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Short Movie Scripts And How To Use Them To Break Into Hollywood

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by Script Reader Pro in Short Film Scripts
July 14, 2015 5 comments
short movie ideas

Writing short movie scripts is a much neglected method to starting a screenwriting career.

Are you sitting around by the phone waiting for some hotshot producer to call you and kick-start your screenwriting career? Well, here’s another option — kick-start it yourself by writing some kick-ass short movie scripts.

How did the Duplass Brothers and countless other filmmakers get their screenwriting careers off the ground? Not by entering screenwriting contests, “networking” or going to screenwriting pitchfests. We’re not knocking these methods, but sometimes there’s a more immediate route…

Sometimes the quickest way to start getting produced credits that you can pop up on IMDb and kick-start your screenwriting career, is by writing and producing your own short film scripts.

Just like the Duplass brothers when they shot a short film on a shoestring budget about a guy leaving a message on an ansa-phone.

So, here’s how to write short film scripts that you can actually shoot, that can gain you awards and recognition in film festivals.

Write Your Short Movie Scripts To Your Budget (Even If It’s Zero)

short movie scripts

  • Low budget means low budget. Make sure your short film scripts are filmable on your budget: (This does not include whatever space you have on a credit card. Don’t take on personal debt for your films!) It means whatever money you actually have in your possession to spend on your project. So even if that amount is nothing, something low like $500, or even thousands of dollars, make sure that what you write in your script makes sense for what you have to spend.
  • Minimal locations. Have your short movie scripts take place in 1-3 locations that you can get your hands on for free, like your house, your friends’ houses, a business owned by someone you know, etc. Don’t include locations like Disneyland, an airplane, the Oval Office, and other places you don’t have access to.
  • Use an iPhone if needs be. When it comes to short movies, don’t worry about fancy equipment. Even if you literally have no money, you can film something on your smartphone with friends and family in your own home that you can cut together on free editing software on your computer. There are even film festivals out there that are completely devoted to films shot on mobile devices, or have categories for mobile content that you can submit to.

Keep Your Short Film Scripts SHORT

In my time as a script reader, I’ve noticed that many beginning writers pen 30-45 minute long short film scripts.

The vast majority of film festivals will not program long shorts like these. They typically have shorts “blocks” of 60-90 minutes in each festival that need to fit anywhere from 5-10 short films. So…

  • Keep it short. Your best bet is to stick to writing 5-20 minute long short movies (5-20 pages). The shorter the better, in fact. After all, there’s no point in going to all the trouble to write and produce your own work if no one’s going to see it.
  • Keep it simple. Make the plot of your short movie scripts simple and compelling. (And if you have a feature you want to sell, make your short out of a compelling scene.) Shorts with multiple storylines that are essentially mini-features don’t tend to work very well. There isn’t enough time to get invested in the story before the film is over, and a complex plot can become overwhelming to write and to watch when you have limited screen time. It’s best to keep it to one storyline, one goal, one clear narrative.

Steal From Your Feature

screenplay scene description

If you have a feature film you want to sell, making short movies out of one of the best scenes can help gain interest from potential investors, actors, directors, and producers. Especially if it gets into major festivals and wins awards.

This worked wonders for Whiplash writer/director Damien Chazelle, whom I recently heard speak at a screening of the film. He said he wrote the feature, and despite its inclusion on the 2012 Blacklist, it was turned down everywhere, because no one wanted to make a “jazz drumming movie.”

Instead of giving up, he took one of the most intense scenes in the script and made an 18-minute short film out of it. Based on the strength of his writing, he attracted J.K. Simmons to star.

The film was accepted to Sundance and went on to win the Short Film Jury Prize for US Fiction. Suddenly there was plenty of interest in his feature film script, and the rest is history.

Writing a short movie script from your feature should be pretty easy. Just make sure that that scene has a beginning, middle, and end, and plenty of conflict to make a compelling short film.

Even if you don’t get into major festivals or win awards, it’s incredibly useful to have a filmed sample of your work. You have a better chance of getting potential agents and managers to watch your compelling 5-minute short movie than read a feature script. And it’s so much easier to query with a link to your work.

Remember that the success of your writing career is in your hands, and you have the power to make your dreams a reality by creating your own work.

I hope this post has given you some inspiration and please let me know your thoughts on writing a short to kick-start your screenwriting career. How’s it worked out for you? Will you give it a go?

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Don’t forget you can get a short film coverage by one of our script consultants. Choose the genre expert you think will be best suited to strengthening your short film script before you start shooting or entering into contests.

Have you had any success breaking in via short movie scripts? Let us know in the comments section below.

short movie scripts

More posts on how to write original short movie scripts…

short movie scriptsHOW TO DEVELOP SHORT FILM IDEAS THAT WILL WIN AWARDS

 
 

5 Comments
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  2. Jorge says:

    Excellent idea you’ve given me. I have eight Spec screenplays and can’t say I’ve pitched any of them yet because I’m still growing as a screenwriter, but I think casting and shooting a scene from any of my full length features is an attainable, tangible goal.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Sounds good, Jorge.

  3. Gary Heard says:

    This a Great idea. I have been turning all of my full feature screen play ideas into short film scripts. And soon going to film them as short films. I highly recommend people doing this.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good luck, Gary. Keep at it!

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