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20 Ways to Come up with Good Short Film Ideas

By Cecilia Hwung | Last Update:

Short films, aka short-length films, are different from full-length feature films that possess lengthy hours. Short films, that carry a great deal of information in one shot are like short film stories. You are the director, producer, and storyteller of contents you want to share. Although sounds easy, the process of making a good short film may be more back-breaking than you ever think.

Photo by Sofy

Just like "Great oaks from little acorns grow", the production of an impressive short film may grow from a small idea. That's where this post comes in - we aim at helping you generate fancy ideas from soup to nuts. And here's a checklist for you to come up with compelling short film ideas.

Short Film Preparation Ideas

Short Film Preparation Ideas
Short film length, budget ideas

How Long Should Short Films Be

According to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, "A short film is defined as an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits." It is suggested that the sweet length for a short film should start from 3 minutes but do not exceed 40 minutes. If the length is shorter than 3 minutes, you may lose some thoughts on the content. On the contrary, when being longer than 40 minutes, the content may be considered as a feature film and the lengthy duration may risk losing your audience. The first step to a successful short film is to adopt the length that fits the story you want to tell.

The Budget on Short Films

Normally speaking, a short film won't cost you a big budget. A video camera, a tripod, a camera light, a light reflector, some kits, a computer, a piece of good editing software, etc. That's all needed to start producing a short film. If you have a tight budget, however, you can DIY tools you need, adore scenes by yourself, even create some special effects for your short film with post-production, all of which can save you up.

Brainstorm for Short Film Ideas

Brainstorm for Short Film Ideas
Short film type and where to get inspirations

Think About the Short Film Type

The genre of the short film is basic. Make full imagination of the genre that you are going to film. Be it a horror or a comedy, a romance or a tragedy, a drama or an action, you name it. If you want to create a twist on the short film, you can then mix the type. The sudden twist of a short film can take your audience by surprise. For instance, the story may start with romance but ends in tragedy.

Get Inspirations from Media

If you don't have a clue on what to film, why not take inspirations from the media? Watch classic movies, read from newspapers, magazines, novels, interesting books, or listen to music, etc. Learn from examples of the best ever, get inspired by them. For instance, if you are a big fan of Friends, you can take down some lines from the episode you desire, and brainstorm for ideas that you can film. Wrap them up, then try to tell a story in a few scenes.

Squeeze Ideas from Your Own Life

Think about events happening in your life. Look around, your life consists of stories: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, etc., too many happy hours that you can benefit scopes from. Whenever you observe something interesting to film, try to build up a story based on it. Even your routine day can be made up of a full story. You may think that your day seems ordinary, but it isn't. Try to discover the unnoticed excitement lying beneath the indifferent customs. Plus, you can date back to the old times, and see how can you get inspired by your experiences. You can even start your story with a flashback scene.

Short Film Content Ideas

Short Film Content Ideas
Short film content ideas

Outdoor Activities

When thinking about how to create good contents for short films, you could decipher ideas from outdoor activities that you engage in. Biking, hiking, fishing, sailing, skiing, skydiving, horse riding, and many more outdoor recreational sports activities could be a part of your short film content idea.

Travel Time

Travelling can always bring you unexpected surprises. The local food, costumes, dialects, etc. can be the source of your short film content idea as well. When you are on a trip, remember to capture some scenes of those quality hours you spent, in case you want to create a short film about the flashback.

A Transformation

When you are on a diet in order to lose some weight, or you are shaping your outfit through exercises, you can create a short film of the before and after. If you are a beauty makeup blogger, you can film the content that you with and without any makeups and how your look changed with cosmetics applied to your face bit by bit. Given that the transformation can be made from the inner side, you can think about things that have changed and remodelled you in a significantly way, then create a short film about the conversion.

Share Your Opinions on a Topic

When you find something new to share, be it a hot topic or your point of view on the trendy news, you may consider making it the content of your short film. First, imagine a subject, think about what can you say about that subject. Second, use valid facts as many as possible to support your point of views. Third, create a short film that shares your concerns about it.

