101 Story Prompts to Kickstart Your Short Film
Do you want to write a short film but need help finding compelling concepts? Sometimes reading simple story prompts is the easiest way to get those creative juices flowing.
We get our ideas from many sources — news headlines, novels, television shows, movies, our lives, our fears, our phobias, etc. They can come from a scene or moment in a film that wasn’t fully explored. They can come from a single visual that entices the creative mind — a seed that continues to grow and grow until the writer is forced to finally put it to paper or screen.
They may inspire screenplays, novels, short stories, or even smaller moments that you can include in what stories you are already writing.
Keys to Writing Short Film Scripts?
Before we jump into our 101 Short Film Prompts, let's quickly go over a couple of important factors of writing short film scripts.
Concept is Everything
The rite of passage for any filmmaker is making a compelling short film. That is where filmmakers cut their teeth and truly come of age. It's also an epic journey through the highest of peaks and deepest of valleys as novice filmmakers quickly learn that it's not as easy as just having a few people, a boom mic, and a camera — you need a great concept.
Showcasing a talking heads short film isn't going to get you noticed by audiences or industry insiders. You need to capture their attention with compelling and engaging narratives that have a beginning, middle, and end within the short film running time of 40 minutes or less (you generally want to stick with 5-20 minutes most of the time).
Economize Your Storytelling
Short films should also focus on smaller story windows.
- Instead of having your short film tell the dramatic story of your alcoholic character trying to go sober over the course of a year, why not focus on the last day of the last step in their 12-Step program?
- Instead of having your short script tell the epic story of a historical World War II battle, why not focus on one soldier as they deal with the overarching conflict?
- Instead of having your short story tell the horrifying story of a serial killer stalking and killing multiple victims, why not center the story on a single victim in their house watching the news reports of the killings and then hearing a floorboard creak from above?
Watch Short Films
It's as simple as that — watch short films. Here are 10 shorts you can watch online right now to get you started.
(And read a short film script if you can get your hands on one.)
Note: Because we’re all connected to the same pop culture, news headlines, and inspirations, any similarity to any past, present, or future screenplays, novels, short stories, television pilots, television series, plays, or any other creative works is purely coincidence. These true story writing prompts were conceived on the fly or were based on finding interesting true stories that are out there. While some may have proven to be told already, there are always alternative storylines not covered in what has already been written and produced.
