How to get ideas for making a short film

Have you been bitten by the cinema bug? Before you rush to your camera to start filming, you first need a good story to tell. It doesn’t have to be tedious to learn how to get your creative juices flowing in writing. We’ll teach you how to come up with great story ideas and how to develop them into a compelling script that will turn into a great making short film.

Part 1. find a story

Start with an object, a word, or a picture

At the origin of each story, there is always a small seed that you will only have to let grow once it has germinated. Will it make a good short film? It may be yes, it may be no. To start, you need to focus on an idea to see how far it can take you. Here is a list of effective ways to brainstorm a story.

What can be the best way to kick off the beginning of a story? Just start writing. Grab a pen and paper or sit down at your computer and force yourself to write for a set amount of time. Let’s say 10 or 15 minutes. Don’t worry about whether what you’re producing is a true story or whether it could make a good movie. You are just looking for ideas. It may be that 99% of what you write is of no use to you, but there may also be a very small passage that could then become a story. Let the ideas come to you or you can get in touch with a production companies near me to get the job done properly and professionally.

Try to play with words

You only need a small spark to find a story. Make a list of pictures taken at random with the first words that come to mind: an ashtray, oil paint, a kindergarten, Oakland. Very good list. Take a list of at least 20 words and try to link them together. What does this list make you think of? An after-school painting class for kindergartners in the San Francisco Bay Area? A burning cigarette in a painter’s studio? Take an image and let your imagination run wild. Find a story from these images.

Start looking for good ideas in different directions

A good method for coming up with story ideas is to engage in absurd, weird, or surprising speculations that might make for an interesting story. If our food came in the form of pellets? You found out your dad was a spy? What if your dog started talking? This kind of speculation can provide you with very good characters and plots.

Look for news to adapt

Adapting a story that has already been written by someone else can be a great way to come up with an idea for a short film. From the collections of short stories that have just been published, choose those that contain compelling plots and select one that would be fun to film.

It is generally difficult to make a short film from a novel. Try to focus on the news instead. If you’re looking for a great example of a minimalist short story based on a thrilling and gripping plot, read “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates.

Try to film the real

Who said that short films had to be fiction? What if you made a documentary to report on the world around you and satisfy your desire to make a short film? Get in touch with a music festival near you and ask the organizers if you can do interviews with the bands that perform there, or film one of your friends doing their daily workout. Find something around you that would make a great story and ask permission to immortalize it.

Keep a dream journal

Dreams can be very good sources of inspiration for making a short film, especially if you have a taste for the strange. If you want to draw an idea from a dream, set an alarm clock in the middle of the night to be sure to be woken in the middle of one of them, then immediately write down the plot it contains. . Dreams often contain dialogues, bizarre elements, and images that will be useful for your short film.

What are you afraid of? A good nightmare can be a great starting point for a horror short. When you write your script and when you make your film, try to find the atmosphere of your nightmare. To give your ideas, watch the Rabbits miniseries by David Lynch.

Take an interest in history

Historical events are often full of wonderful and fascinating anecdotes. Other fields of knowledge can be just as useful to you: psychology (to draw the character traits of characters), geography, etc.

Adapt a feature film

You can perfectly reuse the basic idea of ​​a feature film to make a short film. The adaptation can be made from a scene, a theme, or a character from the feature film.

Let your story simmer

Can you summarize the plot and founding concept of your idea in a sentence of no more than 15 words? If so, you are on the right track. Once you have your basic idea ready, try to come up with the synopsis for your movie. Try to phrase it as succinctly and with as much relevance as possible. Find a way to describe your project that will help you convince actors or other participants to join you. Avoid using abstract terms or overly vague ideas, instead focus on the script and the plot.

Here’s what a good synopsis might look like:

a little boy encounters an alien in a field and takes him home.

after school, kindergarten students start painting strange pictures.

Here’s what a bad synopsis might look like:

a man is struggling with depression.

the people of Pittsburgh face a series of strange events.

Be pragmatic

Consider the resources available to you and how you can use them. List each of the props, actors, filming locations you have around you, and think about how they could be the starting point for an interesting story. Maybe your friend who boxing three times a week inspires you with an awesome boxing story.

Make sure it will be possible to film your story. When you’re working on a film on your own, without studio support and funding, equipment and materials are in short supply. It will be very difficult for you to make a space opera in your mother’s basement. You need to make sure you can get all the takes you need for the movie you plan to make. If you live in a small town and don’t have any money or a camera, will you be able to shoot a bird’s-eye view of New York City? It’s quite unlikely. You must therefore work around the problem.

Part 2. Develop the story

Find a protagonist and his opponent

In every good story, there is an antagonist and a protagonist, which serves to fuel conflict and generate tension. If you’re not sure yet which character will play which role, allow yourself some time to develop your story. The goal is to have a clear vision of the character we should be interested in and why.

The protagonist is the character that the spectator wants to support, the one with whom he identifies, he must feel a kind of emotional connection with him.

The antagonist can be another character, a situation, or a place that creates dramatic tension. The role of the antagonist is not always played by a villain with a big mustache, it can be something more abstract, a situation.

Pick the perfect location

In the context of a short film, you will have to consider both narrative coherence and pragmatic aspects. Some locations alone can build dramatic tension, but you might not be able to take a trip all the way to Bermuda to shoot a scene on the beach. Find a place to write your story that is also easily accessible.

