Storytelling || Your Next Short Film Script

Storytelling Notes

Script Writing Short Films



  1. The “Three Scenes” Rule. I’d try to keep it to three, well thought out and spiritually significant scenes. Don’t waste an opportunity on camera to tell a story with trying to say too much in a short amount of time. K.I.S.S. Each moment. Each scene should stand on its own in a short film. Take the three most important moments and elaborate on those and connect those to the overall point you’re trying to make. Three visually powerful, spiritually powerful and even emotionally emotive moments will help as a great starting point.
  1. Describe the Characters. Give us visual descriptions of who they are, what they look like. When reading this script – read it from the perspective of an actor looking for all of the clues and direction necessary in order for them to recreate the role the way that you want it recreated. Emotional clues, visual clues, psychological clues, etc.
  1. Slow down a bit. Take your time with the scene. Don’t be in a rush to get us through it and onto the next moment. Allow yourself to explore the moment. Great story telling is about the little tiny details. This is where you can flex your creative muscles and tell the story from your very unique perspective. If you try to tell the story from a larger overall arc, well anyone can do that – however; when you focus on the details that’s when the story becomes yours. Notice when someone hears a story (it can be the same story told to 5 different people) but what happens is that they filter the story through their own mind / personality / emotions / creativity and the same story is told 5 different ways. FIND YOUR WAY.
  1. SHOW DON’T TELL. Take every opportunity possible to show us the action, show us the drama, show us the suspense, show us the horror. When you tell the audience, whether via dialogue or descriptive details, you somewhat insult the audience by suggesting they’re not smart enough to get it themselves. Help the audience member feel clever by showing them clues that allow them to come to their own conclusions. NOTE: obviously the visual (shown not told) clues need to be manipulated in such a way that although the viewer is coming to their own personal conclusions, they’re directly in line with your original vision (although altered by an individuals personality). Jesus would always DEMONSTRATE all of his teachings. He was amazing at showing us, in parables, the importance of the Kingdom and what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, via very visual stories with moral teachings. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matt 13:44). Close your eyes and see this come to life. Not only do you get the visual representation, but at the same exact time, Jesus is revealing a divine hidden truth that’s embedded into the scene – more than words could ever explain is being visually embedded into the heart of every person with ears to hear!
  1. Take your time developing dialogue. It’s important!! Scripture suggests that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks… (Luke 6:45 & Matthew 12:34). That means that what’s coming out of your character is what’s stored in their hearts (ie. What they spend their time contemplating, what they look at, what they read, what they talk about, what they dream of, what they eat, what scares them, what excites them, what angers them, the friends they keep, the conversations they have with those friends, etc.) Remember, the heart contains the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). And so what we see in a character when they speak is WHO / WHY they are.We must know a character INSIDE and out before they speak. Because what we’re saying, what we write dialogue is more than their thoughts – essentially it’s who they are. And if that doesn’t match up with their description – or the Character’s goals within a given scene – then there’s going to be a disconnect between what’s happening and what the viewer is understanding / receiving. EVERY WORD that comes out of their mouth is UNIQUELY important. Each vowel, each syllable is a window into their soul, will and emotions.
  1. Read your script out loud to someone else. This will help you step outside of our own heads and hear what you’re putting down on paper. If you feel uneasy, or feel you have to explain something to someone that you’re reading out loud – above and beyond what’s written on the paper – then make a note and FIX that. The actor / director / producer / whoever reads this, is not going to have you there to explain to them what’s happening. If the language is confusing, fix it. If the scene isn’t really quite making sense, fix it. If your verb tenses are incorrect, fix them. But often times, the only way you’re going to catch this, is if you’re reading it out loud to yourself. Or better yet… if someone else is reading it out loud to you!As they read it… you’ll be able to hear what parts they fixate on. What parts they pause on. What parts they get stuck on. What parts they like and what parts they don’t like. Make note and fix it according to how you want them to react, think or feel.