12 Shorts That Grew Into Full-Length Movies


Grew To Be: Napoleon Dynamite

The story goes that director Jared Hess shot Peluca as a quickie project for film school. He shot the film for under $500 in two days, probably never realizing that the exercise in deadpan comedy would spawn a comedy blockbuster, a relentless amount of merchandise (VOTE PEDRO!) and, now, an animated series. Just goes to show that nothing is too boring or monotone for the American public.


Grew To Be: Pariah

Some filmmakers write features that can’t get made, so they do the next best thing: turn them into shorts. That’s the case with “Pariah,” which thankfully works both ways.

Director Dee Rees’s recent Sundance hit may sound like your run-of-the-mill urban indie — a lesbian teenager growing up in New York struggles to live her lifestyle against her fundamentalist parents’ wishes and the anti-gay environment of her school — but those who’ve seen the short version (and helped make it a feature) would tell you otherwise. Even in its 20-minute form, “Pariah” sports three-dimensional characters, a compelling narrative and the production value to boot, while the feature, hitting later this year, gives it more room to breathe.

La Jetée

Grew To Be: 12 Monkeys

Terry Gilliam has claimed never to have seen Chris Marker’s 1962 shortphoto-roman, but the WGA credits his film as the source material for Janet and David Webb Peoples’s 12 Monkeys script. Makes sense — the feature is basically the Hollywood version of the short (as Hollywood as the deranged Gilliam is able to produce). The short abstractly tells the tale of man sent back to the past only to be the victim of a murder he witnessed as a child. Deep stuff. Perfect for Bruce Willis.

Some Folks Call It A Sling Blade

Grew To Be: Sling Blade

If you thought Billy Bob Thorton’s 1996 film Sling Blade was severely lacking in Molly Ringwald (I know I did), then turn to the original short that started it all. Some Folks Call It A Sling Blade was written and stars Thorton as the mentally retarded murderer Karl Childers, while the late George Hickenlooper took directing reigns. The short is like a prequel to the feature, delving in to Childers’s backstory through a monologue, while Sling Blade depicts life after his release. Hopefully Sling Blade 3 brings Ringwald back.

Gowanus, Brooklyn

Grew To Be: Half Nelson

Before directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden inspired 99% of student filmmaking with their slice of drug-addicted-middle-school teacher life drama Half Nelson, they made their own short film. Gowanus, Brooklyn employs the same handheld, minimalist style as its full-length sibling, the only change being the substitution of Ryan Gosling for a guy with a really big afro.


Grew To Be: Saw and 6 more movies

Remember when Saw was an innovative little indie horror film that brought down the house at Sundance? Thanks to countless sequels, few do — but even fewer people realize that the original feature was inspired by a short written and directed by the same team, Leigh Whannell and James Wan.

Oddly, no physicals saws are involved. But I guess if you watch it, you “saw” it. Har har!


Will Grow To Be: Frankenweenie

Set for 2012, Tim Burton is revamping his own short film, adapting his 1984 live-action riff on Frankenstein into a stop-motion animated film in the vein of Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. The connections between the two are unknown, but it’s likely that the simplicity behind the original (boy reanimates dead dog, dog goes on the loose, boy retrieves dog, happily ever after) will make it to the big screen.

What’s your favorite short-turned-feature?

Read even more lists of things

In the land of Mordor, in the fires of Mt. Doom, Matt Patches forged in secret, a master ring, to control all others. Into this ring he poured all his cruelty, his malice and his will to dominate all life. Unfortunately, that plan failed...so he became a writer. Find a collection of his work at his stronghold MattPatches.com or follow him on Twitter @misterpatches.

Read More from Matt Patches
Get Film School Rejects in your email. All the cool kids are doing it:
Previous Article
Next Article
Reject Nation
Leave a comment
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!