Making a Great Short Film

Short films are becoming more popular with polished independent and student filmmakers. Here are some tips to help create a great short film:


1. Keep the Short Film Script Simple

There are only a limited number of pages to work within a short film. By cramming in many plot twists and numerous story lines, writers could easily tie themselves in knots. With limited time to tell the story, it is best to engage the audience with a core story line and intriguing protagonist. The short film also needs a strong and succinct premise which an audience can identify. Characters with clear goals that are established early on allow you to cut to the action immediately and hook the audience. Keeping budgeting in mind, restrictions can inspire creativity by forcing writers to find ways to work with what is immediately available. Writing a straightforward plot that’s economical to shoot, can nonetheless make for a great short film.


2. Use Limited Locations

To help focus further, use only a couple, or even better, just one location. By keeping characters and action in one place, writers can keep the plot focused by only including those few needed key details. A one-location film can save a lot of money as the cast and crew are kept in one place for the entire shoot. By limiting locations, there is a better opportunity to keep the audience engaged with the story.


3. Keep it Short

It’s a short film for a reason. If the goal is to enter into a film festival or competition, the ideal length is between five to ten minutes. Find a concept that has never been done before or consider a new twist on a current idea. Consider how to condense that idea into a short film and the key details needed to write the script. If it seems to be heading towards the 45-minute length, it is perhaps time to think about changing the screen medium. Maybe the story will be better served as a television show or a feature film.


Ask this: Is a short film the best way to tell the story?


4. Put the Story First

As with any story, characters need to be well-rounded individuals with whom an audience can empathize. With a short film, however, the writer may not have the luxury to include a detailed backstory and explanation in their short film script. They’ll only need to include the aspects of a character that are essential to the story.


Start with a protagonist, with a goal, and an antagonist. The antagonist doesn’t necessarily have to be a person, it could be an obstacle the protagonist must overcome. Be wary of just presenting a scenario to the audience and not a story. Why should a viewer care about the protagonist or their quest? How will the protagonist reach their goal and what will be thrown in their way to prevent it? How do they overcome this struggle? Story is key.



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