THE IDEA - WHAT IS THE FILM ABOUT?

What is a story?

Most people mistake a story as a series of events that unfold, typically chronologically. This is just a series of situations that may or may not tie together – which can easily lose the reader/viewer’s attention.

The most important thing you need to know is that a story is the emotional/physical JOURNEY of the protagonist (main character).

In the final scenes of a screenplay, the protagonist should be completely different to the opening scenes. The protagonist should go through an emotional journey to grow, and experience an emotional/physical challenge that tests their core flaw.

Write what you know
You’ve probably heard those four words before, right? In fact, it’s perhaps the best advice a writer can receive when figuring out what story to tell.

TITLE - WHAT TO CALL YOUR FILM

Film titles are more than words, it’s your films plot, it’s brand and above all its core marketing message. So let’s run down a few helpful tips to getting the title just right.

Titles typically enter the head of the screenwriter long before they even figure out the plot or start writing anything at all. Don’t be alarmed if you’re half way through your first draft or even complete, and you’re still stuck for inspiration. It will happen.

Let’s say you’ve already thought of you’re title and completely fallen in love with it, just as much as your protagonist, but then a quick Google search brings up a truck load of matching IMDb titles and you’re heart breaks into a gazillion pieces. What does this mean? Can you still use it?

It’s a bit complicated.

Just like a song title or a book title (which fall under titles of creative works) they can’t be protected, which is why you see many examples of songs using existing titles. However, you could run into trouble if you’ve gone ahead with a title that has existing prominence in the market. For example, if you’ve decided to call your film ‘Interstellar’, you’re likely to face some legal challenges or maybe even lawsuit from the studio.

The safest option is to come up with something original, unless the title matches a film released a decades ago or a student movie, etc.
The answer is within your script.
A title that mentions your protagonist’s name is a particularly common route in screenwriting. Again, do a thorough check on Google, IMDb or even Wikipedia to see if any existing titles match-up. If it does, then you can slightly modify or expand the title to make it more unique.

If you’re still struggling for a title, you can always open a word document or a notepad and bash out a few ideas. Try not to overthink what you’re writing. Doubt kills creativity. Think about the key scenes in your script, primary locations,  lines of dialogue that stand out or even the core themes of the movie. Write it all down. You’ll probably finish with a messy page or two that just confuses matters worse – but somewhere within that jigsaw puzzle will be the perfect title unique to your screenplay. Give it a try.

HOW TO WRITE A FILM TREATMENT

A film treatment precedes the actual writing of your screenplay. Treatments cover the basic summary of your film in prose, highlighting your characters and plot summary. Key scenes and important dialogue can be included in this document. Treatments are typically required when pitching your film to a production company, studio and/or investor. It’s also a benefit to potential cast/crew when the entire screenplay isn’t available to them. Treatments don’t follow any rule of page count. A film treatment is sometimes confused with a ‘spec’ script. A spec script is written in screenplay format and can be very similar to the first draft of a screenplay.

HOW TO STRUCTURE A SCREENPLAY

Script consultant Jill Chamberlain has published a crafty book on everything you need to know about screenwriting – focusing heavily on story structure. ‘The Nutshell Technique’ promotes the 3 act structure. Included in her book are a several Hollywood movies that follow an almost precise story structure.

The Nutshell Tecnique

Act 1

Act 2

Act 3

Comedy or Tragedy

This 3 act structure is typical with comedy storytelling. Jill also writes about the structure within tragedy. Comedy refers to a happy ending for your protagonist as they move away from their “flaw” and reach their desired goal. Tragedy refers to the tragic ending for your protagonist as they fail to reach their goal/overcome their “flaw”.

Blake Syder's Beat Sheet

The late screenwriting consultant Blake Snyder revolutionized scriptwriting with the publication of his 2005 book, Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need . In the book, Snyder introduced his popular “Beat Sheet” which sets out the 15 “beats” or plot points that a story should have.

Act 1

Act 2

Act 2

HOW TO FORMAT A SCREENPLAY

The writing format of screenplays can be quite different from traditional storytelling. A novel in particular can be heavily detailed with an array of description on characters, settings and actions – whereas a screenplay is typically just the essential, the bare minimum for what a film crew can work with.
Generally, most feature length screenplays have a page count anywhere between 80-180 pages, depending on the variety of action and dialogue.
For short films or micro movies, the page count can rage from 1-50 pages – depending on the content.
The margins
Screenplay’s follow set margin and font which are industry standard. Here’s how to achieve this without the use of screenwriting software:

Screenwriting Software

There’s nothing worse than trying to write a lengthy screenplay but your attention is heavily focussed on the complex margins and alignments. Invest in some industry used software that will automatically aligns everything as your type.
Listed below are a few screenwriting tools that are widely popular amongst writers in film, stage and TV:

HOW TO WRITE DIALOGUE

Writing dialogue in your screenplay can be daunting for most writers, so here’s a few tips on how to go about it.

FUNDING YOUR SHORT FILM

Whatever your financial situation, most filmmakers struggle to get their idea off the ground. This can typically be caused by rising production costs – which can be a huge set-back for aspiring filmmakers. So, if you don’t have the savings to finance your project, we’ve put together a list of options available to you.

