How do we decide film length?

Mark S. asked: There's a pretty wide margin in the length of your films from 4-60 minutes. How is the decision about the length of a particular video/film get resolved? Is it based on budget, purpose, story line, characters/hearts, etc? At what point is film length finalized with the client?

Joseph answered:Howdy Mark! The length of your story might be determined by a bunch of factors. Sometimes your client will have specific requirements. For example, The Final Stitch was a TV feature for CBS/Showtime. As such, it was never going to be 60 seconds, nor could it be 60 minutes. But creativity is born out of constraint, and we didn't let the pre-determined format stop us from using Muse to find a character with the Big 3 Things in Aunt Jane, or from embracing the 4 Layers of Place, defining our Purpose and building out a compelling plot.

#standwithme, on the other hand, is a great example of allowing your story to scale based on the strength of your characters, plot and purpose. Initially, it was just going to be a 5 minute film. We were offering our services pro bono to help spread the word about this 9 year old girl who was using lemonade to fight child slavery. But once we met Vivienne and her family, discovered Lisa Kristine and learned about Paul Rice, it was clear that a 5 minute film wouldn't do the story justice. Because we were deeply inspired by Vivienne and the incredible people surrounding her - by their Desire, Uniqueness and Complexity - our first feature length documentary was born.

The key takeaways here are: first, don't use constraints as an excuse to abandon the process and settle for a lesser story. Use the 4 Pillars to maximize the time you do have, and tell the strongest story possible. And second, "Let the story move you, before you move the story." Don't stretch a compelling short subject into a boring feature just to meet an arbitrary minute count, and while less is often more when it comes to your run-time, don't miss out on an opportunity to go deeper because you've decided to make a 5 minute film.

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