Rules for writing a successful short film

December 21st, 2020  |  by amaliehluthra

Writing a short film:

A short film is a way budding filmmakers can get into the world of filmmaking. A well written, a well-produced short film can be the calling card to convince a production company to give your film the green light.

A great example of this is “Bottle Rocket”, a short film written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson. The short film was received well and gave them an in to produce it as a feature film. It kickstarted Wes Anderson's, Luke and Owen Wilson's career.

When writing a short film, there are a few key pointers you want to include to ensure it performs as well as it possibly can.

In this article, we will look at these rules for a successful short film and dig deep into why you must follow them to have a successful short film.

Let’s check them out.

Rules for writing a successful short film

Here are the rules for writing a successful short film.

Keep it short

The shorter, the better when it comes to coming up with your latest short film. Anything up to 40mins is classed as a short film, but we advise to keep it around the five-minute mark.

The reason being is to make it long enough to tell a story but short enough to keep the audience interested. It also helps you become a better storyteller. It challenges you to be creative and tell a meaningful story in only a few minutes.

This will also save you a lot on the budget, as location and crew costs add up.

Find a single moment

Find a single moment that will be the pinnacle of your short film and make it memorable. Your film is going to be short, you won’t have the time to fit in secondary storylines to complement the main story arc.

Find a single moment that will grab the audience and pull them along with the story. That single moment will be memorable and hopefully something that will make the audience think, and stick with them for a long time.

Rules for writing a successful short film

Make it visually pleasing

Your film will want to be visually pleasing. It doesn’t need to be 4K action-packed but match the visuals to the script balanced with the music that compliments the feel and genre of your short.

Tell the story visually, instead of telling the audience the protagonist is angry or frustrated, show it through visual elements. This will add another dimension to your film, a relevant soundtrack with exciting visuals can expand on the audience's imagination. It allows them to buy into your short film, enjoying the ups and downs as your protagonist aims for their goal.

Beware of cliches

Cliches can kill your film. A little extreme, but they can. If you're re-using an age-old cliche, the audience may clock what the twist is or become disinterested as they feel “they’ve seen it before”.

Instead of following a cliche, look at writing a short on what you are interested in, what resonates with you and will resonate with your target audience. How can you speak to them on their level?

Look at adding characteristics or situations that will relate with other people, so they feel the emotion of your protagonist and can relate.

Rules for writing a successful short film


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