained a small level of success within the industry with a few of his scripts. Despite this success, he found he was unable to get sufficient financial backing to make his second feature film Whiplash.


He came up with an innovative idea. He decided that he would use the small amount of money at his disposal to film just one scene from the movie. Chazelle would then use this scene to show to potential investors and would be producers. This short would also be entered into various film festivals in order to get it noticed by investors.

Well, Chazelle’s plan worked and soon he got the funding that he needed to complete the film. Whiplash would become the film that would launch his career and gain him the notoriety to make LaLa Land, for which he would win an Oscar.

Little did director Jared Hess know that his 2002 short film Peluca would one day become a global cult classic. He would make the film for just $500 in just 2 days. It starred Jon Heder, who would go on to play the lead character in the feature film version.

Napoleon Dynamite

Peluca was shown during the Slamdance Film Festival in 2003, where it received massive amount of acclaim. It also gained the attention of several producers who wanted to turn it into a feature film. Hess would adapt his short into a feature film the following year. Thought the lead character’s name would be changed to Napoleon Dynamite, his character was the same.

Paul Thomas Anderson made a short comedy film called The Dirk Diggler story at just age 17. The film followed the rise and fall of porn star Dirk Digger and was shot with a VCR camera. The film was never released or entered into a film festival.

Boogie Nights

10 years later, Anderson decided it was time to make a feature length film about his Dirk Diggler character. The film would become Boogie Nights starring Mark Walberg and would launch Anderson’s career. It would also win a string of awards as well as receiving 3 Academy Award nominations.

 In 2009, Neill Blomkamp’s film District 9 would be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Until this moment it was almost unheard of for an unknown director to receive such an honor. How did it happen? Well, Blomkamp had made a short film Alive in Joburg back in 2005.

District 9

The film’s subtext was set around the injustice of South African apartheid. It followed a group of aliens who had been trapped on earth and were now treated as second class citizens. The films amazing low budget special effects caught the attention of another master of low budget special effects, Peter Jackson.

Jackson ended up offering Blomkamp 30 million dollars to make a feature film. Blomkamp decided to turn his short Alive in Joburg into District 9. The rest is history.

 Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels would become one of the most famous British independent movies of all-time. Adapted from his short Hard Case, it would make director Guy Richie into one of the biggest directors in Hollywood.

Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Richie would get noticed after his 20 minute short about a group of London gangsters would come to the attention of singer Sting. He approached Richie offering to get funding to make it into a feature film.

The resulting film was to become Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and would also help launch the careers of Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones. It would also feature a number of real life criminals like bare fist fighter Lenny Mclean.


For a complete list of short films that have been turned into features, click this link.


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