The Secret Number and its fantastic script
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The Short Guide to Making an Awesome Short – Part 1: Scripting

The Short Guide to Making an Awesome Short

In this age of accessible media it seems like everyone is making short films, just take a look on Vimeo and YouTube, they are crawling with shorts. But this also means that it is littered with thousands of bad ones, so how do you create a film that will stand out from the bunch? I have put together a short guide to help filmmakers push their creativity and professionalism to another level. At first I intended to create a one post guide, hence the name “A Short Guide…”, but I came to realize that it takes more than that to create an awesome short, so I divided it into sections and over the next few weeks I will post articles on hints and tips for each step of a short film production.

We will try to touch every step of the long process, starting with scripting, pre-production, production and post. We will start today where it should all begin, with an idea and a good script!

Awesome Script on Film Shortage

Step1. Have a good story to tell

Might sound silly, but those thousands of ‘bad’ films out there are usually driven by ‘bad’ stories. Explore originality, people hate tackiness or stories they’ve seen hundreds of times, as soon as they know where the story is going they will move on to another short, or a video of cats.

Bad Action

Another important thing is to stay in realistic conditions, meaning for example, if you are a 13 year old don’t write a script about a man handling 3 guns and killing 20 subordinates on his way to get revenge on his evil brother, if you know you and your friends will do the acting. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve all done these films and it’s a great way to learn, but if your trying to make a real film to get noticed and win awards, stay away from unrealistic storylines.

It’s perhaps the hardest part of filmmaking, because once you have a good idea, motivation will get you through the rest of production. Writing might also not be for everyone, if you think this is your case, make someone with writing experience write a story for you, and then mold it into a script. More and more these days, directors turn to short story writers online to make them into shorts. Some featured shorts on Film Shortage, like “Boot“, “Start the Engine And Reverse” and Film Shortage’s top short of 2012 “The Secret Number” derive all from stories written by independent writers.

The Secret Number and its fantastic script

The Secret Number by Colin Levy and its fantastic script

Your script will never be perfect at 100%, but be sure about the story, if you have any doubts it means that it can be better, and this is the time to take your time and make changes. Make people read it, besides your mom and girlfriend, people that you trust to be honest with you, but avoid showing 20 people because you will have too many opinions!

Edit:
I recently read an interesting article listing Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling, which were originally tweeted by Pixar’s former Story Artist Emma Coates. Although not all do, most rules can easily be applied to a short film writer, especially this one:

Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

-One of Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling as tweeted by Emma Coates

See the other 21 Rules of Storytelling

So write up your script and see you next week with pre-production!

I invite you all to leave your input, tip or trick in our comment box, join the conversation!

Part 2: Pre-Production