Short Films are beautiful little screen gems that can make you laugh, cry or teach you something about yourself. Unfortunately, the bad ones are cliche and teach you nothing but shit. So, what’s not shit?
First, no boundary is drawn as to what short films should be. Writers should understand that short films can be as weird and varied as the molecules floating around the universe, each with their own spin, drive and narrative path linked by a common thread — conflict!
All short films should contain dramatic conflict. It usually goes along the lines of: someone wants something (for this reason), but someone else gets in the way (for that reason).
Personally, I like Robert McKee’s ideas on conflict, they can bring focus to the parent / child conflicts running through your story: Inner, Personal and Extra-Personal.
- A parent conflict is the overarching conflict that drives your character. It can be elementary or fundamental. Part of the plot or the plot.
- The child conflict is a conflict that arises from the parent or the consequences of, or from, the parent conflict.
Remember that conflicts need to escalate.
It may sound a little complicated but when you start writing, the answers will surprisingly become apparent.
There are also the 7-main plot conflicts that are said to represent any story:
- Human vs. Self
- Human vs. Human
- Human vs. Nature
- Human vs. Environment
- Human vs. Technology
- Human vs. Supernatural
- Human vs. God
Either parent or child conflicts will contain something along the lines of the above. I believe writers should at least try to weave a variety of conflicts into their stories using each child conflict.
Short cartoons are excellent teachers for those wanting to write short films. Think Looney Tunes or more recently Batman: The Brave and The Bold and Adventure Time – programs of two 10 minute blocks packed with so much content and dramatic conflict that you always come away with a lesson learned.
Check them out! I noticed Batman follows the standard superhero show formula, while Adventure Time is much more experimental in its offerings so you get a bit more out of it.
Anyway, that’s my two quid on shorts. Go! Write!