If you’re trying to get to grips with writing a short film here are a few tips that can help you with your struggles.
This can vary as some film festivals consider a short under 60 minutes but the general rule of thumb is 40 minutes. There are plenty of competitions and festivals dedicated to the short and even ones that are specific about their duration, take Filminute for example, it runs a competition for films that are a minute long.
If you’re working on your first short it would probably be advisable to keep your characters to less than five. This gives you the chance to narrow your story down and have character driven stories. Writing a short film means you will need to get to the story sooner and introduce your characters in a short space of time. Locations are also best kept to a minimum as with most short films there comes a finance constraint so moving your crew and cast takes time and could cost you an extra day of shooting which your producer may not be happy with.
When writing you feel compelled to spell everything out to your audience but you should never underestimate a viewer. Your characters don’t need to voice out whatever can be shown in a visual, film is after all a visual medium and we did start out with just silent films. So the rule should be, don’t tell what can be seen.
Because of the duration of your film being much shorter than a feature length you will want your story to be clear and simple. Yes you can add conflict but they are less convoluted. The shorter your film the better it is to stick to a clear plot. It may help to have a single theme or subject and stick to that in order to ensure clarity, not just to you as a writer but also to the audience who will eventually be watching your story play out in a film.
Passion for what you are writing cannot be valued enough. It would be recommended to start with something you love and are familiar with. That being said, don’t be afraid to go into uncharted territory, it will require you to research and get to know the subject better but its something you are passionate about and that’s what matters most. Love what you are writing, love even the bad guys you write about.