1. It really depends on the movie and the story telling style people use. Sometimes short movies force people to rush, and limits characterization and mood setting to the extent that it’s harder to care about the movie. Some book adaptations would probably benefit from being longer.

    But, a lot of movies lately have been guilty of just cramming in too many story lines, characters, actions scenes, etc regardless of their length, and it gets boring. So filmmakers should probably examine what kinds of content they try to put in these longer films.

    One thing I’ll say is that a lot of TV shows tend to come out better than movies partly because they are long enough that people can take the time to tell the story right.

  2. Funny. I just met with a producer yesterday to talk over a script I wrote for a second producer (also in on the meeting). We were told we need to cut the script from 118 pages (118 minutes, roughly) to 105 pages (105 minutes, a full thirteen minutes shorter). I’m not an idiot, and agreed it needs to happen, but it’s a painful, extremely time-consuming, and mind-bending task (I didn’t include anything I thought unnecessary in the script to begin with, because scripts are very different from novels–it’s much more difficult to cut 10% of a well-crafted script). In other words, if not for this producer above me calling the shots, I don’t think I would ever have even attempted to cut it to 105 pages. But it will certainly be much stronger because of it.

    To Autumn’s point, the TV shows turn out better, I think, because each episode must tell its own self-contained story in 60 minutes or less. 90 minutes is plenty time to tell a very deep story, with very deep characterization. Look what the film UP did with zero dialogue in the opening sequence alone. I think the problem is exactly as you state in this article, Shannon. We don’t have strong-handed people commanding us to do away with our self-indulgence as story-tellers. And we’re not self-aware enough to even realize it’s self-indulgence.

    I felt Peter Jackson’s King Kong, along with The Hobbit films, suffered terribly from too much laxity on the producer’s part. They gave Peter too much latitude to do stuff that didn’t matter to the core story.

    • Maybe. I do think it depends a lot on the story, though. With TV episodes, each one tells a complete story in the sense that they are supposed to have a beginning, middle and end, but the ENTIRE story isn’t over at that point. Shows like, say, Breaking Bad, Fate Zero or Death Note are so much stronger for having their character arcs span a whole series rather than a couple hours. Maybe those three shows could have been good if told in a short movie, but that would have meant cropping out most of what made these shows compelling. There were two flashback episodes in Fate Zero that were excellent and could have stood on their own as an amazing movie, but the reason they worked was because they took two episodes to discuss the important parts of Kiritsugu’s childhood, rather than tell the entire story of Fate Zero.

      Maybe, where movies tend to fall short, is what part of the story people try to cram in to those two hours. Adapting an entire book (or even half the book) can be detrimental for movies at times, but maybe making a movie to instead show a character’s backstory, or one important arc from a book, is a better route.

      Maybe the issue isn’t actually necessarily length, though, but how much each scene, etc is utilized. Everything should count and be used to enhance the plot and characters in multiple ways, regardless of how long or short the story is.

      • I think your last point is basically hitting it right. What makes a story feel substantive is change. If there’s no significant change, it feels worthless. A good scene in any tv show has its own self-contained plot. A good episode of any tv show has its own self-contained plot. A good season of that same television show will have its own season-long self-contained plot. And the total series as a whole will have its own series-long self-contained plot. If a TV show doesn’t work on all those levels, it feels like it falls short. Same thing in a film. These days, television attracts much better writers with better budgets to support those writers. That’s a big reason for the divide in writing quality.

What do you think?