write a short film Part I

écrire un court-métrage Partie I

write a short film


You may know but make a movie, write a movie or write a short film, it takes patience. Because, between the idea and until the realization of the film, it happens in average two years. This is an average ! I know friends screenwriters/filmmakers who have worked and waited 5 years to be able to make their film of 1 hour and 45 minutes. You say surely : “yes, but I want to make a movie of 10 minutes, I have everything in mind “, it’s going to necessarily go faster !

It is true, but yet you are going to have to spend a crazy energy for those 10 minutes. And then whatever happens, you won’t do that no more in 24 hours, under penalty of you crash.

You you are given 3 monthsor even less, to make a film, to make your short film. But be careful, as I have just said, to write a short film is no easy. Vibrate, laugh, cry in 5 or 10 minutes, has all of the obstacle course. Where some writers put 1H30 to tell their story, you, you have only 10 minutes and the slightest mistake will be fatal.

How to write a screenplay for short film

As I’ve already explained in the articles : how to write a screenplay, your idea is like a rough stone, it will have the side to that your sequences overlap each other and form a whole, perfect.

Otherwise you may :

– move to the side of your subject

– that the viewer does not understand what you wanted to say

– not to be funny etc…

In short, you could miss your movie !

Just like a feature film or a telefilm, the writing of a short film requires some rules.

How do I begin ? And well you need an idea. It seems simple, maybe a little stupid to say. Unfortunately, I have met young apprentices filmmakers who wanted to make/ write a short film, but : “didn’t know what” as they said.

Let’s be clear ! If you do “not know what” it is that you have nothing to say, no message or idea to pass.

I’m not telling you that you need to necessarily have the idea of the century (yet) but it can be just as dumb as the idea. Take the example of the short film ” a lesson of cinema “. The director just wanted to crush an old one, he decided to put this idea “bizarre” scene. This is not the best short film in the world, far from it. But nevertheless there is a message : “although it has taken a life of M….it can always be worse “. Not very optimistic as the message , but it’s worth what it’s worth.

So really the concept of message is a bit foreign, you should start with a situation in which you moved, amused, or scared. Making a film is also know to have a look around.

Start with a simple situation, for example : ” a young mother goes to the checkout of a supermarket, a 3 year old child in her arms, a bob screwed on the head. “

Until there all goes well. You have to find the trigger.

I will help you :

“A young mom spends at the checkout of a supermarket, a 3 year old child in her arms, a bob screwed on the head. The gaze of the cashier freezes when she notices a trickle of blood running down the forehead of a toddler”

From there, you can either do a comedy : “the mother has been hiding a steak under the bob of the toddler,” you can turn in one of two ways : either pure screwball comedy , or social comedy.

After if you want another kind of cinema, let your imagination run free : he has an alien in the bob etc…

Look around you, there are dozens of funny situations, weird…capture the scene and make sure that your imagination is bubbling. Make the ordinary extraordinary…

– A man runs, he passes you close, close….

– A man looks around him, worried…

These two men go unnoticed in the eyes of all the world. But for you, no. Why ? Because each of these men’s lives can be an adventure in itself.

You have plenty of images in mind, flashes of stories, perhaps even the end or the beginning. Try to integrate your imagination with these persons that you meet on every street corner.

Once this step is made : summarize your story in a few lines : two or three. This will be your synopsis.

These few lines will be your holy grail throughout the writing, you’ll never need to get away.

 Write a scenario calibrated or not ?

ATTENTION : I am one of those who are against the reining in of the imagination, under the pretext that the resources are limited. Write the story that comes to you, regardless if, at the end of your scenario, you have to find 3 million euros to make it, you’re smart and you know that for the moment this is not possible. If you have written 30 pages or more, it is that your story (or you) have surely need : for the time being !

Because with the method that you are going to follow here, you’ll be able to take a step back from your writing, go to the essential and, therefore, remove the superfluous. In addition, each of your ideas will be able to surely feed the other writings in the future.

On the other hand, it is true that the writing in a certain economy, is a workout in itself. If a production hires you one day to write a movie in Larzac, it will be necessary to forget the buildings, the prosecution of cars in the city or I don’t know what…(Ps : I love the Mountains ;o) )

Why write thirty pages for a short 10 minutes ? this is not serious for the moment : Because you will find that often we have the unfortunate habits of too much to explain, shoot length sequences or dialogues. Sometimes even, to write dialogues to explain what the character is doing….a peak for a movie !

Or add characters that, for some, bring nothing to the story and the cripple more than anything else. Your story will be in the final 10 or 15 pages.

Don’t forget that the audience understands more quickly than you think. He was in the habit of seeing movies, he knows the mechanisms, it is necessary to learn to trust him

To make a film, write a script of 5 or 10 minutes is a thrilling and exciting. This is the first essential step towards the achievement of your film.


Conclusion :

– Start with a simple situation, characters, or situations of the street….etc…..

Define genre (comedy, thriller etc)

Summarize your story in two or three lines to get your synopsis, but above all, that your ideas are clear.

Coming soon : Make a movie : write a short film part II

So much for this article on how to write a short film. Next week we will go further. You can now return to the plan of the site to read other articles.


Tom Weil


Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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