Daniel Brain here. So today we’re going to be sharing tips on how to make a good short film so shorts can be anywhere from 45 seconds to 40 minutes but the general rule of thumb is the shorter the better if you intend to submit your short film to film fest once. You’re done with it then you probably want to keep it between a minute to 15 minutes. Because they’re much easier to program audiences, in general, tend to favor shorter short films over longer short films.
A short film that is from one minute to 5 or 10 minutes is going to fare a lot better than a short film that’s 20 to 30 minutes or even 40 minutes because the longer short films are much more of a time commitment almost but not always there are exceptions as usual you want to keep the film really short. Because it’s not going to be as time-consuming or costly to make time is not free and when you have a hungry crew to feed it can get a little costly and that brings us to us.
First tip know your resources a common mistake is being overly ambitious with your projects if you don’t have access to horses or you don’t own horses or you don’t have a boatload of cash don’t write a Western and don’t write car chase scenes that’s going to cost you a lot of time money and resources that you don’t have these things are all very ambitious for a short there are exceptions.
If you have a ton of money and a ton of experience and for sure go shoot a Western or a car chasee if you only have access to modest resources then think smaller show don’t tell everybody’s heard this row but still, a lot of people don’t listen to it. Because there’s an awful lot of really chatty talky shorts out there film is a visual medium you communicate with images.
You’re telling stories with pictures it’s the most economical way to tell a story and when you’re making a short film. It’s all about the economy if you’re trying to communicate someone’s an alcoholic show them drinking. If you’re trying to communicate someone’s bully show him picking on someone as an audience member things tend to stick a lot better when you see it for yourself and not just hear about it.
You want to start off with a strong open the way you open your film is exist super important.
It’s the very first impression. You’re making with your audience. So you don’t want to open your film with just like dialogue or two people sitting in a room talking. I mean if you’re going to have talked have it be an argument. You should start off with some action some conflict. There’s an interesting shot something powerful something engaging something.
That’s going to hook your audience and next up conflict is king why is conflict king because it gets your attention it’s something we can all relate with we all tussle with conflict Our Lives when’s the last time. You’ve watched a movie where there was nothing happening to any of the characters and you actually sat through the whole thing. You haven’t right because it gets boring there’s nothing to watch you need conflict in your story conflict allows you to see what your characters are made of try to infuse it into every scene.
Even if you have a scene with two friends just talking to each other get conflict in there they don’t have to be enemies they don’t have to be screaming and arguing even with your friends. You know when you hang around your friends. There’s always this kind of unspoken power dynamic between you maybe one makes a couple personal jabs at the other just jesting just having fun.
But that still conflicts your short film is not a feature film you can’t Jam 2 hours worth of content into 10 minutes. It’s not going to happen you want to minimize your backstory. You don’t want to pick subject matter that has a ton of backstory that you have to fill the audience in on if you spend 3 minutes of your 5-minute short film showing flashbacks and explaining everything that happened.
Before the film started your story is going to be very clunky flabby and unengaging try to avoid using narration. This is one of those narrative tools that has been overused to the point of being cliche and yes some stories work off the narration and some stories need narration. But most stories that do don’t need it oftentimes. You’ll see narration used in ways where it’s only reinforcing what we’re already seeing.
It’s not really adding anything to the storytelling if you do use narration it should contradict or be ironic to what we’re seeing, for instance, narration tells us that this guy Johnny can get any chick that he wants and he’s smooth with women. But what we actually see on-screen is? I’m getting slapped in the face by a chick that’s ironic it contradicts what we’re seeing so the narration, in this case, is adding value to the story.
It’s adding content it’s adding another perspective if not just humor but it’s doing something that is enriching the way we’re translating what we’re seeing you should pick subject matter that’s filmic and by filmic. I mean something you can point a camera at there’s a reason why action movies the hero is always after a briefcase or codes or a CD or money or drugs.
Because all of these subject matters are filmic. You can point a camera at it we know the story is over when Chucky carves up the babysitter or the boyfriend kisses the girlfriend or the hero gets the suitcase full of money. Because we can see the opposite would be making a story about someone. Who’s depressed in trying to find thoughts to get himself out of his mood or trying to find happiness and really really small things.
That’s not the film that’s not something you can point a camera at it now if you show someone getting depressed but then strike to get his medication and you make some kind of suspense out of it. That’s filming so try to infuse your characters with a goal that is outside of themselves something. We can point a camera at then your story will be much more filmic and easier to communicate without dialogue or a narration many of the best shorts tend to revolve around an event or an isolated moment by an isolated event.
I mean you have your protagonist who is presented with an obstacle or conflict and with that conflict comes a choice. He’s got to make a choice to resolve that obstacle or that conflict but there are stakes on either side and there are pros and cons to either choice. Which makes it a dilemma he chooses one and then. There is a resolution and usually when you write an event-based story.
It can happen in one location as in one game of pool one night one day at dinner at a party you know? But one spot where this thing happens to this person and they are forever changed after whatever choice they made when you’re writing your script you want to try and keep your characters to a minimum. Because the last thing you want is to hire a whole bunch of actors and open yourself up to the risk of someone dropping out on you have maybe two three four characters at the most.
But don’t write an ensemble cast if you’re asking actors to work for free with a promise of maybe a DVD copy or something afterward then you know? You stand a much higher risk of someone dropping out on you before or during the shoot or after when you need ADR from them that sucks to the same thing for locations the fewer the better. There’s a reason why most stories happen at one or two locations.
Because it’s much easier to manage as far as money as far as crew and equipment try and write for locations that are interesting to look at and practical. There’s a short that takes place in an elevator. It’s interesting and it’s practical very controllable when you think more along the lines of practicality. You’ll find yourself not pulling your hair out as much take risks.
You have the advantage of asking an audience for a small portion of their time you can follow an unlikable character in a short film. Because it’s only like ten minutes but with a feature film. It’s really hard to ask an audience to follow a character that they don’t like for an hour and a half so take risks explore and this one. I know everybody’s heard a million times but it is so true to write what you know your stories tend to be much more authentic and original when it comes from a place of honesty and a place of experience and lastly.
If you want to make a short film or you want to get good at making sure watch a ton of shorts not only will you get a lot of ideas. But you’ll get a good sense of what’s already out there and what’s already been done and redone after you watch a hundred short films. You’ll have a pretty good idea of what the cliches are out there less prone to follow a cliche if you’ve seen that same cliche done in like 20 other movies and that’s all.
I got for it if you liked what you saw please like and share if you really liked it and share it with your family or your grandma or your dog. So we’re sending a movie out to California to get a professional color greed and sound mix done yeah so over the next week the goal is to package the film up and get it ready to be sent off to California.