Useful Tips On Writing A Short Movie

tips writing a short movie script

What makes a good movie writer? Have you been thinking of writing a short movie? Are you new to the field, willing to dive into it, and build a career in the film industry? Here are some tips you might find helpful for short movie script writing. You will need to be patient with yourself, and give yourself ample time to learn the art of writing, finding your best style. You should aim for quality instead of quantity. Even if you have to produce a good amount of materials first, to pick your best version. 

How To Start Writing A Short Movie 

Find a space or spaces where you can escape from the nuisance of the world, to tap into your creative wisdom. If you are that type of person sometimes it can be hard to find that silent space, and many writers are comfortable producing materials in coffee shops, or at coworking offices, surrounded by others. You could explore whatever may work for you. Some of us prefer company while writing, as indeed, it can get a lonesome task at times.

Similar to writing a book, a common piece of advice could be to watch many movies, to be able to write a good script. But chances are, it is not the best advice out there concerning short movies. Why? Because they are one of a kind, produced for specific reasons. These screenplays are often written because the director or the cameraman wants to display his or her unique skills and talents. Short movies also tend to be written with more freedom, not sticking to conventional rules. 

Writing An Engaging Narrative 

The first misconception you could meet out there is that the narrative in short movies doesn’t get the chance to build up into deep, meaningful stories, due to their time restrictions. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Time is not the most determining factor in creating a well-written dramatic story. If you build your story on essential story elements, it could do the trick. 

Outline Your Story, Characters, And Action 

You don’t have to avoid a setup only because of the shortened length of the story. Your audience will need information on your story, the characters, and the action. Even if you start your movie without much introduction, going straight to the action, the audience will need to know the basics. If they don’t learn about these crucial details early, they could disengage from your story. 

Your Story Is As Important As The Other Elements 

Without a good story as the foundation of your movie, no matter how cool your effects and technical solutions might be, your audience can become bored easily. You should start by coming up with a good idea, such as an interesting character or discussion between characters, an unusual venue, a catchy story, or an interesting idea that you want to observe. 

When you have an idea of a story, you can start working on your main character. The key quality of your character should be based on their beliefs, ethics, and standards, which decide what actions they are going to take, and how the story is going to unfold. Your story will be centered around your main character even if there are more characters. 

You need to outline the desires and needs of your main character first, then come up with what may stand in their way. It can lead to the major problem of the character that this person wants to overcome. This is how most dramatic stories are built up. You need a struggling character and make his beliefs, feelings, and fights seen. 

The Dan Harmon Story Circle 

When you have the story of your main character, you can start adding in the other characters, according to what your main character wants and believes. The point is to build up some controversy, to create a dramatic conflict between the characters. You could use the Dan Harmon story circle to improve your story. It is based on eight distinctive stages of character development: 

1. In a zone of comfort 
2. They desire something 
3. Enter an unfamiliar situation 
4. Adapt to the situation 
5. Get what they desired 
6. Pay a heavy price for winning 
7. A return to their familiar situation 
8. They have overall changed 

The Stages Of Character Development 

Every step represents a major change in the story. The eight steps are modeled as a circle, with equally divided parts. The story circle is split into two halves both horizontally and vertically. The vertical line down the middle demonstrates the character’s inner change, whereas the horizontal line across the middle shows the character’s external change. 

The main character must be challenged by entering an unfamiliar situation that will shake their core beliefs. Thus their beliefs can be confronted. The next step is how the main character would adapt to the situation, and how to overcome possible fears and uncertainties that could potentially sabotage getting what they desire. But what the main character wants can only be achieved by paying a large price, to keep the drama element at a peak. 

The Two Possible Dramatic Outcomes 

So the main character must take a giant leap stepping out in faith toward something they wish to achieve or a problem they want to tackle. By stepping out of their comfort zone, two things can happen. If it doesn’t go well, feeling disappointed they could return to their old beliefs. On the other hand, if it goes well, major character growth can happen. 

How can you maximize the dramatic element? By making it seem that there’s no place for much improvement. And when improvement is achieved, it could comfort the audience leading to huge emotional relief. The additional character’s external problems should complement the main character’s external problems. This is how the main character can accept their flows. 

Introducing Major Points Quickly 

Within the first minute, you can already introduce the main character, their name, and their major external problem. The one that creates a lot of obstacles in the main character’s life. Then you can start pulling in the additional characters who somehow help the main character overcome their difficulties. It can be self-acceptance or having a sense of self-worth for example. 

When the major character is facing a challenging situation which neither the character nor the audience knows if possible to tackle, it creates empathy within the audience. A key ingredient to creating an interesting story is not sticking to simple external obstacles, instead, you need to showcase how your character’s beliefs lead to conflict in your story. You could also demonstrate how your main character struggles with their ever-recurring old beliefs on their way to success. 

Positively Dramatic Ending 

One of the best possible outcomes could be when your main character’s major challenge and fear turns out to be futile. Why? Because when they get to the final point of overcoming their fear by facing it, it can give a cathartic feeling to both the main character and the audience to realize their fear wasn’t valid. Because either the other characters have complementary flows to stunningly align with each other, or the universe aligns in imperfectly perfect ways. 

Short Movies Mastered

A short movie is best if there is constant pressure and heightened emotions throughout the entire story. This way, we can well demonstrate all the character flows and growth under highly challenging circumstances. And a well-structured concept with great philosophical heights. The surprisingly perfect ending can show that all those struggles were worth it! 

By using these concepts, you could also write a short movie to start filming with a dramatic narrative. Good luck script writers!

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