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7 Tips to Make Your Short Film Script Better

7 Tips to Make Your Short Film Script Better

When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them ‘No, I went to films.’

-Quentin Tarantino

Are you writing a short film write now? Well, good thing you’re reading this article then! I’m here to give you 7 tips that will greatly increase the quality of your short film script. The better your script, the better the chance that you’ll be able to find funding or some help creating it.

I guess it’s a good time to mention that we have plenty more articles that are focused on filmmaking. Plus, this entire site is here to make your career blast off! Create your free account today to reap all of the benefits.

7 Tips to Make Your Short Film Script Better

A short film script is a great way to get your name out there. That’s the great thing about filmmaking it can come in many different shapes and sizes. Writing short films requires similar skills to writing feature-length scripts, but on a smaller scale, which can actually be more difficult in the end. Since you have less time to tell a full and complete story. More and more short films are becoming mainstream which makes it easier to access a broader audience. Because so many people make them and put them online, short films are gaining more attention from regular people. There’s a chance you’ll get noticed and your career will blast off due to a short, although it is rare. In any case it’s a great way to improve your craft and practice writing. If you don’t have much writing experience, it’s much easier than writing your first feature.

Now, let’s get started making your short film great!

1. Be Practical When Writing

Shorts are versatile. You don’t need a big studio backing you to make them. They’re generally affordable to do so out of your own pocket if necessary. But don’t forget the practicalities of writing a script. Many writers don’t realize how difficult it is to actually shoot crazy stunt sequences or an intergalactic setting. Writers should see writing a short film as an opportunity to be more aware of the implications and costs of each line written. Think small if you have limited resources and be practical.

If you want some professional help with your script, there are online resources that you can use! Although, I believe they typically stick to feature film and TV scripts. 

2. Have Fun and Get Creative

I know I know, I just said to be practical but that doesn’t mean you have to limit your creativity. It just means you have to be aware of what you’re writing down and trying to do a Mad Max: Fury Road type chase scene might not be easily doable. However, you can still have a post-apocalyptic setting! You just have to get creative with how you create the world and characters. Less is more so to speak. The original Mad Max didn’t even have that massive of a budget but the filmmakers were able to create an incredible movie from it!

3. Short and Sweet

A short film can last anywhere from 15 seconds to 40 minutes. Your short film script should be as brief as possible. A tighter script will make for a better movie. No need to add unnecessary fluff to pad the run time. Plus, the shorter it is, the easier it will be to make. Digital technology is great for filmmakers but it also costs money to feed a hungry crew or rent out a specific location for a few days. With that said, if you shoot too fast, your short film may look amateurish. You don’t want that. You don’t want it to look cheap, but it should be affordable so that it can actually happen. If you are trying to get your short into various film festivals, keep it under ten minutes. This is typically 7-8 pages. Why? Because festivals love to see as many short films as possible, so if your film is too long it will take up more time. It is possible to create genuine emotion in a matter of minutes. Check out this short film that goes through an entire story arc in a matter of minutes and is entertaining!

4. Remember, You're Here to Tell a Story

Always try to tell a compelling tale. Avoid ideas that are too concept-driven, or simply aim to break all the rules just for the sake of breaking them. While short films can be a great way to expand the boundaries of cinematic storytelling, they should still connect with your audience emotionally. A short film should, except for the very very brief, have a hero and an obstacle/antagonist. 

Refer to the video above!

5. Engage, Engage, Engage!

You only have so much time to make an impression, and page one is just as important as the first 10 pages in a feature-length script. The shorter the movie the quicker you need to grab their attention! It can be a difficult task, but no one said writing was easy! What is the movie’s world? Are we able to root for the main character of the film? Is the story and world of the film authentic? You rarely feel moved after a short film ends but it is possible and you can achieve it if you put your mind to it.

6. Make Sure the Reader Can Visualize it

Film is a visual medium. Screenwriting gurus insist on this single most important golden rule: “Show, don’t tell.” And honestly, I agree. What is one thing that people always complain about in movies? The exposition dump. When one character has to explain everything that’s going on in one long period, you’re practically holding the audience’s hand telling them what to think. The best way to tell stories is on the screen through the imagery. Your characters’ backstories can be visual. Visually depict their personality, profession, emotion, hardships, everything if you can.

7. Avoid Cliches

Short films are full of clichés and much navel-gazing. If you aren’t able to give a new perspective on stereotypes, it is best not to follow cliches. Cliches are very tired and nobody likes seeing them time and time again. Create something unique! Don’t follow in someone else’s footsteps. Instead of borrowing from other films, write what you are familiar with and what resonates with your audience. Give it your own spice!

Ready to Write A Short Film?

Don’t be afraid to start writing your next (or first) short film! It might seem like a daunting task, but it’s well worth doing. I hope these tips will help you create a unique short film built from your own perspective that is well within your limits to have created. Nothing has the same feeling as seeing your words come to life on screen!

Oh, did you know that we often have workshops on filmmaking subjects, including screenwriting? You’re missing out! Definitely check them out when you can. It’ll be well worth it. Oh, and I’ll let you in on a little secret, Key Members get a huge discount on our courses! While you’re at it, you should create your free FilmLocal account and give your career the boost it deserves!

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