The Screenwriter's Column
LINDA'S KEY RULES FOR WRITING SHORTS
Ten rules for a successful short script:
- Know who you're making your film for. If it's for yourself, that's who you
have to satisfy. If you're making it as an entry into the industry, your film needs to work
dramatically as well as technically. Competition is stiff.
- The longer the story, the better the film has to be. Length comes down to
what the story dictates. But if a film is over 15 minutes it really has to be great to keep people
- Write the script you can produce. Don't write a script with production values
you can't effectively achieve.
- The best ideas are simple. Focus on one main conflict, develop and explore it
in surprising ways.
- Set your film up in the first 60 seconds. If you're writing a ten minute (10
page) movie, you can't take the first 5 pages to introduce your characters before getting to your
conflict. Establish your conflict as soon as possible.
- Make sure conflict escalates. Know what your character wants (the goal) and
what's preventing him from getting it (the obstacle), and make sure your audience understands it,
- Try to develop the conflict in one main incident as the set piece of your
project. Many great short films develop the conflict in one incident to great effect, exploring
character in ways feature films rarely do because they rely more heavily on plot.
- If your film is less than 5 minutes, one type of conflict might be
sufficient to satisfy your audience. But if your film is over 5 minutes, you're going to need to
various obstacles or complications for your hero to face.
- Just because your film is short doesn't mean you can't have an effective
mid-point and reversal. Anything that keeps your audience from guessing your ending is an
- Make sure your ending is the best thing about your great film. Your pay off
is what you're leaving the audience with and it's how they're going to remember you.
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