On average, the cost of making a short film is around $500.00 per minute of completed film.
It takes about an hour to film one page of a script (if it’s at one location).
For a five to ten page script, you would need at least one full, ten hour day for firming.
A short film with a running time of five minutes will cost between $2,500 to $3,000.
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The Shorter the Better
A short film can be anything from fifteen seconds to forty five minutes in length. Make your short film script as short as possible because the shorter the short, the less costly it will be to produce. Of course, digital technology frees up filmmakers, yet time still costs money, so does feeding a hungry crew. If you shoot too fast your short film might end up looking amateurish.
It has to be cheap but shouldn’t LOOK cheap! Plus, if you want to get your short into a festival, then keep it to no more than ten minutes, which is usually 7-8 pages maximum. Why? Because if your short film is longer, it will eat up a longer slot and festivals love to play as many shorts as possible! You can also create real emotion in just a few minutes.
Keep the Practicalities of Writing in Mind
The great thing about writing short films is that they can be anything since you don!’ have studio execs on your tail. However, don’t discard the practicalities of writing your script. I have read scripts with pages of chase-action scenes and car crashes, and many writers seem not to realize how time consuming it would be to actually shoot. In fact, see the writing of a short as an opportunity to become more aware of what each line you put down on paper implies and costs.
Make It Visual
“Film is a visual medium”. “Show, don’t tell.” Those are the golden rules of screenwriting the gurus keep telling us. Yet it’s astonishing to see how talky most scripts are. Film is about telling stories in pictures, which is the most economical way of telling a story – and when you write short films, economy is everything. Create visual backstories for your characters. Externalize through visual images their temperament, their profession, their status, etc.
Find Single Moments
The best short films are often a single moment that is played out, but one that has a story at its heart. What do I mean by story? I mean a conflict that has to be resolved, where there’s a dilemma at stake and a choice that the protagonist has to make. Strive to add a deadline, or ticking clock. It is not necessary but it will add some tension to your short film.
Tell a Story
You should always try to tell a compelling story. Beware of ideas that are concept-driven or just aim at breaking all the rules for the sake of breaking rules. Short films are a great opportunity to push the boundaries of what cinematic storytelling can do, yet they must still engage your audience emotionally. As a rule of thumb, unless it is extremely brief a short film should have a hero with a goal and an obstacle/antagonist in the way.
Engage Your Viewer
Since you have so little time to make an impression the impact of page one is crucial, just as it is crucial to hook the reader in the first 10 pages of a feature length script. What is the world of the film? Do we root for the main character? Does the world and story of the film feel authentic? The ending is also essential as it’s rare to truly feel moved at the end of a short, so work towards a meaningful, satisfying ending.