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How to Write a Short Film

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

A short film is a motion picture up to 50 minutes long, on average the usual short film is 20 minutes. A short film can be live-action, animated, or computer generated. Short films tell closed-ended stories with a distinct beginning, middle, and end and have a clear focus with their storytelling, using few locations and characters.

Why Are Short Films Important for Aspiring Filmmakers?

  • Helps find representation as it gives busy potential clients a quick insight into a filmmaker’s creative vision.

  • Gain visibility to rise your profile as a director and get you considered for larger projects

  • Easy to post online and share to distribute on your own

  • Proof to Secure funding

Some Guidance for Writing a Short Film

1. Brainstorm and get all your ideas down. If you don’t have an existing concept for a short film, start by throwing any and all story ideas around. What images or events can you clearly remember from childhood that might work for a short film? What are the things you find yourself attracted to in cinema? What are your favourite examples of films or genres? Do you want to make a film about family relationships, love triangles, underdog victories, or set it in a particular historical period?

Once you come upon an idea for your short, write down all moments, set-pieces, beats, or bits of dialogue you’d love to see in the film. Don’t worry about whether you’ll actually include everything you write, or whether it even makes sense: just write whatever comes to mind. If you’re lacking creativity or ideas, try again with friends or fellow filmmakers.

2. Outline things. After you’ve narrowed your brainstorming down to a clear and simple premise, begin to outline the film idea. Like feature films, short scripts have a beginning, middle, and end. During the outline phase, your goal is to map out the overall structure of the film. Outline the themes, characters, locations and message.

3. Write your first draft. Now that you know the shape of your story, start writing the first draft of your short film script. Short films follow the exact same screenplay structure as feature films do. With writing, there are some tips and tricks things to consider, try to focus on a simple premise, Be economical with characters and backstory and keep your locations to a minimum. When you are ready and have your final draft, create a storyboard. Create a storyboard as early as possible no matter how bad your artistic skills are. Let the crew see them and reference them in the shoot, this will help yourself and your crew visualize what needs to be filmed. When this is done, you are ready to start!

Here is an example of a couple of my short films and some feature films that might give you some inspiration. I always tend to create short stories filled with magic and wonder with a more serious message or undertone.

So why not try writing your own short film? You have nothing to lose. I can’t wait to see the creations the next generation or filmmakers produce, and who knows, could it be one of yours?

- J

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