Short Script Writing Examples
Generally speaking, short scripts still follow a three-act structure, although the time spent developing each act may differ. In most films, Acts 1 and 3 each make up around 25% of the film while the second act makes up the rest of the story. In a short script, those percentages can be skewed to give more time to the important part of the script.
In a five-minute short film, Act 1 can be told during the opening shot that lasts no more than a handful of seconds. Take a look at this short script writing example for Act 1:
INTERIOR OF URBAN APARTMENT – Late Morning in Spring
Camera pans the living room, a young couple sits at the opposite ends of a couch, both wearing sweatpants and flannel shirts, looking at their phones. Coffee table is crowded, but in order. Sunlight fills the room.
And that could be enough for the first act, the scene is set to get into the second act and you barely used 15 seconds. This is just an example, and maybe you’ll want to throw in some dialogue for transition: “Listen… I think we should talk about last night.” And off you go.
You can be more descriptive when setting the scene, too. A picture is worth a thousand words, so let the setting do a lot of the hefty lifting and you can save on exposition. Then concentrate on the second act and transition to the third. Writing a short film is almost more difficult because you have to be economical with your words.
The best way to improve your writing, any kind of writing, is to write more. Short script writing examples are a great way to keep your writing muscles toned as well as keep track of any loose ideas you have in your head. Writing these notes to yourself will help you focus on the larger product in the future.
At first, you don’t necessarily need to worry about the proper formatting (we’ll get to that later). After you’ve compiled a decent amount of examples, you can start to combine ideas, remove thoughts that won’t work (but save for later), and begin to piece together a larger narrative.
Soon you’ll have a few short script writing examples that you can start to polish. Maybe they stand on their own or serve as the impetus of a larger story that you can begin to fill out. There’s no rule that says you have to write from the beginning to the end in a linear fashion. If you already have the ending, feel free to work back from there.
Films like Memento and Pulp Fiction aren’t told in a straight line, so you shouldn’t have to write in a straight line. If you get stuck at a particular point, think about other areas that you can work on to start filling pages. It’s almost as if you’re writing each scene as its own short film.
Short Script Writing Example Guidelines
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a 30-second commercial for dish soap or an 8-episode crime thriller series, there are certain aspects to a script that must be followed. Everything from font face and size to margins to page numbers all plays a part in a properly formatted script.
However, in an age where feature-length movies are being shot on smartphones, many aspiring filmmakers are able to take on many roles at once. If you’re writing a script that you’ll produce or direct yourself, these rules don’t have to be as rigid.
But it might be confusing for others on the set that are used to reading movie scripts with certain formatting. It’s a good idea to retain as many of these guidelines as possible to ensure everyone is on the same page. Centering dialogue, for example, will make it much easier to see when characters are interacting.
Short Script Writing Formats
This may seem like a small detail, what kind of font you use or the font size, but it’s actually one of the most important details of the script. The proper font–12-point courier–gives the director, producer, or decision-maker an idea of how long the film is going to be. Roughly speaking, one page of script translates to one minute of screen time.
Why 12-point courier? For one, it was one of the most common typewriter faces a century ago. It’s also known as a monospaced font, meaning every letter is the same width. A capital “W” will use the same amount of space as a lowercase “i.” There’s something to be said about consistency.
This format is more utilitarian than anything. The left margin of your script should be 1.5 inches to allow room for binding. If you use the more standard 1-inch margin, readers may struggle to read the left-side of the screenplay. Use a one-inch margin on the right, top, and bottom of the page.
Keep it simple when presenting your script. The title page should have the script title, your name, the date, and contact info such as phone number or email on separate lines and centered on the page. If the work has been adapted, add that information under your name and before the draft date.
Other formatting includes page numbers, dialogue margins, character names, and so on can be found in an earlier blog here. Following these short script writing example guidelines will help make sure your script gets read–or at least not recycled right away. It’s been said that 50,000 scripts are written every year. Don’t give them a reason NOT to read yours.
Learn Short Script Writing Examples from the Experts
Apart from the mechanical aspects of writing short scripts, you’ll need to develop your writing style. A Quentin Tarantino script is written quite differently than a Guillermo del Toro script. Then once you get that great idea or bolt of inspiration, you can put it all together to create the Killer Script.
If only it were that easy. Developing characters, differentiating between theme and genre, outlining a clear three-act storyline, and other aspects of screenwriting–even for a short film–can be an exercise in futility if you’re just starting out. The Film Connection Screenwriting program was designed to improve your skill set while giving you a solid foundation in script writing.
Instead of a classroom filled with other students all vying for the instructor’s attention, you’ll be given one-on-one time with an industry professional. Our mentors have written for movies, videos, TV, and more and will help you write a script that gets read. Are you ready to start writing the next award-winning script? Apply today.