Gradually evolving from a niche media into a central part of popular culture in China, "micro movies" are increasingly offering aspiring directors a way to realize their dreams and businesses a new paradigm of profit-making.
At the ongoing Beijing International Film Festival, filmmakers have gathered to reflect on the development of this novel industry, which involves films shot over a short period of time and lasting only a few minutes or less, mostly completed on extremely small budgets.
Zhang Xun, general manager of China Film Co-production Corporation, is optimistic about the prospects of the micro movie industry. Compared to features, micro movies have the function of amplifying a small scenario and making the most of it, which can provide viewers with great satisfaction, she said.
Together with the popularity of video websites, micro movies have gained ground in recent years. In 2011, more than 2,000 such shorts were screened on various websites.
Director Chen Li said, "Micro movies make a wonderful new platform, on which ordinary people can make their movie dreams come true."
Director Shen Dong noted the popularity of video tapes in the 1980s and 1990s lowered thresholds by offering viewers more access to watching movies, while the rise of micro movies has almost eliminated that threshold and taken movie-making within easy reach of ordinary people.
Apart from movie viewers and makers, businessmen are also benefiting from the development of this young sub-sector, as micro movies also give businesses a new channel to advertise their products.
"Eleven degree youth," a series composed of 10 micro movies which was launched in 2010 on popular video site Youku has recorded more than 90.83 million hits so far.
The high click rate has brought huge profit to the website not to mention automaker Chevrolet, since ads for its cars are embedded in one of the clips.
According to Pang Minli, an analyst with China eBusiness Research Center, embedding ads in TV series is very expensive, as the copyright price for the videos online has grown dramatically in the past two years. As a result, more companies are turning to micro movie advertising.
Pang warned, however, that micro movies have not yet formed an industrial chain, for their influence is still limited among the public.
"Many micro movies are actually advertisements with a story line, which cannot gain much favor," she said. "Besides, the existence of a large amount of low-quality micro movies is hindering public acceptance of the notion."
With the maturing of the market, though, more professional producers will appear and create more brand-name micro movies, which will help expand the art form's influence, Pang added.