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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Reviews    Script Reviews  ›  Short Scripts on SS:  A Discussion Moderators: bert
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  Author    Short Scripts on SS:  A Discussion  (currently 8343 views)
bert
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 9:13am Report to Moderator
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Here is a link to an oft-overlooked thread you might have missed:

http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?b-knowyou/m-1141227828

And I would add that anyone is free to add to the above thread at any time.


Hey, it's my tiny, little IMDb!
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Grandma Bear
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 9:19am Report to Moderator
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Thanks bert. So many good scripts there that I had forgot about.


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SS, is still free...
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leitskev
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 9:35am Report to Moderator
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I've never seen that thread, thanks Bert.

It's been over a year since anyone posted in it. Looks like it's all features too. I have kind of a fascination with shorts lately, and the idea of what a short should be. I researched it online a little last night, and found some pretty contrasting views. The most common view seems to be that a short is simply a shorter version of a feature, that it needs all the same components. But there were some other views out there that a short is a very different animal, so has very different rules.

As I was thinking this over, I had a desire to see some of the best examples of how it should be done, and knew there had to be great examples on SS. So I thought people could suggest the ones they thought fit the bill.

I think if anyone wants to voice in on what they think a short should be, whether it is a smaller version of a feature or something very different, that would be cool too. I am interested in it anyway.
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Grandma Bear
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 9:41am Report to Moderator
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There are lots of shorts listed in that thread.

you can also read all of Matias Caruso's "Mr. Z" shorts for how it should be done. Especially the 5 pager. He pretty much wins every time he enters at MP.


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bert
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 9:41am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from leitskev
It's been over a year since anyone posted in it.


You have certainly read plenty recently.  Please feel free to rectify that situation.


Quoted from leitskev
Looks like it's all features too.


Not by a long shot.  Look again.


Quoted from leitskev
I think if anyone wants to voice in on what they think a short should be, whether it is a smaller version of a feature or something very different, that would be cool too. I am interested in it anyway.


This might generate some discussion.  I have never really considered the question...



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leitskev
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 10:07am Report to Moderator
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My idea on shorts, though I am now seriously reconsidering it, has been kind of like the City Slickers philosophy. My thinking has been that a short should focus on "one" thing. A short should aim to leave you with a single lasting impression, whether that's from a really memorable image, a powerful emotion, or a really strong thematic point. Everything that happens in the story should funnel towards hammering that one thing.

If it tries to do more than that one thing, then it weakens itself, loses focus. So a lot of things you need in a feature you don't necessarily need or want in a short. The last thing you want is for it to become muddled.

I read last night where a short needs to have all the things a feature should have: you're character must really want something, and there must be some type of journey filled with obstacles, and then finally a resolution.

I'm just not sure where I stand on that. I think having all that can be important, but this was presented as though these things are necessary, and without them you don't really have a story. It seems to me that is very narrowing. To me, to the extent that those things allow a story to create that lasting impression with the audience, they are good and essential. But where they weaken that lasting the impression, they are a detriment. To me it's leaving the memorable, powerful impression that counts.

As I said, I'm really early on the learning curve, so those are my current thoughts and I will read closely the opinions of those more experienced.
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Scar Tissue Films
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 10:49am Report to Moderator
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Shorts can be anything really. They are a much freer form of art than features generally.

You can be very abstract and people are more accepting of it in a short period, whereas they get bored after 5 minutes.

Simple stories well told often work well for shorts.

The critical factor in all writing, perhaps in all forms of human endeavour is asking yourself "What are you trying to achieve?".

If you want to create the next web sensation like Annoying Orange, your goal in writing your short is very different than if you are writing it as a promo for a feature film eg SAW, or writing something to win a Golden Bear.

Some general rules:

Skit 0-3 PAGES.  This is a set up and gag punchline.

People often dismiss super shorts on here...perversely imo. If you can tell a story in 30 seconds you can make adverts. Plus there are a lot of super short competitions that pay well. Pia is very good at those.

5-15 Pages standard length.

The longer it gets, the better it needs to be. In festivals they can put in two 5 min films for your 10 minute piece, so your longer piece has to be better than all the 5 minute competiton. (The goal of a short is to be filmed ultimately, that's why I'm mentioning festivals). Tend to be one story line, often circular in nature. Start and end in the same place, with everything changed. 10 minutes plus will often introduce one subplot to juxtapose with the main story.

My favourite shorts on here (if they are still arfound) of that length are Requiem by Martin Lancaster, The Pool by Death Monkey (probably gone because they made it into quite a high budget film) and Dog Run by Phil Clarke Jr.

20 pages plus. Looking at a story that could conceivably win the major awards. Massive concept, mini feature type film.



Technical considerations aside, your definition of story above is largely consistent with the traditional view of story in film in general. Film=Motion, but all Great Truths are static. Unlike other art forms to create great truths you have to put two ideas into conflict and then present a winner or an amalgamtion (there's a better word for what I mean..where two things create a better third) to reveal great truth, hence the saying Drama=Conflict.

