Here’s a guest post from Phil Lowe: 5 top tips before you write a short film (based on his experience of his multi-award winning short The Driving Seat, which you can watch here or via the embed below. There’s a short BTS doc here & you can follow Phil on Twitter here). Take it away, Phil!
1. It’s never a quick option. My short film The Driving Seat has just been released online, three and a half years after I started writing it. What on earth did I do for all that time, you wonder? Well, there were the three months writing and workshopping, nine months preproduction, eleven months post production and seventeen months showing in festivals. Oh, and one day’s actual filming. Luckily, it was worth it: we were selected for forty festivals worldwide and won six awards.
But let’s go back to the beginning. I’m not going to give you a magic wand for doing it more quickly, but I can save you taking even longer by going down blind alleys. The other four things to consider before you commit are:
2. Writing a short takes more craft than writing a feature. If you want to create a memorable short you’ve somehow got to shoehorn three acts and a meaningful character arc into ten minutes or so. Which is tricky. Of course, there are plenty of impressionistic shorts which don’t go the whole hog on the story front – and lots of them are instantly forgettable because it’s story that tends to lodge in people’s heads. It’s not just the audience you’re hooking, of course. Do you want good actors to be in it for little or no money? The best crew you can get? My producer came on board because he liked the fact the film has a midpoint where the whole thing teeters on its axis and becomes deeper and darker. My lead actress came on board not just because the script made her laugh, but because she saw an emotional depth to her character.
4. You’ll need the most talented team possible. The accessibility of film making technology means you are competing with more and more short films for the attention of festival goers and online viewers. Of course you could just shoot it yourself on an iPhone and rely on the purity of your art to come through. Or you could scour your network for a cinematographer who is on top of her craft, hugely experienced in shooting ads and music videos, and wants some fiction on her c.v. You could cast an old friend who went to drama school who looks kind of like the lead character and at least is easy to work with; or you can spend months searching for someone who can really bring the character to life; who will do your short for expenses only because they love the script, not because that’s twice the amount they usually get. The same goes for directing, editing, sound, post production. Start networking now!
So my advice is: write the script that is the easiest to make, but the most difficult to write. Somewhere between those two benchmarks is the sweet spot of the low budget short that will hook its audience.