A Competition for Movies That Are 6 Seconds Long

Plus, tips for making your own 6-second films

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Brian Palmer/Tribeca Film Festival

There are short films. And then there are really short films: movies that have a running time of six seconds.

Earlier this month, filmmakers with a talent for creating mini-masterpieces were given the opportunity to enter their work in Tribeca Film Festival’s #6SECFILMS competition — and win a $600 prize in each of the four categories: genre, auteur, animation, and series. The unusual duration of these movies were dictated by the technology of Vine, a mobile video-recording app from Twitter.

Any Vine clip tweeted with the #6SECFILMS hashtag prior to the Apr. 7 deadline was eligible to make it to the shortlist (announced April 17) — from 415 submissions, 40 shorts made it past the first round. The winners—chosen by a panel comprising Adam Goldberg, Penny Marshall and the crew behind Twitter sensation 5-Second Films—will be announced Apr. 26.

Below, some of the finalists share some tips to help create your own six-second film:

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1. Think it out.

Tribeca Film Festival programming director Genna Terranova helped whittle down the shortlist, and she says that quickly scrolling through the entries—watching all of them—gave her a good feel for when someone had really thought about what they wanted to do with their precious seconds. “The idea of creating something that has plot and character and a story in six seconds isn’t necessarily easy to pull off,” she says. “In the couple times I’ve done it, it definitely takes a lot of preparation to make a good one.”

That preparation is perhaps why, in Terranova’s view, some of the most creative entries have been in the animation category. “The basic technique of stop-motion animation is pretty easy to pull off in Vine if you plan it out in advance,” she says.

A shortlisted Vine film in the #ANIMATE category:

2. Set the mood.

Another trick to help Vines stand out is mood and mise en scène. “Most Vine videos tend to look alike because you’re working with available lighting and you’re not working with different lenses,” she says. “Usually the thought comes and it’s quickly executed and it has a very similar feel [to other clips].”

A shortlisted Vine film in the #GENRE category:

3. Leave ’em wanting more.

Another tip, from festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal—who came up with the idea for the #6SECFILMS competition when she saw a particularly well-made Vine from jury member Adam Goldberg—is to make viewers want to watch more, whether that means watching another clip from the same filmmaker or leaving the loop running on one.”Sometime the repetition is what makes something interesting,” she says. “It’s the use of sound and imagery, and it’s taking an object and infusing it with some kind of life that then you become curious about.”

The first in a shortlisted Vine trio in the #SERIES category:

4. Don’t let your imagination stop at six seconds.

But don’t feel like you necessarily have to tell the whole story, Rosenthal adds: “It’s always the beginning of an idea, just like when a writer has a thought of what their novel or their script might be about.” Whether the six seconds captured are the first or the last scene of a longer story, some successful Vines can make viewers imagine what’s going on before or after the clip.

A shortlisted Vine film in the #AUTEUR category:

5.  Or, make your own rules. 

As Genna Terranova acknowledges, Vine is so new—only about three months old at this point—that even the judges are still figuring out how to best make use of the technology. “We’re figuring out what it’s like to watch films that are that short and judge them, quite frankly, and sort of see what feels successful or what resonates with us or makes us laugh, and the filmmakers or creators are figuring out how to actually do it. It’s really not easy,” she says. “It’s exciting to see what people are doing. When you only have six seconds, the restrictions breed more creativity.”

Plus, Vine is a good way for filmmakers to get started or experiment, so it allows some standards of filmmaking to be twisted and still benefit the end product.Figuring out how to tell (and judge) stories of different lengths is just part of today’s film world, Terranova says.

Just as short stories and novels can coexist, Vine clips and feature films and television series can fill different storytelling needs, so the more formats the merrier—and more is the direction in which the film world is moving.”Are we going to go into movie theaters and watch a series of six-second films? I don’t believe so,” she says. “I think that what we’re approaching is a place where stories are going to be at different lengths, at the lengths that they need to be to tell the story.”

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