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Differences between Directing Short Films and Feature Films

HN: This is your first feature length animated film. In regard to telling a story by animation, what differences do you feel are between short films and feature films?

Hiroyasu Ishida: What I realized after quite a while from the day of its theatrical release in Japan was that what the majority of audience wants to enjoy the most, when they watch an animated feature film, is its story.

Regarding the movement of the animation and the quality of the drawings in this film, there was room for improvement because it was my first time directing a feature length film, and I couldn’t manage them perfectly. But I felt that the ratio of the audience for this film who’ve noticed those kinds of shots in the film and mentioned that “this part of the film is poorly done” was very little. As a whole, I had an impression that there were a much greater portion of the audience who expressed their emotions, like “It was fun or sad or funny”, that they got from their overall impression of the film, including the story, drawings, movement of the characters and music.

Come to think of it, it is obvious that much of the audience for short films tends to watch each film in their own preferred way, unique to them. They check the visual expressions of short films in detail. Of course, the narrative of each short film is also an indispensable checkpoint for them, I understand that.

Anyway, that is the difference I felt between a feature length film and a short film, after I made this film.

HN: You mean that there is a tendency of much of the audience for short films paying more attention to the quality of drawings or visual expressions than the audiences of feature films, and you, as a director, tend to focus more on visual elements when you make a short film, right?

Hiroyasu Ishida: Compared to feature films, I think so. I feel that the differences in the production environment between feature films and short films are affecting the creative stances of each. When I make a short film, I can stick to animating powerful pictures throughout the film with a small creative team. And as its playtime is short, the audience can wholly enjoy the short film’s elaborate visual expressions, which is crammed with information.

However, if I make all shots in a feature film on the same level of elaboration as I do for a short film, the total amount of information the audience receives from the film during its long playtime would become excessive. It ends up making the audience swamped with information from the film.

To start with, I can’t receive enough budget and human resources for a feature film project that would enable me to create each shot on the same level as a short film project. That is to say, when we make a feature film, we should intend to make a film that lets the audience judge by its overall quality, and for that we need to thin out the information in the film by managing the amount of information in each scene well.

To recap, I learned that feature films and short films are not equal on the situations of creators and audiences, and there is a special balance in viewpoint between the creative side and the audience side for feature film production.