101 Story Prompts to Kickstart Your Short Film
1. Someone watching a news report about a local serial killer hears a floorboard creak.
2. A young brother and sister survive after the apocalypse.
3. Someone reading a scary book hears a knock at the door.
4. An alcoholic struggles to decide between taking a drink or not.
5. Students in an elementary school dealing with surviving lunchtime.
6. Students in an elementary school dealing with surviving recess.
7. Teenagers surviving the school politics of lunchtime.
8. An addicted gambler sits at a table.
9. A day in the life of the first astronaut on Mars.
10. A day in the life of the first colony on Mars.
11. A man and a woman keep seeing each other during a night out with their respective friends.
12. The experience of a character invited to a graduation party of someone they don't know.
13. The first human clone awakens.
14. The lifespan of a dog.
15. The lifespan of a cat.
16. Dracula is in his coffin not being able to sleep and having to kill time until dusk.
17. An African-American child's walk to school in a dangerous urban neighborhood.
18. A character wakes up with a gun in their hand and blood all over them.
19. A day in the life of an astronaut living on the moon.
20. The first day of school for a new student as they struggle to make a friend.
21. The imaginary battle of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
22. The life of a handgun when it hits the streets.
23. The story of a pilot that sees a UFO in the skies.
24. A robot comes to life in an inventor's shop.
25. A person struggles to survive after being thrown from their car in an accident.
26. A remake of the original silent film The Great Train Robbery.
27. A day in the life of a puppy.
28. A German soldier trying to flee Nazi Germany.
29. A woman in a house is attacked by aliens.
30. A person is granted the wish to fly.
31. A person is granted the wish to be invisible.
32. A person makes a wish to be young again.
33. A man on his deathbed is taken on a road trip.
34. A woman spends a night with her newborn child, only to have to give it to adoptive parents.
35. A day in the life of a professional thief.
36. A day in the life of a homicide detective.
37. A day in the life of a teacher.
38. The new kid in the neighborhood struggles to make friends.
39. A slave struggles to escape its evil white pursuers.
40. A rock climber's solo ascent.
41. The day in the life of a professional gamer.
42. The world shown through the eyes of a drone.
43. A late-night call at a suicide prevention center.
44. The duel of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.
45. The duel of two samurai.
46. A day in the life of a maid that works for a rich family.
47. A mother working three jobs in a single day and then coming home to kiss their child goodnight.
48. A day in the life of a truck driver.
49. An astronaut lands on a desert planet.
50. A day in the life of an angel on Earth.
51. Teacher by day, stripper by night.
52. A vampire decides to commit suicide by sunlight after one last night on the town.
53. A day in the life of a Vegas stripper.
54. It's revealed that a sad person has been preparing for a loved one's funeral.
55. It's revealed that a child's friend is actually imaginary.
56. A babysitter must save a child when a forest fire bombards the neighborhood.
57. Surfers are lost at sea after riptides pull them out.
58. A park ranger discovers a dead body.
59. A travel agent struggles to hold onto a job that has no contemporary meaning.
60. A house that is haunted.
61. An astronaut returns home but no one remembers who he is.
62. A day in the life of the last man on Earth.
63. A day in the life of the last woman on Earth.
64. A day in the life of the last dog on Earth.
65. When the WiFi goes down, neighborhood kids discover how to keep themselves entertained.
66. Four female kindergarten teachers and their hilarious lives after the bell rings.
67. An assassin sent back in time struggles with killing Baby Hitler.
68. An Uber ride gone wrong.
69. An Uber driver picks up a hitman.
70. The Angel of Death, in human form, visits its victims.
71. Two people are stuck in an elevator together.
72. Two people are stuck in the rubble of a fallen building and struggle to survive — it's a 9/11 tragic story.
73. An actor goes through a day of auditions and life in Los Angeles.
74. A character finds a magical item in an antique store.
75. A man contemplates suicide and finds an unexpected reason to live.
76. A man tries to become a superhero.
77. A day in the life of a fighter pilot told within the cockpit.
78. A man and woman fall in love over the course of thirty years of chance encounters.
79. A man wins the lottery and does good deeds with the money until it's all gone.
80. A serial killer stalking a victim.
81. A human clone escapes a research facility to find their double.
82. A man discovers their doppelganger.
83. A woman discovers their doppelganger.
84. A child discovers their doppelganger.
85. A carjacker accidentally steals a car full of rascal children.
86. A man returns to his hometown only to discover that no one remembers him.
87. A knight duals with another.
88. A woman wakes up to discover that everyone else on Earth has vanished.
89. A young Sherlock Holmes in middle school solves a mystery.
90. A child wanders off on their big wheel only to be found later that night by a truck driver.
91. A woman awakens on an island and realizes she is the only survivor of a plane crash.
92. Someone wakes up with the ability to hear everyone's thoughts.
93. Someone wakes up with the ability to touch anyone and see when they are going to die.
94. A cowboy encounters a UFO.
95. A sailor encounters a UFO.
96. A reunion between old high school friends goes sour when past issues emerge.
97. A man in an interrogation room confesses.
98. A man stuck in a thankless corporate job one day walks out and goes on a road trip.
99. One day, a woman finally decides to leave her abusive husband.
100. A coming-of-age tale about a middle school boy confronting bullies.
101. A first-time bank robber is forced to take hostages as he instantly regrets his choices.
Share this with your writing peers or anyone that loves a compelling short film. Have some prompts of your own? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!
Want More Ideas? Take a Look at Our Other Story Prompts!
Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.
He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner, the feature thriller Hunter’s Creed, and many Lifetime thrillers. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies