The beautiful thing about being a writer is that you don’t need permission or help from anyone to do your job. Writers write. You don’t have to be paid to be a writer. Your screenplays don’t have to be developed. You don’t even have to show them to anyone else in the world. You just have to write. So you have a short script idea and your question is should I write this? The answer is most simply YES.
Here are a few things to think about as you start to decide to write that short script, as well as how to get it out to the world once you do.
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Reasons to Write a Short Script
I’ve gone into detail before about why you should write a short script, but let’s go over it again quickly.
#1: Shorts Are Easier Than Features
Producing a short is much easier and attainable than producing a feature film or television pilot, giving you a calling card, a product to exhibit online or at festivals, and maybe even something with which to win contests and gain some traction or build your network.
Given the smaller scope and shorter runtime, they often require fewer cast and crew members. So, you’re looking at a tighter production schedule, fewer days to shoot, and less editing time — meaning they’re cheaper and faster to make than features.
#2: Shorts Can Be a Proof of Concept
A short film can also serve as a proof of concept for a project that is larger in scope. Whiplash is one of the greatest examples of this being done successfully.
#3: It’s a Poetic Way to Hone Your Voice and Your Craft
Feature scripts can be… unwieldy. They’re complicated and long, so much so that you may feel overburdened by them and give up before you’ve written “fade to black.” Short scripts are a great way to not only dip your toe in and get acclimated to this type of writing but it can also give you the space to figure out your personal style and voice without having to make huge investments of time before you’re ready.
#4: Short Scripts Can Be Written Faster
A short screenplay can also be written in a day, giving you a sense of accomplishment and a reminder of how nice it feels to finish your script. 48-hour film festivals show us that we can write, produce, edit, and screen a short film in a weekend. There’s nothing holding you back from creating your art, building your community of like-minded artists, and drawing people to you through the messages you share.
That’s not to say that any old short script will win you an Oscar (although it can, baby, it can…just look at these Oscar-qualifying film festivals you can enter your short in) — you still need to refine your craft. Short films are like poems; great ones feel effortless, like magic, while not-so-great ones feel a bit childish, cringey, or boring. We’ve got a piece on helpful tips to create a profound and engaging short film including links to great shorts that have been made along the way.
What to Do With Your Short Script
Okay, so — you’ve written your short script. Now what?
Enter It Into a Competition, Fellowship, or Festival
There are plenty of contests, fellowships, festivals, and awards that recognize the art of short films and short screenplays. Gaining traction from a short film is an excellent way to gain entry into the realm of the professional writer.
I wrote a piece about three Sundance feature films that started out as shorts that went on to screen with great success, but you don’t have to shoot for the stars to successfully screen your short film. Remember, getting into a festival is only one part of distributing your film.
Read More: Watch Now: 10 Great Sundance Short Films
Promote Your Work Online
Once you are selected for a festival, you have something to talk about. You can promote your work by:
- Writing for filmmaking blogs or trade papers
- Post behind-the-scenes content on social media
- Start sharing writing and filmmaking tips on social media
- Be active on Screenwriting Twitter and the Screenwriting Subreddit
Grow Your Filmmaking Community
Even more significantly, you can connect with other filmmakers and writers. It can feel seductive to want to screen at Sundance and ask Steven Spielberg to tweet your film, but the truth is that your fellow shorts creators at your hometown film festival are much more likely to be your peers and colleagues as you level up in your career. They are the people who will trade scripts for notes, share contest and fellowship opportunities, make introductions, and even get you hired.
Stop Reaching & Start Attracting
The most critical reason to write a short film is that it is an active way to control your own destiny. The entertainment industry is a particular field of employment where those at the top are celebrities whom the entire world desperately fawns over. Emerging creatives must fight that “pick me pick me” mindset. Competition for writing jobs is fierce and the instinct is to think that you need a gatekeeper to let you in, but the truth is that great work will do that for you.
Write your short film. Enlist a community of filmmakers to help you bring it to the screen. Share your work with others and let it speak for you. Great work attracts more opportunities. People will come to you because you will be inevitable.
A short script, that is, a compelling short script is your gateway to anything you can dream of.
And maybe, eventually — if you want to — you can turn your short into a feature (or a TV pilot).
Read More: Why You Need to Know about Film Finance if You’re Writing a Short Film Script
Shannon Corbeil is a writer, actor, and filmmaker in Los Angeles with recent appearances on SEAL Team and The Rookie. An Air Force veteran, her articles have been published in Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, and Military.com. She has written and produced hundreds of digital videos with millions of views. You can read more about her on her website or come play on Instagram and Twitter!