Short film ideas can be made for significantly less money than features, increasing their chances of being produced. One of the reasons The Film Fund offers funding contests for short films is that it is easier to help filmmakers get their film made than if they attempted to create a feature. 

Writing short films takes a very specific skill set. With a limited production and narrative scope, knowing how to write a short film starts with carefully curating your ideas. But how do you come up with short film ideas that can be brought to life?

In this blog, we will take a look at some of the things you can look to for inspiration, as well as how to ensure your story is equipped for the challenges of short filmmaking.

Looking For Short Film Idea Inspiration

When coming up with a short film idea, there are several factors to consider on the production side. However, no film ever starts without a story, and no story ever starts without inspiration. Here are a few different examples of inspiration you may find in your life to spark your short film idea:

Your Life

Many successful filmmakers and storytellers share the same simple rule, “Write what you know.” There is no doubt that pulling inspiration from your daily life, whether it is something in your routine or a person you may know, is the easiest way to connect with your story on a personal level. Inspiration for your short film idea may come from many different forms.

When looking for inspiration from your life, take time to observe things or people you may not normally observe as closely. Take note of specific traits or places that may inspire you. And never be afraid to be truthful. Often the most powerful stories are the ones where the filmmaker’s voice and life powerfully shine through.

And don’t be afraid to change things! Taking inspiration from your life doesn’t have to mean telling an autobiographical life story. Changing things for narrative or dramatic effect can oftentimes take a part of your life that is otherwise mundane and turn it into something special. So use your imagination!

Current Events

We live in a crazy time! Look just about anywhere these days and you might see something that is a story worth telling. Whether you are making a short documentary or a short narrative film, inspiration can be found all around you.

Look for news that has to be explained in detail, and form a plot. Making a short film about a subject people may already know about might make it easier for the viewer to relate to the subject. Or, if the viewer hasn’t heard of the topic, it may bring to light a new view on something they weren’t previously exposed to. Writing about current events is a great way to come up with a short film idea.

Your Favorite Media

Many filmmakers look to their favorite media for inspiration. In fact, George Lucas based Star Wars on many of his favorite Flash Gordon movie serials and Japanese Samurai films. While no one is saying you have to go make the next Star Wars, you could take inspiration from your favorite films, TV shows, or other mediums. While you should always be cognizant of not ripping off another filmmaker’s work, maybe you take inspiration from certain characters, genres, themes, cinematography, etc.

Showcasing one of these inspirations in your short film might actually give you time to flesh out a topic or inspiration that you may find interesting, despite a short film’s shorter runtime. That is because your short film ideas can be hyper-focused on a specific topic, character, or theme, whereas a feature must spend more time covering more things and may not be as well equipped to dive deeper into a specific subject.

Your Imagination

Don’t be afraid to make it up! As a filmmaker, your imagination is your most important tool. So be as creative as possible. If something doesn’t exist, make it exist in your short film.

Tips For Developing Your Short Film Idea

Someone typing on a laptop

Once you have an idea for your short film, your job is only just beginning. Turning your movie idea into a short film takes a lot of work. So how can you be sure you are staying on track? Here are a few tips you can use to be sure you’re properly developing your short film idea:

Develop A Routine

Forming a routine and working at a time where you can think without any disturbance is a good way to get inspired to write a short film idea. Usually, the best time to create these ideas is either in the morning or at night. Working in the morning is a good idea because your mind is fresh.

Think About The Medium Of Film

The best short films (and films in general) always take advantage of the medium.

If you can find a way to write a short film that is deeply dependent on editing techniques, clever sound design, film grammar, and storytelling then you will have something to take to festivals and elsewhere that pleases the viewers.

Find Inspiring Locations

Shoot where you live or work. These are film locations that are easily accessible and cheap to use — or, better yet, free. In either case, you’ll need to use a film location form template to fully secure your location.

You’re probably closer than you think to a unique location full of narrative possibilities.

Visualize Your Film

Have a great idea for a short film sequence in your head? Maybe you shouldn’t ask yourself how to write a short film, but rather how to create a storyboard instead.

Creating a storyboard and building your short film ideas around one sequence can yield not only a great script but something producible, as you can show your team of creatives exactly what you’re thinking.

You can either do this by hand or use storyboard software that’ll do the heavy-lifting for you.

Keep It Simple

For short films, it’s often better that the concept is something extremely simple. Stop thinking about complex plot lines and characters, and instead try building a film around a simple idea.

Conclusion

There are many different ways you can develop your short film idea. Look around your life for inspiration, and remember these important tips when writing your next short film.

Don’t forget to check out our very own pitching competition for the chance to win up to $10,000 in funding for your short film.

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