How to Make a Good Short Film – Short Film Making

Good Short film

During the recent Malhaar Film Festival, 40+ short films had been featured from all over the world, based on the theme ‘lockdown’, out of some 400+ submissions. Let me tell you, we had to shed a lot of tears in the process of selecting the final films. There were some short films that were such amazing cinematic gems, that they could make multiple rounds at film circuits. And yet, we could not select them. The sole reason: They were off-theme.

But that is not to say that the final short films were not that good. In fact, some short films were so good that they literally moved the judges to tears. 

So what was it that sets the good short filmmakers apart? What is it about certain angles and certain effects or storytelling devices that make a great short film? What tips should amateurs follow to make a great short film?

Here is a summary of all the answers that we got from the directors of nearly 100 great films of the Malhaar Film Festival.

Never cast non-actors:

You may think that a short film doesn’t really need actors. Well, that is true, if you don’t want your film to be good, that is.

Do not cast a relative or acquaintance for your short film, unless they are professional actors. Performances are just as important as the script. Similar to Scripts for Feature Films, bad actors can destroy a good short script too. 

If the performances are bad, viewers can see it from a mile away. And then, all it takes to gun down a good short film is one bad review. Do not gamble the success of your short film like that, just because you did not wish to invest a little more because of a short script.

Hold auditions for actors. See who will fit the role. You may not find the person who matches your vision exactly but try.

Keep a short film short:

The greatest asset of a short film is its length. Don’t take away their greatest asset. Keep it as short as possible. The trick is in the editing. 

The great thing about a short film is that they give a good story in a few minutes. It is a joyride that doesn’t need a lot of time investment. 

Try to keep it under 5 minutes. That is the ideal length.

Compelling script:

This goes without saying. 

Whether it is a short film or a feature-length film, you have to find a good story for the short.

Amateur filmmakers feel that a film can be made in any situation. You need to give a film to the audience that will have enough reason for them to share it ahead in their network. For that to happen, you need to wow the audience, something that will keep them hooked till the end. It can happen only when there’s a story well captured in a script and the script itself has woven each part of the story, seamlessly. 

How does this happen? 

Think of a film that you cannot stop talking about. Write down, why you cannot stop talking about it. And some of that will definitely be coming out of a good script that the film had. Try to look at your script from those insights.

Practise Direction:

If you are an amateur and still can’t work around a camera, then the mantra for you practises, practise and practise. 

Record simple stuff. Like two professionals having an intense discussion about lack of growth. Or a woman gardening with great caution. Edit or get the recording edited by someone more experienced than you so that they can add value on edit. Once done, show the cut to a new person and ask them what is going on. Keep doing it over and over again, till you get feedback that makes it complete for you. Do the same process for another concept. You are mastering your skills as a director, keep sharpening from one content to another. 

You don’t need a full script to practise. Recording basic stuff will help you in self-improvement and self-evaluation.

Shoot with a professional quality camera

Do not underestimate the quality of cinematography just because it is a short film. Pay equal attention to the cinematic quality because a good film made of a good script with good visuals makes your film that much effective. 

In the age of technology, just a few extra bucks are enough to get you a professional quality camera, such as a Panasonic Lumix or a Canon EOS Rebel.

Use simple audio tracks 

To cut the ambience sound or to highlight an emotion, usage of the right sound is critical. However, unless you record all sorts of sounds around you, you would be just assuming.

So, what do you say? About ready to shoot an amazing, superior quality, short film?

Go ahead….If it is a good story, worth telling, then let the world see it too.