4 Tips for Writing a Comedy Short Film

Today on the blog we have guest blogger Harvey Puttock who’s going to tell us a bit about what makes a good short comedy film! Over to you, Harvey…

In 2018 I wrote and directed a short comedy film with a group of filmmaker friends. I’d written scripts before with funny elements however I hadn’t written something that’s main genre was comedy. I saw this as a challenge and a chance to try something new.

­The short we ended up making was The Many Faces of Beth Jones, which follows the titular character as she visits her casting agent’s office. She’s hoping the agent has found her new and exciting film roles, but what she comes up with aren’t exactly what she had in mind.

Below are five quick tips that helped me when writing The Many Faces of Beth Jones.

Tip 1 – Read Similar Comedy Scripts

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many would be screenwriters have never read a script. Is your film going to be a satire, a dark comedy or a spoof? Work out what comedy genre you’re going for to find similar films and then read their scripts.

Tip 2 – Know Your Audience

What one person finds funny might be different for someone else, so you have to decide whether to use universal themes or target a specific group. The situation in The Many Faces of Beth Jones is most likely going to be funny to actors who recognise the scenario of meeting with their agent. However the film ideas that the agent pitches are mostly based around things found in everyday life and therefore funnier to a wider group of people.

Annina Kaski and Lucy Hilton-Jones in The Many Faces of Beth Jones

Tip 3 – Don’t Linger too Long

The aim is in the name, comedy short. If a screenplay or film goes on too long the jokes run the risk of going stale. The first edit of The Many Faces of Beth Jones came to seven minutes long and the back and forth between Beth and the agent lost momentum. By editing it down to a tighter five minutes the jokes began to land better. Having the final twist after the fake credits section of the film (hopefully) subverted the audience’s expectation and gives one last laugh.

Tip 4 – Film is a Visual Medium, Especially with Comedy

It’s important to remember that film is a visual medium and therefore visual gags should be used as well as dialogue. It can be tiresome if a film is made up of only witty dialogue, it’s important to use everything in the frame to your advantage as well. Is there a way a joke can be told through seeing something rather than the characters saying it? Some of my favourite jokes in The Many Faces of Beth Jones are written on the posters, they’re blink & you’ll miss it and never spoken out loud (for an example look out for the tagline of Buffering the Movie).

Lucy Hilton-Jones as Beth Jones

You can watch my short The Many Faces of Beth Jones to see these tips in action.

The Many Faces of Beth Jones by Harvey Puttock.

To find out more about me you can catch me on Twitter or Instagram or on my website.

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