If you’re thinking about participating in short screenplay contests, you need to understand that it’s no different from any other screenplay competition. Short films can be just as powerful and captivating as features. Shorts deliver stories just as solid and just as intricate. The same elements of a screenplay exist for both features and shorts. All shorts do is tell a story in a short amount of time. As we’ve seen, some shorts are adapted into full length features because of their compelling, well-written stories. Impressive examples of such screenwriter success stories include The Babadook
, District 9
, and Whiplash
When writing a short film or a spec script
, screenwriters get to exercise their ability in forming a clear and well-structured story. They practice their skill in telling a story with a perfectly paced plot. If you plan to write your first short, just as a writing venture or as a short screenplay contest submission, there are a few things to keep in mind. The following tips can help you as screenwriter when you embark on your short film.
1. Film Is Film Whether Your Writing For A Short Screenplay Contest Or Not.
Short or not, film is a form of visual storytelling. When you write your screenplay, remember to utilize this visual language to tell your story. Just because you’re writing a short film doesn’t mean you dismiss the importance of how your story plays out visually. Of course, depending on the genre you choose, your visuals will change. But no matter which genre you end up with, don’t forget that the audience will always be doing the same thing: watching. So write something to be watched and enjoyed.
2. Create concepts
For short films, a better use of your time – both in the writing process and the film – is concept over plot. That’s not to say that good plot doesn’t belong in short films. Of course not. If you manage to write a strong story with an elaborate plot that works for your short, that’s amazing. However, if you find that hard to do, don’t give up on your short film. Unlike plot, a concept can hook the audience from the opening scene. You don’t need to create a complicated storyline to pull off a solid short film.
The advantage of the short film form is that it can be used to illustrate an original concept quickly and effectively. The audience don’t need to sit through a two hour journey, going through hoops, to enjoy your film. If you present a good concept on the first few pages of your script, you capture the reader (and the audience) from the beginning. However, that doesn’t mean you disregard the importance of the other elements of a screenplay. Good characters are still needed to bring your concept to life so without them, no matter how brilliant your concept it, you won’t be able to tell the story you want to tell and, ultimately, your short film won’t succeed.
3. The Basic Elements Of a Screenplay- Zoom In!
This piece of advice is useful for any screenplay you write but of critical importance especially for shorts. Zoom in. Not literally! But in terms of storytelling. Don’t drag the audience through expository dialogue or a long setup.
Short films play out in moments so focus on the most important ones. Which ones are those? The moments you should spend time on are those that show the audience the most about who your characters are.
They are action-based because that’s how we understand and learn more about people: we watch them do
things. Making a risky decision
, confronting someone
, or simply taking care of themselves
– these are actions that viewers process to understand who a character is. Most screenwriter success stories consist of scripts zooming in on those moments
to reach the audience and deliver a memorable story.
Some shorts capitalize on these moments by throwing the audience right into the heart of action or “in medias res.