Some of the best writers to exist started their career by writing short films. Take Wes Anderson and his first ever movie ‘Bottle Rocket’ — the famous feature film we know and love was originally just 13 minutes in length! I’m not saying you could be the next Wes Anderson.. but you could be the next Wes Anderson! This guide will help you to extract the next best short film that’s living rent free in your brain right now, and put it on a page for all to admire. Let’s go.
1. Note down your resources.
Before you write that incredible movie involving a car that falls off a cliff into the arms of an alien… just take a moment to consider how you would actually go about making it. Unless you have a car, cliff and really good CGI artist… this sort of short film might not appeal to the ever-stressed filmmaker. It’s important that you work within you perimeters. Take a piece of paper and write down the things you have access to. i.e. locations, budget, actors etc. Not only will this help you immensely when it comes to making the film, but it might even inspire a plot or two.
2. Show don’t tell.
Screenwriting is a dramatic form. Unlike other forms of writing…short films rarely provide direct insight into the inner thoughts of the characters. You have to create action that implies these inner thoughts. Think about how you will use the visual function of short film to shape your themes and tell your story.
3. Write the pitch.
Not only is this useful for when you come to selling your idea, but it will help you consolidate your plan and push you in the right direction when it comes to writing it down.
There are 5 key aspects to a pitch:
- The main protagonist.
- Their goal.
- The obstacle.
- The reason why you love the story and what makes it unique.
4. Develop Your Characters.
Characters are defined by their strengths, flaws, decisions and physical characteristics. It’s all about behavior: characters are what they do.
5. Start to Write!
Make yourself a coffee, settle down in a quiet place and just do it. Write little and often but be consistent. You will probably find lots of holes in your first draft, so make a list of the problems you encounter to tackle them after you have finished your first draft. After you have done this, take a few weeks off for critical distance before rewriting. Don’t show anyone your first draft.
6. Format Correctly.
Back in the day Shakespeare could get away with handwritten scrawl… but you my friend cannot. Nowadays, scripts have a language of their own and it’s important for you to show that you can speak it.
Here are some brilliant websites to make your script look pretty:
- The BBC Format Guide For Screenplays
- Screen Australia
- Writer Duet
- Final Pro (or Fade In Pro if you are looking for a cheaper alternative.)
7. Get Feedback.
Receiving feedback is essential for successful screenwriters. The difficulty is in finding it.
Listed below are some good options to consider:
- Ask your peers. At the end of the day an opinion is an opinion. Ask your friends and family to read your script in a transactional exchange for coffee and cake. Most likely, they will only be too willing to oblige.
- https://scriptmother.com/ is a great website that works on a read-for-a-read basis.
- The Black List (this one costs a little, but it will be worth it when your short film wins at the next Sundance festival.)
- DoneDealPro message boards have a specific section where you can post short film scripts to receive feedback.
- Check forums such as Facebook, Craigslist and Twitter. Discover people with passion equitable to yours and exchange scripts. Who knows — you might even find someone to collaborate with.
Now you are equipped with the correct tools to write your first screenplay. However, at the end of the day, it’s all down to you. The entire vision is already inside of you, you just need to put it onto a page. And remember… screenwriting is hard! Even the best screenwriters in history will relate to the fear of staring at a blank page. Be kind to yourself!
For any questions please reach out to: