It is not only feature films that garner Oscars and launch careers. Short films can also dazzle the audiences with their bit-sized stories and more intimate moments. In fact, short films are a time tested way to give out crucial social messages in subtle ways.
Young filmmakers often make the mistake of starting their career with features and enormous investments. Instead, they can make short films first, challenge their filmmaking skills, make mistakes, and learn from them.
It is a myth that short films are a lesser form of storytelling and do not require the same skills that are needed to write a feature film. In reality, they are a lot harder to be written, shown, and a lot harder to find. Short films are hence a great way to prove your skills as a moviemaker and improve your craft in the process.
In case you are making a short film for developing your filmmaking and scriptwriting craft or simply to let out your creative energies, there are some tips you might want to know. Read on to know what you should remember when writing a short film.
Do Not Complicate It
You do not have to follow definite rules regarding how long the short film should be, how long the screenplay should be, and how many characters you should have.
However, one and only rule you should keep in mind is to keep it simple. Do not complicate your story in an urge to challenge your limits and pushing your boundaries; every complexity you try to incorporate in your short film should have a reason.
Find A Unique Concept
If you want to get noticed, you want to make something that is unique and has never been told before. To find a unique idea, start with the basics.
Look around you, pick something that interests you, build a basic storyline, and then gradually begin to construct the story’s scope.
Ask yourself these questions to build the scope of the story:
- What is at the core of the story?
- Who is the protagonist?
- How many other characters will be there?
- What is the genre of the story?
- What is the setting?
- What is the theme?
- Is the beginning, middle, and end clear?
- What is the narrative style?
- Are there some plot twists? If yes, why?
- How long will the movie be?
Make a Plot Outline
Just like a full-length feature film, a short film plot outline will also have the same six elements, set up, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
If you are struggling with how to format a screenplay, follow the same six elements to linearize your process. If you want to experiment with plot twists, narrative techniques, etc., now is a good time to include them in the plot outline.
Do Not Mix Genres
Remember, the thumb rule of writing a short film is to keep it simple; it is hence vital to pick one genre and stick to it. Going with one genre gives you the advantage of knowing all the pre-set guidelines of the genre, which you can simply follow or experiment with, as and when needed.
Feature films give you the space for showcasing multiple genres by highlighting each with particular sections, but in a short film, you do not have that cinematic space.
Engage in Practical Writing
It is very important to engage in practical scriptwriting for your short film because, like full-length feature films, you will not have the same resources.
You might not have the space for shooting the very dramatic car chase sequence you included in your script. While making a short film, you will only have fewer resources. Hence it is important to think creatively but small.
Do Not Have Multiple Locations
Some of the best short films have been shot in one room or a single location. Sticking to a minimum number of locations have many advantages like it will keep your budget down, help you focus more on the story/plot, highlight your characters more, make the technical aspect of shooting easier, etc.
While writing the script of your short film, always ask, can I tell the entire story from a single location?
Use Screenwriting Tools
There are many screenwriting software available online to help you in your screenwriting process. This software saves you from the effort of formatting your short film as they automatically edit it according to the current industry trends.
Some of the other advantages of this software are a live collaboration with writing partners, storyboard visualization aid, intuitive suggestions, etc.
Watch Some Short Films
To get a better sense of what you are making and what you are expected to make, watch some other short films. Notice every minute details of the film like genre, storyline, narrative techniques, shooting angles, character development, number of locations used, etc. This will give you an idea of what more you can do with your short film and how.
Some famous short films you can watch are Glory at Sea, Lick The Star, Six Shooter, Bottle Rocket, The Smiling Man, Cutting Moments, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, etc.
Concentrate on Strong Visuals
Remember that films are a visual medium, and you have to engage in-depth with the same phenomenon while making your short film.
This is one of the golden rules of screenwriting; hence, visualize your characters, emphasize your locations, etc. Remember, a film is all about telling your stories in picture format.
Take Advice From an Expert
No matter if it is 90 minutes feature film or a nine-minute short film, take advice from an expert if possible. An expert will be able to look at your film from a more critical lens; they know what works and what does not.
If you cannot find an expert, show your film to friends and family and work on their feedback.
While making the film, you might come across moments when you feel nothing is going right or working the way you wanted it to. However, remember all this is part of the process, and with hard work, determination, and passion, you will be able to finish the process with a great film.