Modernism changed a lot of those beliefs, although they've become by far the pre-dominant form again. The shorter timescale allows you greater leeway because people don't miss the strong narrative so much in that space of time.
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ajr
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 11:11am Report to Moderator
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My 4 favorite shorts that I've read here are "The Forgotten Christmas Tape" by Brian M, "The Chocolatier" by Alffy, "American Soil" by Screenrider, and "Santa's Sleigh Ride Saga" by Cam17. I may have Cam17's title slightly wrong - can't remember.


Click HERE to read JOHN LENNON'S HEAVEN https://preview.tinyurl.com/John-Lennon-s-Heaven-110-pgs/
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leitskev
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 12:23pm Report to Moderator
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I'm gonna take a moment to discuss shorts that quickly come to my mind, either because they influenced me, because they succeeded, or because they did not quite succeed.

First is The End by Pia:

http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?b-short/m-1303859234/

This was written under the limitation of a 5 page competition. It also could be correctly criticized as being a little too familiar, something we've all seen before. But other than that, I think it's a pretty good example of what a successful short does. There is a dilemma involved, and a horrible range of choices. The choice ultimately made is completely logical, so no real shock or twist here, and nothing to stimulate any kind of intellectual debate. But it ends with an image that is powerful and stays with you. That power is slightly lessened by the familiarity of things, but this is still a good example of how a short should work, I think.

http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?b-feb2011/m-1298739856/s-new/
The Captive

This was the "winner" of the Feb OWC. IMO this script did indeed stand tall above the other entries, despite some real logic flaws in the story. Some of that is attributed to the fine building of suspense from the outset. Other things didn't work so well, such as the attempt at character arc through the use of flashback, which only convoluted things and contributed to some logic flaws. But it succeeds because of the lasting image it leaves one with, where the protagonist takes up the mantle of the antagonist at the end.

Dreams of Dust and Marble
http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?b-short/m-1109443166/

This was very clever, and for lack of a better word, "trippy". It takes you on a strange journey through a visionary world, and I like that kind of stuff. Where this short fails is that it lacks any power, despite the fact that the subject is so serious. As you travel on this Alice in Wonderland type journey, you don't know if it's supposed to be scary, comical, or just dreamy. All three of these are present, and that makes the ending thought provoking, but without any true power, either emotionally or intellectually.

http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?b-feb2011/m-1298675792/
Them That's Dead

A popular Feb 2011 OWC entry, the writing here was not only well crafted, but the dialogue really sparked characters to life. The writing was so excellent that it definitely had an impact on me as a new writer. Where this story failed, IMO, was that it does not leave any lasting impression. I remember the pirate talk was outstanding, but I don't recall what they said. No powerful emotion or image was created, no thematic issue was touched, and the twist did not really leave a mark.

http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?b-short/m-1299796968/s-new/
Ring of Decisions

The ending leaves a lasting impression, in the vein of "be careful what you ask for!" This would probably be on my list of favorites, though it has kind of a lot of stuff in it for a short. If I had my suggestion on this, it would be to somehow reduce the number of legendary creatures to something more manageable. But the end gives it a power that heroically saves the day.


http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?b-feb2011/m-1298739476/s-new/
the Godstick

This was another extremely popular Feb OWC entry, crafted by one of the best pure writers on the site. And it is indeed extremely well crafted, with dialogue that really brings the characters to life. But like Them, this left no lasting impression with me, no powerful image or emotion. If one had to pick the key moment, I guess it would have to be when the grandfather pushes the kid in to fight the witch and save the world, but that does not leave a lasting image. So while the script is fun to read, the story I think fails on this account.

Might as well touch on my Feb entry, Lullaby. It too failed. The ending had the opportunity to create a lasting impression, but it did not because the development during the story failed to raise the emotional stakes. A boy being sacrificed by his mother should have a power to it, and this did not. One was left to observe it at a distance rather than feel the pain of the boy or his mother. While the image had potential to be memorable, the audience is too busy wondering what the heck is going on and why the mother is doing what she is. That robs this story of any potential punch, leaves us flat.

Ok, those were ones I could think of, I may think of more tonight. Thanks for contributing, this does help. Rick, the notion of films being motion that revolves around static Great Truths is very useful. Very. Others here have probably heard that before, but that's new to me.
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Scar Tissue Films
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 12:58pm Report to Moderator
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Remember that you can't win no matter what you do. Write what you like, and then find filmmakers who share similar sensibilities, and then market the finished product to people with similar sensibilities.

Look on IMDB..a film can be given 10 out of 10 by one person and 1 out of 10 by another. "some of the best dialogue I've heard!" "The dialogue was rubbish, made no sense!".

There will always be people that don't get it, so don't worry about it.

Scottish Lullaby was far, far from a failure by the way. Could it be tightened up? Probably, but it was evocative, different and intelligent.

