What makes a successful short film?

Activity – successful short films

Director Genevieve Clay-Smith provides an overview of the conventions and unique genre short films. She discusses their defining characteristics and qualities of a successful short film, highlighting the importance of understanding your limitations as a filmmaker and how to engage your audience.

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Access 'Video 1 – What makes a successful short film?' and then answer the questions below.



someone who creates stories or screenplays


hires the crew and manages the budget of a film, managing the project from start to finish


oversees the actors and technical crew in a film; person in charge of creative vision from during pre-production, filming and post-production of a film


the expected elements or ingredients in a film


a style or category of film, music, art or literature


broadcast or presented in short portions (not the structure of a short film)

Creative vision

big picture ideas for a large, creative project

Feature film

movies for entertainment that last more than 1 hour


written text, descriptions and instructions for a film or play

Green screen

a green back-drop that allows filmmakers to import and super-impose another background

Mise en scene

props, colour and items in a filmed scene that communicate feeling (such as costume, make-up, performance and non-verbal expression)


sections of a play or film, like chapters in a novel


  • A ’convention’ refers to the way in which something is usually done. What conventions does Genevieve Clay-Smith describe for short films?
  • Why can short films be considered as their own unique genre of film?
  • What makes a short film successful? Consider Genevieve Clay-Smith’s insights as a director as well as your own experiences and perspective.
  • Why has filmmaking become more accessible in our contemporary world? How has this influenced the selection of films for film festival programs?
  • How can audiences experience short films?
  • What is an ideal time length for short films? Why?

Consider this quote from Genevieve Clay-Smith:

Working within your means is a key ingredient to making a successful short film. You want your audience to believe the world and the story and you want to make a film that successfully realises your creative vision. So, write a film you can make.

  • Explain why it is important to understand your limitations first before writing a script for your film.
  • Summarise the qualities of a successful short film.
  • As a filmmaker, what should you aim for overall when creating a short film?
  • Evaluate the qualities of a successful short film demonstrated in Be My Brother (2009).