The Ultimate Short Film Screenwriting Guide

The Ultimate Short Film Screenwriting Guide

short film script can be many things.  It can be a calling card, a proof of concept, a competition winner, an artistic expression and, of course, a short film.  The obvious goal of any short screenplay is to become a short film but we’ll get to that.  Whether you are planning to produce your screenplay or not, you still have to write something worth producing.

Tackling short film scripts can be intimidating.  After all, completing a short film is a tough task and even if you do finish it, the festival circuit is incredibly competitive.  The competition is equally fierce in short screenplay contests.  But seriously, if you’re focused on these things, your screenplay is doomed before you type FADE IN…

Don’t think about what your screenplay may become at first.  Focus on writing something you can be proud of.  Write a short film that will resonate with readers.  Write something memorable.  Write something amazing!

That doesn’t sound so hard does it?  It shouldn’t matter what challenges lie ahead.  What should matter most is the story you want to tell.

Right now, your challenge isn’t getting a short film into festivals or winning competitions.  Your challenge is to tell a good story.

XTRA SPARK: The 15 Platinum Rules of Screenwriting

In the beginning, developing a short screenplay is the same as developing a feature length script.  You need a general idea of what you story is.  Create a logline to build off of.  Next you can expand it into an outline.  If you choose to expand your idea even further you can write a treatment.

The next step is crucial, painful, groundbreaking, frustrating, inspiring, complex, simple and FUN all at once.  So take a deep breath and JUST WRITE IT.

Below you’ll find a ton of articles and resources written to help you write better short screenplays.  Included amongst these screenwriting resources are articles focused on what makes great short films.  They are full of great tips you can work backwards from.  Explore them all and get inspired!

Found an article that belongs in this collection?  Comment with a link below.

MUST READ | The Screenwriter’s Bible


Indievelopment: Making a Short Film – Which Script to Film? | Script Magazine

Character Depth In A Short Film | John August

Scripting A Short Film | John August

Top 10 Tips For Writing A Short Screenplay | The Black Board (View more advice here.)

What About Story Structure For A Short Film? | Go Into The Story

Writing A Short Film From Instinct To Formula | Screen Craft

10 Rules For Writing A Successful Short Script  | Filmmaker IQ

Why You Should Write A Short Film Screenplay | Script Magazine

Learn How Successful Short Films Structure Their Story | CG Director

Writing Short Films: What Is The Point? | The Story Department

The Short Guide to Making an Awesome Short – Part 1: Scripting  | Film Shortage

Writing The Short Film | Gideon’s Screenwriting Tips

7 Rules For Writing Short Films | Raindance

Ask the Screenplay Doctor: To Write or Not Write … a Short Screenplay |  New England Film

Award Winning Story Structure For Film Festivals | Script Magazine

Short Screenplays – Structure | Ruth Atkinson

Short Screenplays – Character | Ruth Atkinson

Writing the short film: Making it something special | IFP

Writing The Short Screenplay | Suite 101

More Tips For Writing Short Screenplays | Suite 101

3 Tips That Will Help You Come Up With Short Film Ideas | The Necessary Theater

8 Top Tips For Writing A Great Short Film | Projector Films

Short Film Script Writing – Keep It Fresh | Indiegogo Blog

The Short Film Is Dead: Time For The Emerging Filmmaker To Get A New Calling Card | No Film School

7 Short Film Screenwriting Tips & Other Life Lessons | Dare My Truth

Tips To Writing A Short Screenplay | Sure Exposure

Writing A Short Film Script | DeviantArt

How To Write An Effective Screenplay For A Short Film | Wiki How

Making A Good Short Screenplay Great | Mdtabish

Writing The Smart Short Film | The Script Lab

Tips For Writing Short Screenplays | Hub Pages

8 Rules For Writing Short Films | Shutter Speed & Aperture

How To Write A Short Film | Suite 101

Make A Short Film? | Scriptwriting In The U.K

The Agony Of Short Film Writing | Movie Outline

3 Keys To Writing A Great Short Screenplay | Screen Craft

What Directing Short Films Taught Me About Writing Short Screenplays | The Screenwriting Spark


10 Things You Must Do To Make Your Short Film Oscar worthy | Film Industry Network

Greatness –  Why Good Isn’t Good Enough | Short of the Week

Confessions Of A Short Film Programmer | Filmmaker Magazine

Why Short Films Are Rejected from Festivals | No Film School

What Makes A Good Short Film? | BBC Film Network

Witty Or Gritty? What Ingredients Make The Best Short Films? | The Guardian

10 Tips For Short Filmmakers & Film Students | Official Screenwriting

5 Tips For A Better Short Film | Talent House

How Long Should A Short Film Be? | The Bitter Script Reader

Roman Coppola On What Makes A Good Short Film | Ideas Tap

Animation: What Makes A Good Short Film? | Scribble Junkies

Get Your Short Film Into Major Film Festivals |  The Athletic Nerd

The Short Filmmakers Guide To Short Films | IFC

Sundance Festival Programmers Reveal Secrets to Successful Submissions | Film Independent

Write, Direct, Repeat: Film Festivals and the Short Film, Part 1 | Script Magazine


While this collection of resources is a great place to start, nothing beats reading screenplays and watching short films.  YouTube, Vimeo and many movie blogs (Geek Tyrant & Film School Rejects to name a few) are absolutely overflowing with incredible shorts.  Remember, every time you hit play you’re enhancing your short film knowledge AND supporting hard working filmmakers & screenwriters.

You have access to an unlimited amount of short films.  Become a student of the craft and challenge yourself to become a better screenwriter every single day.  Your own personal College Of Short Films is a few clicks away at ALL TIMES.

Just remember:

There may be an unlimited amount of shorts out there but there are also unlimited story ideas in your own imagination.  It’s time to write them down and share them with the world!

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2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Short Film Screenwriting Guide

  1. What a tremendous collection of resources (as always). Thank you for all the work of putting this together.

    > Found an article that belongs in this collection? Comment with a link below.

    We have a few articles at The Black Board we’d love to share with your readers, too. Some of the top articles include:

    And you can find our full (and growing) collection here:

    • Absolutely! Feel free to comment with links on any of the collections here any time!

      More great resources. More inspiration!


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