How To Write A Short Film

Creative writing is a skill that many of those aspiring to break into the theatre and film industry look to hone. Writing a short film is a great way to showcase your ability to be both creative and knowledgeable about what makes successful entertainment.

What makes a good short film?

Short films are succinct pieces of drama that are approximately no longer than 50 minutes. The best short films are those that leave a lasting impact after they finish, despite them being so brief. 

Short films can take on a variety of forms. There are no set rules when it comes to creating one. A short film can be animated or live-action, a comedy or a documentary. Experimental short films are becoming increasingly popular as they work to challenge or subvert usual cinematic conventions to produce something unlike what the audience has seen before. Whether that is through altering visuals, audio, or cinematography. There really are no rules!

The best types of short films manage to capture an entire storyline, similar to that of a longer, feature-length film, but in a fraction of the running time. Writing deliberately and creatively is really important when it comes to keeping a short film interesting and impactful. 

Tips for writing a short film

So, you want to write a short film, but not sure where to start? Lots of people already have a concept or an idea of what they want to produce, but don’t worry if you don’t, take the time to brainstorm ideas as a first step. Research into different writing prompts that can inspire you to get a rough storyline together.

Now you can start writing your first draft. It is always important to draft anything you write as it creates room for all-important mistakes and improvements. It also allows you to track the great progress you make, meaning that you can look back once your film is finished and see how far you have come. 

Before you start to bulk out your scripts, ensure that your film has a complete storyline. This includes a strong beginning, middle and end. Keep the structure of your film on your mind at all times when writing. Similarly, with any characters you introduce, make sure they are actually adding something to the storyline of your film – it is simply too short to have one-dimensional characters not bringing anything significant to the plot. 

Don’t be afraid to rewrite your film as much as you need to. With every adjustment you will be getting closer to the finished product! Be patient. Good film writing requires time and the ability to take criticism. If you are comfortable, ask other people for their opinions on your work.

How can your short film help your career?

If you are an aspiring film director, script-writer, or actor, short films can be great to add to your portfolio. Not only do they show that you are serious about a career in the industry, but can be a great opportunity to coordinate your own creativity and produce something you are proud of. 

Short film festivals are great ways to get your creative work seen. Some of the most famous ones include: Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, and London Short Film Festival. However, there are plenty of local, smaller festivals to submit your work too as well. Check out the British Film Industry’s (BFI) list of film festivals for aspiring filmmakers

There are many great benefits to getting your film featured at a film festival. A short film that perfectly captures the essence of your creative vision and personal style has the potential to get your name out there. Any additional visibility can raise your profile as a filmmaker and even secure funding to create more short films, or longer-length ones. 

Many if not all filmmakers started out by creating short films. In fact, some successful ones have been taken and transformed into feature-length movies. Of course, do not feel disheartened if your short film does not get selected to feature in a film festival, as there are many other ways of distributing your film on your own and gaining views in other ways. Even some of the most famous filmmakers today still produce short films regularly, such as Spike Jonze, who makes more short films every year than feature length productions or adverts. 

One of the most important reasons that these directors continue to produce these short films is also the main reason why you should be making them too, because they love making films! So if you have the passion then simply getting your film seen will be the hard part. 

Consider uploading your short film to YouTube and other social media platforms and join a community of filmmakers if you can. There are lots of digital communities and forums you can access that welcome the sharing of people’s work. Remember to support other filmmakers!

How can I improve my writing and filmmaking skills?

As with any creative art, practice makes perfect. If you are looking for a career in the film and performance industry, consider signing up for online courses. At iampro, we offer weekly live classes as well as on-demand courses in production, including creative writing. Sign up if you would like to find out more