Try to work from what is available to you. If you already know that you will have to shoot at your parents’ house, you will have a hard time making a heroic fantasy film between the garden and the basement. Instead, think of a story that can fit into a local context. Think, for example, of the stories that happen in homes or that could take place in your city. Stories are much more effective if they take place on a small scale.

Find a conflict

There always must be a conflict in a story for the viewer to be captivated. What will be the element that will allow him to feel involved in your story and in your short film? What does your protagonist want? What’s stopping him from getting it? It is through the answers to these questions that you will be able to see a source of conflict emerge. Once you have your basic idea, you can concentrate on the origins of the conflict and try to draw from it as dense material as possible.

The conflict doesn’t necessarily have to be a bare-knuckle fight or a shootout for the dramatic tension to be at its peak. Rather, there must be a real conflict between the characters, and emotional tension. What problems might a boy have who brings home an alien? Why is he at risk? What makes us want to look at the drawings painted by the children of the nursery school?

Find the factual story and the implied story. The factual story is what we see on screen: a character acts and a certain number of events take place. It is the implicit story that allows these factual elements to be convincing. How does it impact the character? In a good short film, as in any good fiction, these two narrative threads unfold simultaneously.

Keep it simple

Restrict the scope of your story as much as possible. Short films are skeleton stories, they are short stories rather than novels. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be ambitious and think outside the box, but shorts must stick to a limited number of characters, elements, and scenes to work.

On the contrary, it can be a lot of fun to force yourself to act out a very long and complex story in a minimum of time. What could War and Peace look like if it were a ten-minute short film? Or the complete six episodes of Star Wars told in 10 minutes with only the material you have at your disposal? How would you go about it?

Beware of common platitudes in short films

The short film, like any form of art, goes hand in hand with several stereotypical stories and hackneyed ideas. If this is your first short film, you can already do well by avoiding falling into these cliches. To make a good short film, avoid the following commonplaces:

a character speaks alone, facing the mirror, before ending his life.

avoid working on genre films: the film noir style and gangster films have already been exploited far too much in short films.

anything related, directly or indirectly, to a hitman.

two characters arguing, until the viewer understands that it is in fact only one and the same character suffering from a split personality.

the film must not begin with an alarm clock ringing and the protagonist getting up.

Make your movie less than 10 minutes

It is extremely difficult to make a longer film. Try to make the film as short as possible, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s already a great success to make a three-minute film whose dramatic plot is both brilliant and concise. Try to achieve this before embarking on a gangster movie masterpiece by shooting a 45-minute gunfight in slow motion.

Watch short films

If you want to make a movie, watch it. You wouldn’t start writing a novel without first studying the different possible novel structures; likewise, it is very important that you have a clear idea of ​​how short films are constructed before making one yourself. It’s not just a shortened feature film: it’s an art form with its own codes and techniques. Watch a few short films before you start making your own.

You can watch a lot of short films, good and bad, on YouTube and Vimeo. Look and also find out if there is a short film festival organized in your city (this is quite common in big cities): you will be able to see for yourself a number of proposals.

Music videos are a form of a short film that you are probably already familiar with. Watch your favorite clips carefully and carefully study how they are staged. The contemporary masters of the genre are Spike Jonze, Hype Williams, and Michel Gondry.

Part 3. Write the screenplay

Sketch out the outline of your story

Your story doesn’t have to be very formal, with numbered steps (but you can if you want). The storyboard is used to help you know which shots you will need to take, so you will have at your disposal a pictorial vision of your film in the form of a comic strip. Briefly describe key events and dialogues.

Cinema is an art that consists in telling stories without resorting only to dialogues. For your story to be good, you should outline not only the factual elements but also the implicit elements of the narrative.

Write the script

Once all the essential story elements are in place as you wish, you can complete your screenplay in more detail, including the dialogues and directions you want to put in your film. Try to be as specific as possible, the script should be able to be read and done by someone else who will understand it just like you.

Let yourself be surprised

You probably already have a preconceived idea of ​​where you want to take your story but try to leave yourself some leeway when writing the film. If the idea that you have of the progress of your film is too rigid, it is possible that the spectators will find your short film too expected and without surprise. When writing, try to follow the most questionable leads, those of which you are not very sure. These unexpected leads can lead you to a more captivating unfolding and ending. That’s how you write good stories.

Francis Ford Coppola directed Rusty James, a sequel to Outsiders, with no script written until the day of shooting. Neither actor knew what would happen next. What emerges from this way of working is a great spontaneity and the impression of living an experience.

Confront yourself with constructive criticism

When your script is ready, show it to friends or people who share your passion for cinema and who will be able to give you constructive criticism. Listen to them and make as many changes to your script as possible. Some directors work on their scripts for years and only move on to directing years later. It takes time to make a film and there are good reasons for that.

Also try to show your script to potential collaborators, whether they are actors, producers, or directors. Have your script screened by people who can help you.

Start categorizing your ideas

Not all ideas will be immediately useful. Make yourself a file in which you will store all your ideas, which will perhaps become other scenarios. Some directors hold onto an idea for decades before they can make a movie out of it. The idea of ​​directing Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York has been debated for more than 30 years. Leave your sketches aside for the day when they may be more usable. Organize your ideas by considering the following characteristics:




the structure


Make yourself a folder to store all your movie ideas.

Even if cinema is above all a visual art, don’t forget that it has close links with sound.

Be patient)! The best short film ideas are not always the most obvious! Try again and again!

If you are not confident enough to make a short film on your own, there are many video companies near me that can help you in this regard.

Just choose the best 3d movie maker who fulfills your desires.

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