CASTING ACTORS

The story is all in the performance, so it’s crucial you get the right person for the job. Industry professionals use nationwide/international casting agencies to discover talent, but if you’re shooting on a budget, here’s some helpful tips on how to find your star.

THE BEST LOW BUDGET CAMERAS

DSLRs

Mirrorless Cameras

Cinema Cameras

ROYALTY FREE MUSIC

A soundtrack can enhance the emotional connection your film has with an audience. It can even support the plot itself.
Without breaking the bank on pricey licensing and royalty payments to musicians/composer, check out the list below of industry renowned Royalty Free Music websites, where you can access hundreds-of-thousands of original music at your fingertips.
Pricing can vary between licences and composers, but typically a 3-minute track comes in at around $60.00 – license included.

FILM FESTIVALS/MARKETING

So you’ve wrapped up production and put the finishing touches to the edit. Now what? Most filmmakers fail to realize they have entered the most challenging part of the short filmmaking process. Marketing your short film can be soul destroying and exhausting. You’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into making your baby and now comes the difficult hurdle of making people watch your film.

VIDEO EDITING SOFTWARE

Editing Software ($)

Widely used in the industry, APP offers users the ultimate editing experience. Superb for high definition video editing with Adobe After Effects integration. Premiere Pro includes multi-camera editing, time remapping and advanced color correction tools. It also has a superior audio mixing interface.
Apple Inc introduced FCPX back in 2011. Solely designed and used for macOS with similarities to Adobe Premiere. Features include multi-channel video editing, color correction and noise reduction.

Free Editing Software

A free to download editing software. OpenShot has less features than APP or FCPX, however it still offers animation frameworks, multi-layered tracks, basic visual effects, title templates as well as 3D animation rendering.
This Windows only software is perfect for beginners to semi-professionals. Features include; screen capturing, basic visual effects, split screen and color grading. VSDC supports all video/audio formats.
Developed by Apple Inc for Apple devices, iMovie is generally used by first-time/amateur video editors. Features are limited, however it does allow users to get by with basic color enhancement, video cropping, rotation, stabilizer, transitions, titles, as well as green/blue screen background replacement.
First released in 1989 and used to edit popular films such as ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’. Lightworks, which is supported with Windows and macOS, offers users highly professional tools to edit their content. It included a variety of advanced features typically found in paid software. Free for home use.

IMAGE STABALIZATION

What is image stablization?

Image stabilization is a set of procedures that filmmakers use to decrease or eliminate image blurring. Image blurring is caused by a lack of support of the camera or the camera is set to a long focal length and/or with a slow shutter speed. This can result in shaky footage which can be unpleasing to a viewer. Occasionally filmmakers cause image blurring intentionally for dramatic effect.

How to reduce image blurring

Increasingly popular amongst Vloggers, gimbals are used for handheld videography to avoid image blurring and increase stabilization. Mechanical gimbals primarily rely on gravity to counterbalance the weight from each component (camera, battery, monitor) attached to it. This gives the filmmaker stable control. Motorized gimbals use electrical motors to recognize fractional instability during motion, but still allows for standard cinematography techniques such as panning. Gimbals are a great tool to get smooth shots from fast camera motion as well as vehicle-mounted recording.
It’s all about gravity. The lighter your camera is, the more image blurring you will likely record. Try weighing down your camera’s tripod with DIY weights, such as sandbags, to increase stability. DSLR’s are incredibly lightweight compared to a professional motion-picture camera, so adding weights is a popular technique used in low-budget film production.
Most video editing software include a stabilization feature, so if you’re planning to rely on post-production to correct image blurring, then shoot wide with a deep depth of field to avoid jittering.

SOUND RECORDING

High quality audio is just as important as the video itself. We don’t just watch movies for visual stimulation as sound plays an integral role in the overall communication and drama of your film.
DSLR’s  struggle to pick up key sounds, such as dialogue and more often that not are washed out by fuzzy background noises. Invest in a microphone that can directly pick up your required sound for a cinematic and professional result.

Types of microphones

Also known as ‘lav mics’ or ‘lapel microphones’, these small mics are discreetly worn on the clothes of an actor to pick up their dialogue. If you mind the restricting cable running through your actor and set, then invest in a wireless mic pack which has a separate receiver and audio recorder.
Commonly known as a ‘boom mic’, this directional mic picks up sound specifically where you point it. A great way to record all sorts of sounds from ambience, dialogue to general action.

Tips to achieving high quality sound

LIGHTING

In filmmaking there’s a wide variety of light used in any given scene to provide dramatic or cinematic effect.

Light sources explained

This is the primary source of light on the subject/actor.
Reduces shadows caused by the key light.
Lights the subject/actor from a the left or right which helps in defining/contrasting facial features.
Light that is situated at the rear of the subject/actor that aids in differentiating them from the background.
Light that is part of the physical set
Light that is used to avoid shadows. Creates an even bright balance.
Creates dramatic shadows on the subject/actor for a particular effect.
Creates shadows on the subject for a dramatic effect.
Typically used in a TV studio or in the theatre for a vast level of light.
Light that is reflected on the subject/actor to assist in distributing soft lighting.
Light coming from natural light sources such as sunlight, moon light, or pre-existing light supplies on a location.
Light used to impersonate natural light.

Tips to achieving the pefect look for your short film