How To Write a Short Film

There are many excellent reasons to create a short film. Not only are they easier to let your creativity run wild in a short space of time, but they allow you to experiment without the large costs associated with larger productions – they’re also good practice for novel filmmakers. But how do you go about writing a short film?

If you’re not hiring a scriptwriter, then there are some basic things you need to do to get your film down on paper before the filming starts. Here we’ll look at the steps to take when it comes to writing a script for a short video.

  1. Engage in brainstorming

You’ll already know the why, but how to write a short film is a little trickier. You may not have been top in English class, or you may just love the filming aspect, however a decent written script to go on for your actors is essential. Brainstorming is actually really fun, and it gives you the chance to bounce ideas around and develop your script that way.

Take a large sheet of paper and start jotting down some ideas: location, characters, theme, scenes, time period, events. At this stage you don’t need any dialogue for the script, you’re simply creating the jigsaw pieces to be put together at a later stage.

  1. Define style, tone and genre

Often something that can be overlooked in between points 1 and 3 is the defining of things such as the tone and style. The decisions you take at this stage have a large impact on the final outcome, so plan carefully if you want your characters to be likeable or hated, asking yourself many questions such as what the audience should be feeling, and if the dialogue is in keeping with the genre.

The genre should set the tone well, as if you have a horror script there’s no room for gushy love scenes or serious political conversation. Avoid genre clichés at all costs to make your piece truly original.

  1. Create a plot outline

Now that you have a rough idea of what you want, before starting to write run through the sequence of things in your mind. If you have a visual brain, try making a storyboard to outline the events which will take place in chronological order.

At this stage you should also try to follow the golden rule of screenwriting which is to have a clear start, middle and end when you write a short film script. Here you can create your characters and their own personalities that will be displayed through the writing, and also begin to put ideas together on how to tie the beginning and end together to create a cohesive piece.

  1. Put pen to paper

The hardest part of the scripting process, or any writing task indeed, is figuring out how to start. You want to write something that immediately sets the scene and theme of the short film on the first couple of pages – all done through the dialogue. Remember this isn’t a two-hour production or a novel, you have to be decisive on what you want to show to your viewer through the language of your characters.

Don’t waste precious minutes on extended dialogue or backstories, they’ll only drag the script down. Writing a script for a short video means you have to cut the loose weight and get straight into action which moves your audience. Make them feel the emotions, be it anger, or sadness or happiness.

  1. Rewriting stage

Brilliant, you’ve finished your script from start to finish! Don’t leap for joy yet though, as you’ve only won half the battle. Next comes the rewriting stage, the part where you (and preferably another person or two) read the script through from start to finish again.

Whilst it may seem perfect to start with, you’ll notice when read through if the film is lacking anything – particularly motivation for the viewer to keep watching. You have to be your own worst critic, and if you’re going to be filming the piece as well, always have in your mind’s eye how all this is going to play out on screen.

A good film script goes through first, second, third and even fourth drafts before it is acceptable – do it on a Word Processor so you can edit with ease and retain multiple versions.

How to write a short film script in just a few minutes of screen time is a real challenge, but if you are dedicated to getting your short film script to the screen with maximum impact, the time, effort and energy put into your script will reap dividends.

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