By Brock Cooper (doddleNEWS)
Every writer wants to write a feature movie that makes its way to the silver screen and wins an Oscar. Once you actually start the process and you realize it’s not that easy, you end up being satisfied with a call back and a lifting of the restraining order by that Hollywood producer you cornered at Whole Foods.
It seems that everyone has a script they are trying to peddle as the next “Twilight, but with aliens” or, “An animated version of The Cider House Rules, with characters all played by bunnies.” (Actually, someone did do animated short versions of films, with bunnies.) Instead of cutting your teeth on a full-length feature, why not try your hand at writing a short film?
Short films have been around forever. When editing and recording processes became cheaper and more mainstream, the feature quickly overshadowed the short. Feature films became all about escapism, and shorts were considered a more cerebral medium. It wasn’t until short film festivals began to pop-up, and digital mediums like YouTube came about that the short film once again gained favor. In fact, many filmmakers and producers are making great livings producing web videos.
Suddenly, the short film became a more accessible way to get a film made. A clever writer can create a 5-minute to 30-minute short film script and it will be every bit as entertaining as a feature film at a fraction of the price. It’s much cheaper to put a 5-minute to 30-minute movie on Youtube or Vimeo, than have them sent out on DVD and distributed, or attempt to get into a film festival.
Benefits of Writing a Short Film
A standard 90-minute feature has a set formula that many writers go by. The three act structure and one-page per minute approach can be daunting for a new writer. I remember the first script I ever wrote was supposed to be feature length and my first draft topped off at 30 pages. I guess I could have added more scenes, but in reality my idea stopped at 30 pages. It’s never a good idea to add “filler” to your script. If it doesn’t need to be in there, then don’t put it in. Hence, my first short film script.
With running times as short at 10 minutes, short films are naturally less complicated. Often, you don’t get to establish a deep character history, complicated plots or long narrative. There still has to be a good plot, etc., but it’s all about doing more with less. It’s much easier to write 10 or 15 pages of material than 90. It’s also much easier to revise and perfect 15 pages of material.
Short films can also be more fun to write. Structure is less strict with a short film, and a writer can experiment with dialog and scenes. Once your script has been perfected, you have several options available to you. You can try and shop it around to various producers and agents. Commercially, unless a short film is a hit at various festivals or your screenplay has won contests, it’s not going to make you rich. It will do is give you credit and recognition.
Some writers and filmmakers have opted to just create a short film as a calling card, while others have taken their features and shot either a short film version of it, or a trailer, in hopes of a deal. Other times, writing a short film can help get the creative juices flowing.
Feature films are harder to break into than Fort Knox. Many times its less about talent and more about who you know and who you are. A short film gives you street cred. It gives you the opportunity to network and meet people in the industry. Sometimes a short film catches someone’s eye and next thing you know they want to make it a feature, or perhaps an over film deal.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a new writer learning the ropes, or a veteran who needs a creative break, short films are a low budget and fun alternative that has become popular thanks to the Internet and avenues like the Independent Film Channel. Oh yeah, did I mention there’s an Oscar for short film?