Monday, July 1, 2013

The long game of short films

Looking for a way to break into Hollywood? Pro writers have taken a variety of paths: Querying, interning, PAing, mailrooming, fellowshipping. But there's no guarantee that any particular path will work for you, and if you're itching to get away from the computer screen and make a movie, it might be time to consider a crazy option: actually making a movie.

It's expensive to produce an entire feature - so how about a short film?

Short films have been an avenue for aspiring filmmakers to showcase their chops - writers included. And now, with remarkable new and accessible camera technology, crowdfunding sites Indiegogo and Kickstarter, and web hosting platforms like Vimeo, YouTube, and the fledgling new IndieFlix (think "Netflix" for independent projects), there's never been a better time to get into the short film game. If you don't want to direct the script, you'll need to find a director, but beyond that - one short piece worthy of festival showings could become your calling card and do wonders for your exposure.

Here are two examples of writers who experienced success with the short film path:

--Dan Goforth and Margie Kaptanoglu jumpstarted their careers not with a hot spec, but with festival love their short films garnered.

--Kaleb Lechowski, a writer and animator whose sci-fi short, R'ha, has already attracted a crop of Lucasfilm talent ready to expand it into a feature.

Whether you write a gritty micro drama, comedy sketch, or a blockbuster-sized proof-of-concept, there's another factor to consider as a writer working and collaborating at the grassroots level: more creative control. Shawn Christensen, already a working screenwriter in the studio system, took a quick reprieve to write, direct, and star in Curfew, a charming dramatic short that won an Oscar last year. When asked why Christensen made a short after already having a feature career on the rise, he replied, "so I can have control over my writing."

So - where to begin? Sadly, writing a short film doesn't mean you can take a shortcut through concept, character, structure and story. Here are some resources to help you started writing a short film script:

7 Rules For Writing Short Films [Raindance Film Festival]

Sundance Institute ShortsLab NYC (July 14, 2013)

Sundance Institute ShortsLab LA (August 10, 2013)


Unknown said...

Great post, Amanda. Two of my shorts can now be viewed on Youtube: and Both scripts won competitions and the films screened at major festivals, and yet they're quite different. I constantly recommend writers go the "short" route, even if like me, you don't want to make the film. I've had no problem finding filmmakers for all my shorts. They get made quickly and you get to go watch people enjoying them at festivals, plus make new filmmaker friends. Give it a try!

Amos said...

There's even more to it than that. I like to say there are two reasons to make a short: To have the short, and to have the experience of making the short. You learn so much, and you can build relationships, too. When I directed my first feature last year, my producer and I felt comfortable hiring our DP, because we had made two shorts with him. Just one example of many.