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Short script/film thread - lets share ideas!
  • I'm not great when it comes to writing short films. I get bogged down into the details too easily and I always find myself wanting to shoot something that is just too expensive or ambitious for me to take on. I'd much rather work on the filming side of things than writing. I've met a lot of folks who are also this way, and quite a number of folks who are great writers or have great ideas but don't really want to deal with shooting them. How about folks suggest ideas for short films that myself or others might want to shoot?

  • 11 Replies sorted by
  • How about you write down your resources, give some examples of good locations near you and I will come up with an idea (or several) for you.

  • Overwriting is a common problem. My first three shorts all turned into features... unmade of course. Why I don't have a specific story for you to shoot I can suggest trying some techniques for developing some. Most of these should be obvious but it's often easy to lose sight when you're buried in the middle of writing your next 'blockbuster'.

    • If intending to make a 10 minute short, aim for 5 minutes - then you might actually end up with 10
    • Keep the cast to an absolute minimum (you can actually tell a story with just one actor)
    • Find locations close to where you are - avoid very public areas
    • Make use of whatever materials/props you have at hand
    • Avoid stories that require trashing lost of stuff such as car crashes, explosions etc
    • When you are out listen (eavesdrop) to stranger's conversions - they can give you ideas
    • Keep the dialog to a minimum - show rather than tell
    • Start out with a routine situation and then throw in a 'what if' scenario - ie. a curve ball


    You are driving along a back road to an isolated fishing location. You get a flat tyre. You stop to get out the spare and discover that it is also flat. You see a house nearby. Smoke is coming from the chimney. You decide to seek assistance.

    There is a large "Keep Out" sign at the entrance to the property. As you walk up the drive we sense someone is watching you as you approach. You knock on the door but there is no answer. You call out but no one replies. As you walk around the back of the house we continue to sense you are being watched. You knock on the back door. Still no answer.

    You hear the sound of sawing. It is coming from a shed at the back of the house. You walk to the shed. You call out. The sawing stops. You call out again. Still no answer. You knock on the door. Still no answer. You turn the handle. The door opens..... etc etc.

    Cliched yes but you get the idea.

  • Two suggestions: 1) find a supercool badass location that you can use. Write a story for the location. 2) find a classic story or scene you like and reimagine/adapt it to something that hasn't been done. This is a classic Hollywood technique. For example, THE FUGITIVE is Les Miserables, PRETTY WOMAN is Cinderella etc etc.

  • Brian's suggestion #1 is pretty much exactly how I came up with the script for my first film. Actually it took several iterations before I was able to simplify that idea down to something that was feasible for my other resources (i.e. volunteer actors, no crew, no budget), but that supercool badass location is what makes the film...

  • I really like your video, Keith-


  • I love this 'find a location and write for it' plan.. why the hell didn't i think of that before?!

    thanks for this thread!

  • @RBD: Thanks a lot!

  • The 'find a location and write for it' plan can be extended into other areas as well, like 'find an actor or character and write for them'... this is basically setting limits or using constraints, one of the best techniques for people starting out in my opinion. As svart and others said its easy to get bogged down in big ideas, complex stories etc. I see this all the time with students and they get frustrated and/or depressed when they can't realize 10 minute versions of 007 or Hobbit type films.

    There's a famous quote by Stravinky, of all people, that I like "The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one's self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution."

  • I agree with the comment on writing a script for a location. I am thinking up a script that involves my daily routine to some extent. So it can be shot in my apartment on my commute to work, in my office, etc. That has made it a lot easier to make a script, because I know that I have constraints.

  • Wow, this thread started taking off finally!

    I think the idea of writing for location is great, provided you have a great location. However, you also need to have a solid story above all location, camera, lighting, acting etc. It won't matter if it's pretty if it's a boring or incoherent story or just a collection of shots. The artistic excuse for just collecting a bunch of pretty shots and putting them together just doesn't hold water anymore.

    In a perfect world I'd actually think that the setup should be as follows: Story, Talent, Location, Lighting, Sound, Camera.

    I did intend this thread to be more of exchanging actual stories and plots for each other to shoot, rather than just discussing the technical side of shooting..

  • While randomly looking at short films, I came across an interesting concept where Philips wanted to promote a TV by having folks make shorts to submit. There apparently was a voting process and a number of lines of dialog had to be used.

    This is the best video of the bunch by far:

    "The dialogue was selected from a contest. It was something to the effect of "What is that?" "A unicorn." "Never seen one this close before." "Its beautiful." "Get away, get away." 'I'm sorry."

    The writing was predetermined for a contest. All the filmmakers had to use it."