Shorts and Film History: The Rise, Fall, and Rise of the Short Film

  • Cynthia Felando


The history of the short film has been a tumultuous one, especially in comparison to the feature-length film. After a position of dominance in the earliest years of the developing studio system, the short was displaced by the feature and has remained a marginal player ever since. The shifts in the live-action fiction short’s fortunes, in particular, are compelling and enable a fuller understanding of American film history during the studio and post-studio eras. In a history that parallels that of the feature-length film, the short has enjoyed many triumphs and landmarks that are evidenced by a remarkable legacy of films. This chapter surveys some of the most significant developments in the history of the short, from the silent era to the present and primarily in the United States. Beginning with the period of the form’s marginalization when feature-length films became the dominant studio form, in the mid-1910s, the short’s history is marked by some significant high points, including the flourishing of production in the early sound era and the enormously expanded storytelling and aesthetic strategies of the post-studio era. Today, the short film not only survives but, given the proliferation of screening platforms especially favorable to the form, the balance soon may tip in its favor, if it hasn’t already.


Motion Picture Short Film Film Festival Academy Award Short Subject 
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© Cynthia Felando 2015

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  • Cynthia Felando

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