Myth debunked: Shorter isn’t always better

When paced properly and produced with the right mix of story and style, short films can comfortably go longer.
Neha Belvalkar, Micro-Documentaries' Creative Producer, weighs in.

The prevailing wisdom about online video is that shorter is better. People, particularly millennials, don’t have the attention span to watch anything longer than a couple minutes. With the advent of Vine videos, it seems like we’re getting to a point where even a one-minute video is too long. But are there exceptions? Is longer ever beneficial?

Absolutely. Consider this video about a collaboration between guitar-maker Ernie Ball and musician St. Vincent (aka Anna Clark), who set out together to build a guitar that is designed specifically for the female body. Lighter. More streamlined. Distilled down to the essential form. Like St. Vincent’s music, the video is compelling and edgy. It’s also long, at least by today’s standards, clocking in at 6:15.

Nonetheless, it’s gone viral and captured the interest of hundreds of thousands of viewers.

The popularity of a superstar and a plug on Upworthy always help, but here are three reasons from a documentary perspective that the film works:

1.  The video is slow and languid and thus feels almost decadent in its pacing. Distinct pauses are interspersed with anecdotes of St. Vincent’s personal journey into music. The creation of this wider temporal space paves the way to absorb her story gradually over the entire span of the video. The alternative in recent storytelling has been to force feed lots of quick cuts and cryptic sound bites. Fast cutting can be effective in the right context, but in order to make these choices, it’s imperative to understand the featured person’s story and what message or action you’d like to evoke in your viewers.

2.  The piece starts with a strong personal connection with St. Vincent’s first foray into music. Her experience is made all the more vivid by her description of the instruments she has used in her past. This kind of narrative arc takes time to unravel. The end result helps better articulate her journey to finding a solution to an artistic obstacle.

3.  The film’s details, from the close up shots of materials used to craft a guitar to the small hands of the guitarist, highlight the story in a visual capacity. This helps minimize the film’s reliance on the spoken word and makes for smart video content marketing for Ernie Ball. They don’t have to say anything explicitly about how carefully they build their guitars or how painstaking and passionate the process is. It’s self-evident in the production of the film. The lovely details also allow for the pauses and a more graphic, lively visual journey.




Neha Belvalkar - Micro-Documentaries Creative Producer

Neha Belvalkar is a filmmaker and teaching artist who has been engaged with filmmaking since 2006. She is an avid viewer of cinema and lives in pursuit of fresh ideas for her own short films. In her free time, she's on the hunt for the world's best Dosas, the Indian pancakes she has loved since childhood.




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