Long shorts at a disadvantage

Adam T writes on the WAB message boards:

Hello, I have recently completed a documentary short entitled "La Quinceañera" which has a run time of 42 minutes. This felt like the best length for the film but I wanted to get some opinions from festival Programers on how they view a film of this length? It seems to be on the long end for a short and yet short for feature length. Grateful for Any feedback.

Louis P responded:

The unfortunate reality is forty two minute shorts are going to be very difficult for many fests to program. This WILL be taken into consideration when they are making selections. Where do you put a short of that length? It can't stand alone. It can't open for most features. And in a short block it will seem like an eternity next to a group of punchy five minute comedies. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but this has been written about extensively on these boards. I don't think you should make changes if you are indeed at the correct length for your film. I'm just preparing you for a slew of rejections that you will no doubt receive, regardless of quality.

I'm going to have to agree with Louis on this one. As a screener for a festival I can definitely say that anything over 20 minutes is regarded with some skepticism. Not because there aren't subjects that don't fit into that running time, but because the overwhelming majority of "short films" that run that long simply could have been edited down to something leaner while delivering the same value.

Another thing you should consider: there's a 90-minute drama of roughly the same name ("Quinceanara") that came out last year. You're bound to come up against some confusion there. That might be to your advantage since anything that catches the attention of a programmer is a good thing ("didn't we play that already? Oh, it's a doc short... interesting."), but it might work against you in the long run. If you weren't aware of this before, consider the implications carefully.