7 Short Film Screenwriting Tips & Other Life Lessons

I just finished taking a six week short film writing course at the magical Hart House and it was the highlight of my week.

For starters, the instructor was legit, with an LA Agent and TV writing credits. Homeboy knew a lot. Not only that, but he was outgoing and personable (can be rare with writers), passionate and eccentric.

The class size was small (6 – 8 people) so it was an intimate environment, with the ability for personal attention. That being said, most of the coaching came from the instructor’s willingness to review work outside of class time.

While I’ve read my share of screenwriting books, the in person format was far more effective likely because we saw real shorts and identified their critical moments and themes.

I can’t believe I waited this long to take a formal writing course – it just goes to show that I wasn’t willing to invest in myself or my dream before. I didn’t believe it. Friends, do me a favour and believe in your dreams. Invest in yourself.

Anyone want to take themselves seriously? Anyone?

7 Ways to Make your Short Film Script even Better

  1. 1. Focus less on the dialogue and more on the visuals. Try to convey world, character and conflict with as little dialogue as possible (this one is tough for me).
  2. Use as many symbols as possible to relate to your theme and key conflict, including but not limited to: the weather, a colour and its meaning, a name, an object and much more.
  3. The inciting incident that propels the action forward should happen on page 1
  4. The action should happen quickly with one scene per page. Each scene can be in the same location with the same characters, but a mini conflict happens to shift the balance/power and move forward.
  5. Weave positive and negative moments through the script. The moments can be a visual image and are not restricted to dialogue from the actors.
  6. 2-3 distinct crisis points precede the climax. Did you know that? Because I sure didn’t. In fact, a whole series of mini conflicts build up to it; everything adds tension.
  7. The climax does not have to be a larger than life, overwrought, dramatic moment. It can be understated and still have meaning.

I got stuck on my feature (still am) but now have 3 short film scripts in development (still challenging to get them just right). Writing shorts was so personally freeing for me – anything goes (not that mine are too outlandish), but you get to create worlds and characters around any one moment in time.

Maybe I’ll hate them a week from now but they gave me the confidence to integrate writing into my life more than once a week and to simply try and fail and experiment and write.

If you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, try setting a smaller more attainable goal first to build your confidence and skills.

What single action did you take in 2012 to get your mojo going?

 

PS here’s another helpful article on how to write great short film scripts from Raindance Canada.

PPS here is the next screenwriting course offered at Hart House in February

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