KEEP IT SHORT
The shorter, the better! A good figure is around the 10-15 minutes/pages mark. Festivals like this length. It can be tempting to go for 20-30 pages, but often it’s not needed. There’s a reason shorts are short – to pack a punch. Linger too long on details and you’ll lose momentum.
WE STILL NEED A STORY
Sure, you can get arty with shorts. But more often than not, there is still a story there: some sort of character transition or life-changing event. Showing this effectively in such a short amount of time is a tricky task, but it’s doable if you focus on what the short/character experience really means. What’s it about? What’s the message?
MAKE THE OUTCOME SATISFYING AND MEANINGFUL
It sounds like obvious advice, but often short scripts can feel a little underwhelming if, for example, the character is too passive or if the scenes/events seem too random. Sometimes, the meaning in a script needs to be coaxed out a bit more, in a way that makes it more effective and impactive…
Structure can help with this. You don’t have to obsess over it, but in general you will likely still have a beginning, middle and an end. Think about what you’re trying to convey in the script: the message or the reveal you are aiming for, and work backwards to ensure that the conclusion is built up to effectively…
USE CAUSE AND EFFECT
Using cause and effect can help with this. What does the protagonist go through from start to finish in order to end up where they are at the end (physically and emotionally)? Another important thing to think about is…
HAVE A GOOD SETUP
In order for cause and effect to take your character/s from the start to the end of the script, and for your message to be clear, a good setup can do wonders. If your short’s arena (story world) is a big part of the story, then be sure to set up the location and era and so forth to launch us into the world the character/s inhabit. If the character/s personal journey is the focus; something that happens to them that changes them in some way, then be sure to set up their issue at the start.
If there is no clear issue, the audience won’t know what the stakes are and how the experience has an impact on the character/s. Short films are all about impact, so make the most of stakes and cause and effect to create a story that will be satisfying and meaningful to the audience.
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