Shorts as pilots for features… or as podcast episodes

In the past few years, it has become popular to design short films as pilots for features. I hear directors tell me that they’re making a series of shorts that can add up to a feature. They make a 15 minute short that introduces a world, a set of characters and an event that puts a protagonist in the path of the plan of an antagonist.

The problem with doing all that is the fact that there isn’t an act two following this putative act one is dissatisfying. Not intriguing. Some people found that M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable was irritating because it only covered the first of the traditional three act hero’s journey.

96 minute movies need eight 12 minute sequences. Act one should be made of two of these sequences. By the end of sequence one, the protagonist should be given the option to enter a new world. The fact that they don’t enter it in the start of sequence two shows that they are stuck in their current life.

Maybe it would be a better idea to make a short out of one or both of two sequences not usually included in the feature script, but sequences that the scriptwriter should be able to outline: the story of the protagonist’s fall from grace (how they got to this state of settling for a life of dissatisfied stasis) and the story of how the antagonist came to be (how they became the person/force that eventually will have to come up with the plan that sets the feature story in motion).

These two extra sequences can help writers turn three act feature scripts into ten part video podcast series…

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