If made there would be a lot of people saying it was rubbish, pretentious, made no sense, it wasn't horror...just like a film like Anti Christ made by one of the best living Directors got attacked by some...as though they are the custodians of what's right and wrong and what you are SUPPOSED to write or make.

On the other hand there would be those that were deeply moved by its poetry, philosophy and its gothic terror.
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crookedowl
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 12:59pm Report to Moderator
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Penny For your Thoughts, by Matthew Dressel is one of my favorite short scripts.

http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?b-short/m-1304372037/s-0/

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James McClung
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 1:02pm Report to Moderator
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I don't have a good memory for shorts. Some good ones have been mentioned here, a few some of my favorites from recent memory, but I can't remember any I'd call the greatest of all time. I've memories of being floored by a handful of scripts but I can't, for the life of me, remember them.

For the sake of interest, I'll throw out Pia's Covert Careers, Z's Numbers, Bert's Think Of Me And I'll Be There and Shelton's One Last Fix. Those are the ones that come into mind at present.

Also,


Quoted from Scar Tissue Films
Remember that you can't win no matter what you do. Write what you like, and then find filmmakers who share similar sensibilities, and then market the finished product to people with similar sensibilities.

Look on IMDB..a film can be given 10 out of 10 by one person and 1 out of 10 by another. "some of the best dialogue I've heard!" "The dialogue was rubbish, made no sense!".

There will always be people that don't get it, so don't worry about it.

Scottish Lullaby was far, far from a failure by the way. Could it be tightened up? Probably, but it was evocative, different and intelligent.

If made there would be a lot of people saying it was rubbish, pretentious, made no sense, it wasn't horror...just like a film like Anti Christ made by one of the best living Directors got attacked by some...as though they are the custodians of what's right and wrong and what you are SUPPOSED to write or make.

On the other hand there would be those that were deeply moved by its poetry, philosophy and its gothic terror.


Stellar post, friend.


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Andrew
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 1:22pm Report to Moderator
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While I agree in spirit with what you've said there, Rick, you have imbued it with an implicit message that suggests criticism of Lars von Trier is wrong, invalid or at the very least, it's a result of not getting it (i.e. not being susceptible to the qualities of poetry, philosophy). Which is ironically the same position of the "custodians" in reverse. It's far too complex a study (the appreciation of film) to express in such terms, IMO.

Everyone has an opinion and like it was said: "nobody knows anything."


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leitskev
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 1:43pm Report to Moderator
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Oh, it's true you can't win, so I am talking about my own evaluations of these scripts, including my own. I am trying to come to my own understanding of what a short should be, as indicated in the previous post. And to sum it up, it should create one powerful, memorable impression, something that stays with the audience.

I've never been to a film festival, but I am thinking if one watches a great many shorts, certainly you need something memorable to not get lost in the shuffle. So everything should be designed towards that powerful impression.

I have been trying to consider Dressel's "Penny" in that context, which I had listed as an all time favorite. Under close examination, but the criteria I just laid out, it's a little tougher to uphold my original view. There is no powerful emotion of theme involved, nothing insightful or intellectual. So that leaves image. Does it create a powerful image?

Well, we can't just say two kids at tables with pennies is powerful. But I do think there is power to this tale, though it's kind of like an impressionist painting, it's hard to put a finger on. For me, it had a Norman Rockwell quality to it. The fact that the kid was paying from his table, instead of making money, gave it a quirkiness that makes it memorable. If this was made any longer, it would not work for me, and probably could be shorter, but as it is, it works for me at creating a lasting impression. I suspect if you ask me about this short a couple of years from now, I will still remember it and the basic image and plot, and that means it has a certain hard to define power. Something was truly created, and I would actually say captured. I suspect if this film were well made, and one saw it among a hundred shorts at a festival, this would at least be one they would remember.

Phil's vampire short about the guy and his wife leaves a memorable image. The resolution is different than what one would expect in these type films. That one actually probably needs to be lengthened and expanded a bit to add to its power.

For myself, this is what I want my shorts to be, and want to learn: to give them the power to leave one lasting impression. I think I came closer with my last short, but I probably need more distance from the writing to evaluate better.

Hopefully some powerful short links will be posted here for ones I haven't seen.
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wonkavite
Posted: May 18th, 2011, 7:58pm Report to Moderator
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Okay, a few of my favorites, to date:

        Someplace Dark

       Salvage

       Roly Poly

       Linus (Dog Run)

      Just Coffee

      The God Stick

      The Station

Of course, there's a ton I *haven't* read yet...so this list is far from comprehensive.  

      I'd give a nod to Pugumentary, too, but fear being deemed biased.  

Not saying that these scripts are necessarily perfect.  But they're each satisfying and organic in their own way.

Admittedly, there's still a vast amount of shorts still to read.  And thanks to this thread, I've got a chance to cherry pick some of the better ones!  

BTW: a casual reader of this post might comment that I'm leaning rather heavily towards 'dog oriented' scripts.  Maybe true - in part - but if the scripts weren't great in regards to several other criteria, I wouldn't include them!

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