Short Film Structure: The Story

I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile and I could bang on for days and days and days about stories in short films, but it’s easier just to bold it in an attempt to make it stick in your mind. There’s really only one thing you need to know about writing stories for short films.

Keep it simple.

That’s honestly all it is.

Keep it simple.

Don’t try and fit the plotline of an entire episode of Doctor Who in there. Don’t try and tackle abridging an idea that could probably be a feature film into the length of a short film.

Chances are it won’t work. It’s too much content to fit into 7 to 10 minutes. Some of the best shorts I’ve ever seen have been five minutes long.

The short film is the best way to showcase your writing talent of (to quote *ahem* Robert McKee) ‘a good story, well told’. In case of short films, the mantra should be ‘a simple story, well told’. The more you put in to a short, the riskier it becomes to get it across quickly in the amount of time you’ve got.

In ‘Spider’, the story is about a practical joker apologising to his girlfriend.

In ‘Multiple Choice’, the story is about three students planning to convince their lecturer to let them resit their exam.

In ‘Lucky’, the story is about a guy trying to save his life.

In ‘Side by Side’, the story is about two friends, using each other as an escape.

They’re all simple stories, well told.

You do hear the odd success story that talks about the feature film being based on a short film written a gazillion years ago. But that’s because the short film is a film in itself. It’s not a short pretending to be a feature or a short pretending to be a television show.

It’s just a short.

With a strong story. And strong characters.

Because the writer has taken the time to develop these two elements to make the film the best it can be.

Keep it simple.

You’ll spend much less time rewriting it.

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