Movie Making Manual/Short Ends

What is a "short end"? edit

A "short end" is a can of unexposed filmstock that low-budget filmmakers can use as free filmstock.

Why do they exist? edit

Well, consider any typical film shoot. They will load the camera with filmstock and shoot. If they finish the day before finishing the film loaded in the camera then they'll split the film loaded in the camera: the exposed footage will go off to their lab for developing whilst the unexposed footage will go into a can to be used at a future date.

But why doesn't the production company in question re-use the short end? edit

Because they won't get negative insurance (insurance which will pay for a re-shoot if the negative film turns out to be duff).

Oh, and what's a "re-can"? edit

A re-can is filmstock that has been loaded into a magazine but never used in the camera. Re-cans contain as much filmstock as a new can would (i.e. either 400 or 1000 foot).

Great, how do I get short ends? edit

Spend a day on the phone calling up your local production companies. If you want to be clever then find try to find companies which only shoot on film. Say "Hi, my name's blah and I'm producing a low budget film. I'm sorry to bother you but I was wondering if you happened to have any 16mm short ends kicking about?" Most will say "no". One or two will say "um, what's a short end?". And about 1 in 100 will say "sure, come over later".

Make sure you're very polite and thankful. Make sure you credit the people who helped you out.

When you go to collect the short ends, take a big bag and a friend. You don't want to have to turn down any short ends just because you can't carry enough.

Where do I find lists of hundreds of production companies? edit

UK edit

How to I test my short ends? edit

You do a dip test at a developing lab. They will take a few foot from each can and test it. About half your cans will probably fail. Don't chuck this stock away though - it's useful for learning to load a camera.