How to Write a Script for a Short Film: An 8-Step Guide

There are thousands of writers in Canada who have dreams of writing a feature-length film. While admirable, this goal is often unrealistic. With so many aspiring young screenwriters focusing on feature-length scripts, the competition is extremely fierce.

You have a much better shot at breaking into the industry with short films. Not only are fewer screenwriters focusing on this category, but you can also get much-needed practice through them, which could make your eventual feature-length script knock the socks off of Hollywood executives.

Most of what you know about writing feature-length movies can also be applied for short films. But this style of filmmaking has a bunch of specific rules that you must learn to write like Damien Chazelle and James Wan, both superstar directors who got their start in the world of short films.

Guest author Michelle Thomas has put together a short but useful guide outlining eight simple steps on how to get your short film script done quickly. Find out more about Michelle Thomas.

1. Watch a lot of short films

The best way to get a sense of how short films are different is by watching a lot of them. Luckily, it is easy to find short films over the internet.

You can check out websites such as for great short films that can help inform how you write your own short films in the future.

You can also use sites such as YouTube or Vimeo to look for short films.

2. Outline the short films you watch

Outline the short films you watch
Outline the short films you watch

To get a feel for how short films "move" in terms of story, you can outline the short films you watch. Outlining reveals how a short film's director parcels out information, and how they ensure that each minute is used meaningfully.

3. Read scripts for short films

There are dozens of databases online for short film scripts. One good resource is the NYU/Tisch Short Screenplay Bank, which contains a variety of short film scripts from some of the best film school students in the US.

4. Look for inspiration

Short films are great for expressing intense bursts of creativity. How can you get ideas worth expressing in a short film?

Be mindful of what you experience every day and look for interesting concepts that you can use to build a script on. There's no real rule to what subjects make for great short films, so just keep your eyes open and be ready to act when inspiration does strike.

This might sound like a crazy idea but take a break from script writing and do something that relaxes you. A lot of Canadians like playing casino online games in their free time. Betsafe casino is a great place for you to find betsafe bonuses and betsafe casino online games that will give your brain a break from the writing and hopefully bring you back with a new set of ideas.

5. Know why you're writing your screenplay

Your screenplay obviously matters to you. But how can you translate that into something that matters to other people? If you are clear about what you want to express, you get a better shot at convincing others to spend time on your short film.

6. Focus on moments

Because of the short run time, a short film's success often hinges on "moments" that last with viewers well past the end credits.

Always look for a "hook" that compels viewers to keep on watching.

Any subject can be made interesting if you frame it correctly. If your main character is, say, a professional gambler, it may be difficult to grab the attention of non-gamblers outright.

One way you can bring viewers into your world is by going into specifics that help them get in touch with the character.

7. Create your outline

Use your practice on outlining other people's scripts to create an outline for your script. Use specific locations and summaries in your early drafts to make it easier for you to fill in the gaps later.

8. Write the first draft

It is important to keep writing even if things aren't coming together as you might have planned. Finishing a first draft, no matter how incomplete it is, is a massive step that you must get over before you move to the next phase.

Don't worry if your first draft isn't all that good, as revising is a much easier process than writing down a first draft.


The most important instruction that we can give you is to start without overthinking things. The final piece of advice we can give you is not to be too harsh on yourself and always make sure you complete your script, no matter how bad you think it is. Then just follow your instinct and see how it goes from there.

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