Really Useful Links: Writing Shorts

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Paul FitzSimons

I’ve spoken previously about breaking into the world of the movies, suggesting that it has never been easier to get our scripts seen by people with the power to get them turned into films. But, besides having a great script, one of the greatest assets we can have in our locker is an already produced film with our name in the credits. Of course, that opens up the whole can’t-get-experience-without-a-job-and-can’t-get-a-job-without-experience can-of-worms.

One obvious solution is to write and produce our own movie but, for the majority of us, that’s prohibitively expensive – if we’re trying to produce a feature, that is. But not if we make a short film.

Traditionally, shorts were made by hard-core film-makers, containing abstract subjects of limited appeal. This nature of practitioner and subject was mostly due to their limited accessibility – they were mostly only shown at film festivals and on late night TV. But nowadays, the web has become the universally accessible showcase for short films – they can be viewed by anyone with a phone and a decent internet connection. This new universality of short films has been recognised by the film-making community and there are new shorts are being written and produced and being uploaded daily. The film industry is also sitting up and taking notice. They now recognise the power of shorts and, importantly, that they’re a viable gateway for writers, cast and crew into mainstream cinema.

As I said, cost puts making a feature film out of reach for most of us, but one of the short film’s greatest attributes is that it can, plausibly, be made for next to nothing. A glance around the internet will show us short films that have been made for fifty quid and ones that cost fifty grand.

Of course, the first step to making a short is to write a screenplay. WikiHow, the self-proclaimed ‘guide to doing anything’ offers comprehensive advice on coming up with the story and writing a script. The website lays out the key differences between writing a feature and a short film. It logically suggests that, before we even start developing our film, we should watch as many shorts as we can. And, as mentioned above, there is no shortage of short films on the internet.

Raindance, the Film Festival dedicating to uncovering and supporting the hottest new filmmakers on the cinematic scene, knows a thing or two about creating the perfect short film. They offer us the seven golden rules to writing a short, suggest that we should keep our script as short and as tightly written as possible and tells us that, like a feature film, a short should have a hero with a goal and an obstacle or antagonist in the way.

Generally, and these days in particular, the spare cash needed to make even a micro-budget short is hard to come by. Thankfully, there is financial support on hand, even if somewhat diminished in recent years. The likes of the Irish Film Board, Filmbase and even RTE offer funding by way of grants, bursaries and competitions. There is also no shortage of competitions, locally, internationally and online, offering production funding as prizes.

When writing turns to producing, there is equal help out there, both in quantity and quality. Screenwriter John August (Go, Big Fish, Frankenweenie) talks on his blog about how we can jump the fence from screenwriter to film maker. He tells us that, in terms of exposure, it’s easier to get someone to watch something than to read something. For that reason, having a show reel with a short film is an effective way of getting attention.

Something-About-Everything magazine Stuff offers some unique insight into the art and business of making the short film. The magazine’s movie mogul Stephen Graves takes us through the three established phases of film-making – both short and feature films – Pre-Production, Production (also known as Principle Photography or PP) and Post-Production and he shows us, step-by-step, how to direct your own mini masterpiece.

First We Gotta Write It.

Wikihow takes us through the process of writing a short film screenplay.

“Inexperienced filmmakers spend little or no time writing a screenplay as they find it bewildering.”

http://www.wikihow.com/Write-an-Effective-Screenplay-for-a-Short-Film

 

The 7 Golden Rules.

Raindance Film Festival on the skills, talent and commitment we need to write a short film script.

“Short films aren’t a lesser form of cinematic storytelling. In fact, writing them requires the exact same skills as writing a feature length script.”

http://www.raindance.org/7-rules-for-writing-short-films-2/

 

Loadsa Money…Well, Some.

There is funding available, such as the Irish Film Board’s Signatures programme, to help us write our short film.

“Signatures is a short film scheme that encourages the making of live-action, fiction films that aim to encourage strong, original storytelling, visual flair, and production values appropriate to the big screen.”

http://www.irishfilmboard.ie/funding_programmes/short_film_schemes/

 

Changing Camps.

Acclaimed screenwriter John August tells us how to make the jump – film-writer to film-maker.

“The process of making a short film helps screenwriters understand how words on paper translate to the screen.”

http://johnaugust.com/2014/making-a-short-film-when-youre-actually-a-writer

 

Some More Stuff About Film-Making

Stuff Magazine’s advice on how to make a short film.

“Short films are today’s medium of choice for inventive storytellers.”

http://www.stuff.tv/how-make-film-stuffs-pro-tips-movie-making/feature

 

Let’s Go Offline.

The Offline Film Festival runs a short film competition, offering production funding.

“Calling all filmmakers! Enter the OFFline 2014 Short Film competition to be in with a chance to win the First Prize of €1,500 film equipment rental or Second Prize of €500 film equipment rental!”

http://www.offlinefilmfestival.com/#!short_film_competition/czqs

 

Here’s Some They Made Earlier.

There are many great examples of short films well worth a look before we forge ahead with our own project.

The Irish Drama Blonde by Allyn Quigley

The Comedy Grandma’s Not A Toaster by Andrew Napier

(c) Paul FitzSimons

 

About the author

Paul FitzSimons is a screenwriter and novelist and has written the novel ‘Burning Matches’ and a number of scripts for film and TV. He has worked as a storyline writer on RTE’s ‘Fair City’. His short stories are published in ‘Who Brought The Biscuits’ by The Naas Harbour Writers. Paul likes crime thrillers, good coffee and Cadbury’s chocolate. He doesn’t like country-and-western music or people who don’t indicate on roundabouts.

Paul also runs the Script Editing service Paul | The | Editorpaulfitzsimons.com

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