Understanding the Underlying Principles of the Short Film

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The Palgrave Handbook of Screen Production, 2019, pp. 49 - 60
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This chapter explores the types of story possible within short films, and how often there can be confusion and uncertainty, particularly amongst student filmmakers, about what a short film really is. In order to better understand this, this chapter outlines a series of underlying principles about short film story design that, we argue, are integral to the initial stages of conceiving such films. Before script development takes place, we argue that realistic thinking about what the short film can deliver in terms of story, characters, scope and dramatic question, will result in a screen work that is not only feasible for student filmmakers to produce, but is also more likely to increase an audience’s emotional engagement with the film. Drawing on a range of multi-award-winning contemporary short films to illustrate these principles, we discuss the relationship between content and form in this genre, leading to a better understanding of the parameters within which a student filmmaker might work. While not presenting these parameters as strict and unbreakable, we argue that knowing what has worked well for others, and what audiences expect from the short film form, provides a solid basis from which to begin conceptualising a short film.
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