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How to Use Short Movie Scripts to Start Your Writing Career

Follow in the Footsteps of Damien Chazelle and the Duplass Brothers by Employing These Simple Tricks

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by Script Reader Pro in How to Write a Short Film
July 14, 2015 10 comments
short movie scripts

How to Use Short Movie Scripts to Kickstart Your Screenwriting Career

Are you sitting around by the phone waiting for a producer to kickstart your career? Here’s another option: kickstart it yourself by writing 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 submitting to screenwriting pitch sites. (Please note: We’re not knocking these methods, but there’s also a more immediate route…)

Sometimes the quickest way to start getting produced credits is by writing and producing your own short movie scripts.

The Duplass brothers did this when they shot a short film on a shoestring budget about a guy leaving a message on an ansa-phone. This was the spark they needed to ignite their careers.

Here are the steps you should consider when learning how to write short film scripts. Shorts that you can shoot, will gain awards and give your career the boost it needs.

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

♦  Low budget means low budget. Make sure your short movie scripts are filmable on your budget. This doesn’t include whatever space you have on a credit card. Don’t take on personal debt to finance a short film.

Make sure that what you write in your short makes sense for what you have to spend. Even if that’s just $1000.

♦  Minimal locations. Base your short movie scripts around one or two locations. Get your hands on free spots. Your house, a friends’ houses, a business owned by someone you know, etc. are all great places to start.

Don’t write in locations like Disneyland, or an airplane, or the Oval Office. Rewrite the locations of all places you probably won’t have access to.

♦  Use an iPhone if needs be. When it comes to short scripts, don’t worry about fancy equipment. Even if you have no money, film it on your iPhone. Cut it on free editing software on a laptop.

There are even film festivals out there that are completely devoted to films shot on cell phones. And others that have categories purely for mobile content.

Keep Your Short Movie Scripts SHORT

Many aspiring screenwriters pen 30 to 45-minute short film scripts. The vast majority of film festivals will not program shorts at this kind of length.

Festivals typically have “blocks” of 60 to 90 minutes in each festival that need to fit anywhere from five to ten short films. So…

♦  Keep it short. Your best bet is to stick to writing 5 to 20-minute long short movie scripts (5 to 20 pages.) The shorter the better, in fact. 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 film scripts simple and compelling. 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 screentime.

It’s best to stick to one storyline, one goal and one clear narrative.

Write Short Movie Scripts by Stealing From Your Feature

If you have a feature film to sell, making short movies out of one of the best scenes can help gain interest from potential investors. Especially if it gets into major festivals and wins an award or two.

Whiplash: From Short Movie to Feature

This worked wonders for Whiplash writer/director Damien Chazelle. He wrote the feature and, despite its inclusion on the 2012 Black List scripts, it was turned down everywhere. No one wanted to make a “jazz drumming movie” apparently.

Instead of giving up, Chazelle 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 the writing, this attracted JK Simmons to sign on as Fletcher.

Watch this great short video on how it was done: Whiplash, From Short to Feature. 

Whiplash, the short film, was accepted at Sundance and went on to win the Short Film Jury Prize for US Fiction. Subsequently, there was plenty of interest in Chazelle’s feature script and the rest is history.

Writing short movie scripts from your features should be pretty easy. Just make sure that the scene has a clear beginning, middle, and end, and plenty of conflict.

Using a Short Movie as a Sample

Even if the movie doesn’t go anywhere, it’s still an incredibly useful thing to have in your portfolio: a filmed sample of your work. You have a better chance of getting potential agents and managers to watch a compelling 5-minute short movie than read a feature script. Plus, it’s so much easier to query them with a link to an actual finished product.

Remember that the success of your writing career is in your hands. Only you have the power to make your dreams a reality by creating your own short movie scripts and making it happen.

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We hope this post has given you some inspiration. Let us know your thoughts on writing short movie scripts to kickstart your screenwriting career in the comments section below. Have you had any success breaking in via short film scripts? What do you think of our method outlined in the post?

Don’t forget you can get coverage on your short movie scripts 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.

short movie scripts

Enjoy This Post? Read More on How to Use Short Movie Scripts to Break In…

Short Film Ideas: How to Come Up With 100% Unique and Filmable Ideas

How to Write a Screenplay: The Secret to Elevating It Above the Ordinary

16 Essential Screenwriting Tips to Make Your Script Stand Above the Rest

[© Photo credits: Unsplash]

10 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!

  4. Marcia says:

    Where can I find the Duplass short film?

  5. Shelby says:

    Lovely just what I was looking for about short movie scripts.

  6. Charles Obike says:

    Thanks a lot!…you have kindled my drowsy and lingering intent to kick start with starting up with my movie making ideas.
    With your guide I am very convinced I can make a little headway.
    Regards,
    Charles.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Charles. Always great to hear feedback like this!

  7. Dominic McKevitt says:

    Hi Team
    Thank you so much for your advice which I feel is a great idea that will work.
    I would love to know as to how you could get your short listed on IMDb please?
    Kindest regards
    Dominic aka John Lennon Cohen

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