Thursday, February 13, 2014

12 min Short Film Structure

Page 1-3 (setup rules of the world and get the protagonist on their “quest”)
Page 1
  • Start with something that hooks the audience in first 4th of a page (can be over credits or just one image) (makes the audience want to keep watching and promises it will be worth their time) (this is VERY important for internet viewers because they will click away in less than 20 seconds I kid you not)
  • Touch on the “rules” of the world (give the audience a feel for what the short will be about, this just needs to give them a feeling of what the “world” is like)
  • Introduce the main character and establish clearly what type of person this is.
  • Touch on the theme of the story
  • Have some irreversible interest that hints or sets up the dramatic question 
Page 2
  • Can set up more of the “rules” of the world.
  • Catalyst of the story (the “action” gets going/inciting incident/clear and simple dramatic question) 
Page 3
  • Show the main character having some difficulty starting the “quest” or at least hint at the difficulty (Establish the dilemma that the character has in doing the “quest”)
  • Set up potential fight - Make sure the main antagonist is established by now (if not sooner) and the protagonist and antagonist are aware of each other and that only one can “win” (of course the antagonist can be another character or a force or even the “dark side” of the protagonist)  

Pages 4-6 (Resolution Attempts, Approach, “fun” part of the story, difficult but it’s not as “serious” yet, explore and show the premise)

Pages 4
  • The protagonist starts on his “quest”
  • Theme is explored further
Page 5
  • The antagonist and protagonist “cross swords” for the first time. They start actually duking it out (if they haven’t already) the result is the protagonist realizes the “strength” of the antagonist. (Tension increases)
Page 6
  • The protagonist gains some ground, or has a temporary or false victory

Pages 7-9 (things get serious and the protagonist is broken down)
Page 7
  • The protagonist loses ground
  • The antagonist gets the upper hand
Page 8
  • The antagonist has a temporary or false “win”
  • The crisis of the dilemma comes to a head (the character has to chose a side in the dilemma)
Page 9
  • “All is lost”, feel of death, dark night of the soul, losing heart
  • The protagonist makes a realization that helps them (relates to the theme and the dilemma)

Pages 10-12 (finale/final “fight”, the most drama or “energy”)
Page 10
  • The protagonist gets a second wind and bounces back.
Page 11
  • Finale (the final “fight” between the antagonist and protagonist)
  • Climax (peek intensity of whole short)
Page 12
  • Dramatic Answer/Resolution
  • End with a twist or a button or some cool final image that the audience leaves with (a little reminder to the audience that this was worth 15 mins of their life and that they want to share this film with others)

  • The script doesn’t have to religiously stick to this. You may have to do many drafts before it fits into this structure. Film festival shorts (standard length) and web-isodes are both no longer than 14 mins (not including credits) so all these elements needs to fit into roughly 10- 13 pages. 12-13 pages of script can likely turn into 14 mins of film so aim lower. (unless you tend to write a lot of the action out in detail but generally its better to go shorter to allow room to play with pacing)
  • The story can be about anything and have these elements. The elements will just be relative to the story you want to tell.
  • start with a strong story engine more info
  • make sure there is one clear protagonist and one clear antagonist More info
  • a dilemma is not necessary but it gives the story weight. Not every film has one but every award winning film has a strong dilemma. More info

For more info see this:

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