is a term used in the American film industry to designate a film whose length is approximately three quarters of a reel, or about 20-44 minutes in running time - thus midway between a short subject
and a feature film
; thus it is a "small feature" (the ending "-ette" is a common diminutive suffix
derived from French
). The term was commonly used from before the start of the sound era into the 1960s, when films of such length stopped being made or were made as experimental or art films and subsumed under the more general rubric of short
. Its use outside the USA is unknown, although it was as commonly applied to foreign imports as domestic productions within that country.
After the advent of DVD, the term - at least in America - also gained the meaning of "a brief documentary film covering one or more aspects of the film creation process", usually being used in DVD features descriptions to refer to video-format "Behind The Scenes" type bonus features such as documentaries on special effects or set design (although blooper reels and interviews with cast or crew seem to rarely if ever be described as "featurettes"). This usage possibly derived partly or completely independent from the term's original meaning, as should be apparent from the fact that most DVD "featurettes" are actually less (sometimes far less) than 20 minutes in length. Three possible origins for this usage seem to exist, though a combination of any or all three may be equally likely:
- 1. One or more parties released actual featurette-length (20-44 minute) documentary bonus features on their DVD releases; other members of the industry who did not know the term's origins then used it to mean any short, film-format bonus feature on a disc that was not a blooper reel or interview.
- 2. It evolved indepently from the original term, derived from the same bases of "feature" and the diminutive "-ette", to directly describe mini-documentaries.
- 3. It refers to the fact that it is a bonus feature, and not the main feature (the feature film), hence, a diminutive is added to distinguish it from the main feature of the disc.
Today, the latter definition, though possibly an inaccurate usage of the original term, is far more common.