by Kim Garland
For the most part, good writing is good writing, and the skills you’re developing to write feature scripts will also apply when you write shorts: a three-act structure (but for shorts, simply think setup, conflict, and resolution); a universal theme; a clear dilemma and stakes; and an active protagonist.
But there are challenges specific to writing a great short film that can be overcome by understanding what makes shorts — and the audience for shorts — unique.
Create a Dynamic Opening Scene
If asked for just one piece of advice for creating a successful short film, I’d have to go with the old, “the shorter, the better” mantra. Because it really is true — most short films can be improved by making them a little shorter.
But the one place where you can benefit from not trying to build in too much information is your opening scene. Even though you have a limited amount of time to tell your story, you don’t need to front-load your film with all of your setup at once.
Use your opening to establish tone and introduce your characters in a fascinating way, but don’t weigh it down with backstory and exposition. Entice your audience to want to learn more.
If the opening can double as a “before” shot of your protagonist’s life (i.e. before the transformative event of your story), so much the better, but be sure even the most mundane life is portrayed in a curiosity-inducing way.
Layer Your Storytelling...
Read more tips on writing short films...