You can’t guarantee an award win, but there are a few techniques that can increase your chances. An award-winning film needs to stand out, check off the right festival requirements, and entertain an audience. Short films are special because unlike feature films, you don’t need a large budget and acclaimed actors to harness a judge’s consideration.
Here are some of the top techniques to help your next short film stand out from the crowd:
Watch Short Films
If you want to learn how to make a short film, you need to start watching them. Short films are different from features. Sometimes they may follow the traditional three-act structure. Other short films may explore a theme. Some short films are created merely to tell a joke. Before making your film, you need to familiarize yourself with this form of filmmaking — which means watching lots of shorts.
You can watch short films easily on YouTube, Vimeo or Shorts TV. It would also be helpful to watch shorts that have won awards similar to those you hope to win. Film festivals will often make this easy for you by listing their past winners on their websites. Furthermore, if a film is more than a year old, there is a good chance that it will be uploaded online and available to watch for free.
Fauve – directed by Jeremy Comte follows a traditional three-act structure. The short film went on to win awards at Sundance and received an Academy Award nomination.
You might be writing your screenplay or sourcing one to produce. Either way, the most crucial aspect of your script is a good story. If you are making a drama, is the story emotionally engaging? If you are making a comedy, is it truly funny? Read through potential screenplays slowly and seek additional feedback from people you trust.
There are also other factors you should consider when choosing a script. First, is the genre the right match for the award you hope to win? Some festivals specialize in genres like Fright Fest, while other awards like the Oscars embrace comedy and drama.
A short film can be of any length up to 40 minutes. However, most festivals have limitations on film length. A typical time for a short is 5-20 minutes. Keep in mind that 1 page of screenplay roughly equates to 1 minute of screentime.
Your expected budget will also play an important role when deciding on a story. Some scripts demand a higher budget. Pay attention to the genre and the total number of locations and actors when estimating your budget.
73 Cows – directed by Alex Lockwood is a no-budget short documentary. The film was screened at Raindance Film Festival and went on to win a BAFTA for Best Short Film.
Your award-winning short film does not have to cost a fortune, but the production quality does have to be high. Careful planning helps you avoid mistakes during production that could quickly raise your budget. At SetHero, we have a selection of free production templates to help you organize your film shoot.
We live in a time when it is easier than ever to make a low-budget film look professional with digital cameras and affordable software. You need to make the best film you can by paying attention to everything from visuals to sound design. Bad acting also won’t be forgiven. Make sure to hold auditions and take the time needed to find the right cast.
For tips on finding the right camera equipment for your short film, check out this article: Equipment for Low Budget Filmmaking.
If you take away anything on how to make a short film, it’s that a bigger budget and higher camera quality does not always equal an award win.
Tuke Me In – directed by Ignacio F. Rodo is a 60-second short, low-budget horror film. The film went on to win awards at many international short film festivals.
The one important thing you do need to in order to win is a film festival plan. And it would be best if you have this distribution plan before you make your film. That is because many festivals and major awards have specific submission rules. For example, short films entered into Cannes have to be under 15 minutes. Also, many festivals request that your film premieres at their festival.
To avoid pitfalls, write a list of festivals that you want to enter and carefully read through the rules and regulations. Then plan out when you will submit to each festival. You will only be able to premiere at one festival, which may mean turning down some offers. A great tool to help you plan and submit to festivals is Film Freeway.
If you want to win major awards like the Oscars, you need to have had your film shown at qualifying festivals. And this means having your film selected at one or two major film festivals before being eligible.
The Gunfighter – directed by Eric Kissack is acomedy western short film. The film won Best Short Film at LA Film Fest and has so far clocked up 6 million YouTube views.
Making an award-winning short film is not only about the quality of the film but also about how you present it. I hope this article has helped you understand how to make a short film win awards. What piece of advice above will you carry out on your next production?
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