Short films offer a unique possibility. Nobody can explain complex topics or moving stories that impressively. Surprisingly producing short films is much tougher than producing 2-hour-movies. Well, you need fewer characters and less budget, but certainly not less time for developing your script. 2-hour-movies allow you to show devastating fights, bitter enemies, or just the classic love story by introducing 20 characters and at least 10 showplaces. Short films will not allow that. You need to boil your message down to essence on the one hand, and to attract the viewer’s attention on the other hand. And not enough: The public shall not forget your impactful short film. Let us start with our 11 tips:
1. Impart one message. Not more, not less.
It is not possible to construct complex and endless stories with story twists and a climax. Short films do not suit that. They are perfectly suitable for conveying a message compactly and memorably. Give a political statement or choose an urgent problem, which occupies your mind. Do not tell an unrealistic story as TV does. You must not tell two or three. The viewer will be overwhelmed surely. Concentrate on one clear message, on one thing. The short film will bring this topic unforgettably to their mind.
2. The people should be able to identify with your topic
Did you choose a topic, which is fascinating and depressing at the same time for you? Great! But do you believe that this topic will engage the attention of people too? People do not need to have an interest in the issue addressed. The opposite is the case. Your short film has the responsibility to make people interested in your topic. And to explain the importance of a problem. You have to encourage people to take action for things ignored before. However, the issue should be in their sphere of attention. Some people might have an interest in the tragic stories of fish somewhere in the deep sea. But not so many.
3. Choose a complex topic
If you concentrate on one topic, this topic can be more complex. It should have complexity, indeed. No one will enjoy the film if the film is too easy. Nothing in the world is stronger than the power of an unforgettable picture. Use this power intelligently and use these pictures to illustrate urgent, hard-to-understand problems intuitively. Choose topics out of everyday life. Acquitted issues, but unfathomable. Or something which subconsciously is assumed, however, unrevealed currently. Or you unveil new facets of an old problem. A classic example of that is time. Time gives our life a direction and shape but is ungraspable, indescribable, and incredibly multifaceted. However, the time has been already illustrated too often. That is not quite inventive.
4. Impart your message metaphorically
To show scientific graphics is inelegant. That would distort your flow of pictures. Therefore, you need to outline your topic differently. Instead of reading more books, why do we watch films? It happens because of the colourful and impressive pictures, which allow us to imagine things easily. It is not required to express everything in data. If you want to show the influence of climate change on Brazilian rainforest decline, you will not use square kilometres. Use satellite pictures to compare the developments.
5. Create your film as it was a caricature
A caricature is the perfect role model for your masterpiece. It explains a challenging topic by illustrating the problem metaphorically by using the unlimited powers of the picture. And it is funny and impactful. Caricatures are self-explaining. However, understanding all the fine details in all their importance and complexity needs time and mindpower. The topic is likely to stay in mind. Another particularly significant analogy to magnificent short films is the contrast between the character and the surroundings. Either the character will act somehow extraordinary in a common environment or vice versa. This contrast allows the picture to be both memorably original and impactfully entertaining. Design either the character or his environment special (not the whole environment, but let some of the fundamental objects act differently). The good thing is, a short film has more frames than a single caricature and makes more creativity possible. In comparison to a caricature, your short film is not necessarily a satire. That is the only considerable difference.
6. Let your movie glitter in all colours
We do not mean the colours themselves; we mean your message. If someone enjoys black-white-thinking, following the social media channel of some populistic parties can help. But he should not watch your unique epic movie. Convey your message unsophisticated, but not too basic. Nothing is simply good or bad, especially your complex topic. Developing a good balance between understandability and correctness is harsh and overwhelming for beginners. Often the character can help.
7. Convert your character into a symbol.
Human features can be so different, more differing facets of your problem. Characters and their nature are the best possibilities to introduce these facets metaphorically. The usage in Characters might be unfamiliar at the beginning. Due to the brief length of your film, character building is impossible. The character needs to remain static. This means your main character can only act as a symbol for something, as a personification for your topic, or as representative for a human group (e.g., the rich ones), etc. Your film introduces the qualities of the character. His good and bad features, his limits. And especially the meaning of the features in a general context. The maximum development a character can experience is enlightenment. In this case, the character itself understands the message of his film. At the end of the cinema! Maybe you introduce two characters to enable dialogues. Not more! It is not obligatory to introduce a character. But your film will more and more develop into a scientific one otherwise. That is not necessarily unsuitable but will not generate so much audience.
8. Skip the introduction and the end
Forget the classic structure of an authorial masterpiece. Their individuality develops unbelievably powerful. Avoid the character introduction at the beginning. The characters need to be self-explaining. To have an open ending achieves a special effect. It keeps the spectator thinking far over the watch time, realising more and more impacts of the problem, provoking changes in his manner of thinking. If you do not want to relinquish the end, make it short, concise, and with a bad ending! That will keep thinking!
9. Your plot needs to be considerably more relaxed than the topic, but unique
We are sure you know some tragedies, where one plot twist is followed by the next, where dialogues and monologues alternate with each passing minute. Generating artificial tension does not work for a short film. If you begin with a touching dialogue, end with the same dialogue, if you started with one character, do not introduce a second character in the middle of the plot. The plot is intelligently self-explaining. That does not imply, avoidance of plot twists and tension. The act needs to shine by making the action of your characters unique and original. You need to plan an easy, unforgettable, unique, and coherent structure. Completely basic.
10. Avoid much complexity of the surroundings
If your film needs some special effects or filming in foreign countries, you are doing something wrong. Your short movie will stand out by the originality of the plot, the speciality of the character, and the urgency of the issue. Too much complexity usually connotes a loss of your central message. Less complexity also means less budget. The next huge benefit.
11. Do not spend a second without a plot
Some believe that keeping attention is much easier with a short film than with an hour-long movie. A grave error! You do not need to see a whole Tv-movie, to know what happened. The plot is calculable. Your screenplay has to be more diverse. Avoid long monologues written in archaic language. Every word spoken and every move made needs to bring the character forward. Finding a good balance between boredom and overextension for your audience. Suitable background music can help as well as our other tips here.
This is not a tip; this is the essential question. Aks it after writing your script. If not, the film will merely be some of the many five useless minutes in life. Soon it will be forgotten. Your work was worthless. But if you do not answer all the questions your film poses, you engage the spectator for a long while. We gave some very important tips. But we cannot write your script. Short films are the genre that needs the most creativity and originality. Your creativity and originality. Start writing your screenplay without pondering too much. Follow your thoughts feelings. Choose a topic that occupies you and which you want to touch others. After completing your masterwork come back here and use this as a checklist. Never be afraid of a bad start! Or what do you think how many revisions and editions this text needed before it went online?