Short Film Script Ideas

Short Film Script Ideas
Short film script ideas

Specify Characters

Characters are the key to short film script ideas. The very first step to a good short film script is to make it clear that how many characters are there in your screenplay. State clearly the protagonist, antagonist, and all characters that are going to come out in your plot. Analyze their characteristics in an initial way.

Make the Script Practical

When creating the short film script, don't make the plot too big to be worked out. Remember this: you are making short films rather than feature films, so you don't need to overthink it. You don't have to use complicated techniques to feature a scene. For short films, it'd be better if you depict the scene in a practically way.

Create Conflicts

Conflicts are always welcomed for visual content. The conflicts between different parties can invest entertainment in your short film, making it more appealing to viewers. Try to flip the concept and take your audience by surprise.

Make a Detailed Screenplay with Narrations

As you have made a rough analysis before, now you can write down the monologue, dialogue of each character in full verses. Build up the characters' personalities with details as if you bring them to life. Draft lines attribute to his appearance, gesture, etc. If you want to demonstrate the dark side of one character, you may need to write down sentences to show the flaws of his nature. Also, don't forget to write down words you want them to show up in your short film, e.g. subtitles, voice-overs, etc.

Everything that Bumps into Your Mind

Sometimes you may get stuck in the middle of somewhere, worry not, get yourself full ready to capture the idea in a prompt moment. Whenever an idea strikes and no matter what, you can scribble down several lines on the paper, or you can grab your phone up and type in words via your phone notes.

Short Film Shooting Scenes Ideas

Short Film Shooting Scene Ideas
Easy-access-to places for short film shooting ideas

When you get started to short film shootings, consider starting with an easy-to-access place. There are many locations that you can use without paying a dime.

A Well-Illuminated Room

Yes, you don't hear me wrong. Find a well-illuminated room, and you can start the short film shooting. If you are making a short film for students, you can have a whiteboard and write down several tips on that board, then record the whole instruction process.

The Backyard of Your House

The backyard of your house can be another great place for short film scenes shooting. It covers a wide area of places, and the plants growing outside may help decorate the footage to some extent.

Some Abandoned Places

If you plan on a horror short film or a thriller, you can go exploring a place like a deserted warehouse. Or, you can go into the forest and start a short adventure.

Short Film Editing Ideas

VideoProc Vlogger

VideoProc Vlogger
VideoProc Vlogger

Compatible OS: Windows, Mac

VideoProc Vlogger is a piece of one-stop video editing software. Within it, you can do basic video editing jobs, like add subtitles, cut/trim clips, merge, crop to different dimension sizes, etc. Besides, it can also give your creativity free rein with its advanced editing features, including motion crop, adding transition/filter/effects, audio editing, color correcting and grading, etc. All short film editing ideas you require for can be well handled in this versatile video editing program. Most importantly, you can access all these features free of charge. No watermarks, no more maximum exporting file size, and no more exporting time limit.

Adobe Premiere

Adobe Premiere Pro
Adobe Premiere Pro

Compatible OS: Windows, Mac

Adobe Premiere is a professional video editing software that packs in loads of advanced editing features. Short film intro/outro scenes, transition effects, can be created in it. It is worth noting that Adobe Premiere may not be intuitive to use at first sight, and raw beginners may need to watch tutorials when they get started to use it.

DaVinci Resolve

DaVinci Resolve 16
DaVinci Resolve

Compatible OS: Windows, Mac, Linux

DaVinci Resolve is another professional video editor. It is specially designed for color grading and color correction. If you don't get satisfied with the light and color, you can import your short film clips in it and fine-tune the parameters to the greatest extent. Better yet, DaVinci Resolve is capable of making visual effects. If you are using its free edition, it is worth noting that the free edition doesn't support UHD video resolution and frame rate higher than 60 FPS, you need to make a purchase on its commercial version. Read on this in-depth review of DaVinci Resolve.

About The Author

Cecilia Hwung is the marketing manager of Digiarty Software and the editor-in-chief of the VideoProc team. She pursues common progress with her team and expects to share creative content and useful information with readers. She has a strong interest in copywriting and rich experience in editing tips.

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