Writing a Short Film Script

by ScreenCraft Staff on February 6, 2013

It is often said that short films are the filmmaker’s choice.  To be able to convey a powerful story in just a few short minutes is something daunting, yet incredibly appealing.


For a regular feature-length script, you have 90 pages to tell a story. The challenge of the short film is to convey the same story and prompt the same feelings, but in 10 minutes or less.


Why is it so difficult to create a short film? There are hundreds of factors to consider. What is the story you are telling? People are more likely to click on a 3-minute short film on Youtube than a 12-minute film. Why? It’s simply because people do not have the time or patience to sit through a 12-minute short film. Well then, if you only have 3 minutes how do you hook the audience within the first few seconds?


In other words, how do you make people care in just a few short minutes?


Since it is so much trouble to go through, why do people write short films? In a sentence: Short films are a unique way of telling a story. There is no limit to what you can do with a short film, there are not hard and fast rules. Short films can be just one scene - but good scenes will always have a beginning, middle and end. The film can only be five seconds, or even one. A question my instructors always drill into the minds of their students is: what is the heart of your story? The answer for that, is the answer to what your story is about.


Not only is creating a short film a great way to gain experience and build contacts in a shorter amount of time, it can also give your name a boost out in the industry. Once your film hits the festival circuit, it is possible that talent scouts will see it and like your work, and that always means more work. But to be recognized for you work, make sure to stand out. Do something unprecedented, or add your unique touch to a story that has already been told before.


As a current screenwriting student at Vancouver Film School, I was tasked with writing a short film in my first term. To some, it comes easily, but writing a short film was one obstacle after the other as I struggled to write a cohesive story with a consistent tone. However, having a great support system makes all the difference in the world. Make sure you always have people you can trust to read through your work and give you honest opinions. Having my classmates read through every draft and encourage me in the right direction was a much more effective way to write.


It all starts from the script. Without a well-crafted script, you simply will not have a good film. So here’s some advice from a screenwriter who’s struggled with writing short films: dwell on a simple theme. The audience is only with us for a few short minutes, so tell a story that they can empathize with. But most of all, be creative.


After all, a great short film is a good story well told.




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