How do you write an exciting short film?

How do you write an exciting short film?

Writing an exciting short film can take time but once you follow the steps you’ll have an award winning screenplay gazing right back at you. Firstly look at your core concept and start to build out a logline and a script outline. After this look at a bit of character development and write a film treatment. Then you’ll be on your way to writing an exciting short film.

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Outline the core idea/concept

What are you looking to tell? How will you decide on an idea? Do you have an initial concept?

Finding the perfect story doesn’t happen in an instance, so you want to brainstorm a short film idea with your peers. Whether it’s a joke you’ve heard or something that’s happened to you, make sure you sound out the core concept. This will help you flesh out the basics and realise what story you want to tell.

Know your protagonist and Antagonist

Who is the central character to your story and what is their end goal? What are the obstacles for them to achieve their goal? This is where the protagonist comes into play, but most importantly, it is also how you generate a story arc and excitement for the reader/viewer.

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Define the tone and style

Who’s your audience? What are you trying to say to them? Are you looking to make them cry? Laugh? To terrify them? What is your main objective? These are the key questions to decide if it’s an action/adventure, a comedy or even a thriller.

This will give you a solid foundation to develop the story further.

The setting


Define the setting before even starting to write the script outline. One huge point to consider is the budget. If you are a low to no budget shoot don’t go too crazy unless you can haggle a spaceship for free. Focus on single settings – a forest, a house, a flat, a pub (you’ll be surprised at what pubs offer), a warehouse, a restaurant.

Find exciting moments.

Throw in something exciting to add an arc to your short film. We don’t want Daisy/David getting from A to B with ease, do we? That wouldn’t be fun for us would it. We want them to stumble across something, get taken from the path, find something out that will change their motives – we need something.

David and Daisy get to the shop and successfully pay for a 99p bottle of water.
Or David and Daisy come across a body and realise that someone’s following them they realise, they’ve planted it and end up hiding inside a barn to escape the antagonist. Dot hey make it to the shop for that magical bottle of H2O? we are not sure, we will make our own minds up.

I know which one I’d rather watch!

Tell a story but make it visual


Less is more. Show don’t tell. It’s so easy to slip into the ease of over-explaining and writing exactly what you want the viewer to see. Try to keep it short and simple rather than long lengthy descriptions. It’s key to show that “Damon (21) is gazing across a clothes strewn dingy bedroom” not “Damon (21) dressed in fila sneakers, brown trousers, a red jumper, hair straightened with a bit of wax… etc”. Well, that’s a slight over exaggeration but you get the gist. Allow the audience to picture it they’ll see it in the movie and be able to follow the story without any hiccups – they will be fully focused and with you for the whole ride.

So show, not tell.

Engage the reader

Since you have so little time to make an impression the impact of page one is crucial, just as it is crucial to hook the reader in the first 10 pages of a feature-length script. What is the world of the film? Do we root for the main character? Does the world and story of the film feel authentic? The ending is also essential as it’s rare to truly feel moved at the end of a short, so work towards a meaningful, satisfying ending.

Ask for feedback


You can get stuck in tunnel vision. It’s great to get the point of view from your peers. This will help flesh out your story, give you another dimension and point of view. Something you may understand may not be as clear to your audience. This will lose them within the story and they may feel disconnected. You want them to feel connected and be on board for the ride.

An added extra

Finally, the most important tip is to actually start writing the script! More often than not you develop a fear of writing anything. It won’t be perfect the first time, even something as successful as Avatar. The amount of draft, rewrites and concept changes would have been unlimited. Never let that fear stop you from writing your film and getting started Good luck and contact us here with any questions.

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Jay Neill

Jay Neill is the founder, owner, and managing editor of iFilmThings and believes everyone should have access to the film resources they need to plan their filmmaking project, which is why he’s dedicated iFilmThings to helping all filmmakers.

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