7 Rules to Making a Good Short Film

1. An Original and Unique Idea

a. Avoid clichés – (e.g. do not start the film with you waking up in the morning/alarm clock going off. It’s boring and overdone!)
b. Try to look at the subject from a different angle
c. Keep it simple
d. Focus on a theme/message, not individual character development

2. it’s Not about Fancy Special Effects

a. The subject, message, or theme is the most important
b. Often used tip: think about editing/changing scenes when you blink. This may signal a natural “break”
c. If you remember the special effect more than the message of the film, you should revise
d. Beware of style over substance, even if you’re experimenting with new techniques or developing your own style

3. Ensure High Production Values

a. Colour and lighting adjustments should be made for continuity
b. Sound quality should be clear and volume should be appropriate (think of both music as well as dialogue)
c. Editing should be appropriate and clean

4. Make it Short

a. A good rule to go by: The longer your short film is, the harder it is to keep the viewer’s attention, especially if you plan to post your film for an audience online. (The avg. amount of time an online viewer spends watching film is 4 minutes!)
b. The more you do with less, the more impressive your product will be
c. Every scene must have a purpose. If you could eliminate one and the film would still be effective, then you don’t need it
d. This should hint to you just how important planning each scene is The End

5. Start with a Strong Beginning

a. Grab the viewer’s attention from the very first shot
b. Don’t waste time on long intros and/or credits. It’s not about you!
c. Don’t waste time on long establishing shots
d. Audiences like to “put things together” – doesn’t spoon feed them with too much information
e. Show the work-in-progress to someone who has never seen it to get feedback throughout the post-production process!

6. Tie Up Some Loose Ends (if you want to)

a. Short films are often about showing a glimpse of real life so you do not need to have an ending where absolutely everything is resolved. It’s OK if the film could continue after the credits.
b. There is no need for a happy ending
c. Make your audience think about your work—and continue thinking as they leave the theatre

7. Avoid Repetition and Punch Line Twists

a. Stay away from “too smart for you” twists. It’s not about the film maker!
b. Repetition can waste time unless it’s used for a specific purpose
c. Humour is difficult to showcase in short film if your audience has to wait 10 minutes for a punch line that isn’t funny. This also causes film makers to start with a strong shot and fill the middle with useless scenes, just to get to the punch line.
d. If you would like to surprise the audience, make sure that it’s done in a unique way.

The film review is a popular way for critics to assess a film’s overall quality and determine whether or not they think the film is worth recommending. Film reviews differ from scholarly film articles in that they encompass personal and idiosyncratic reactions to and evaluations of a film, as well as objective analyses of the film’s formal techniques and thematic content.

Preparing to Write the Review

While film reviews tend to be fairly short (approximately 600 to 1200 words), they require a lot of preparation before you begin writing. Prior to viewing the film, you may want to get a sense of the bodies of work by the director, writer, or individual actor. For instance, you may watch other films by the same director or writer in order to get a sense of each individual style. This will enable you to contextualize the film and determine whether it works as a continuation and/or disruption within the broad trends of the director’s or writer’s work.

Writing a film review often requires multiple viewings of the film. Plan to watch the film two or even three times. During the first viewing, surrender yourself to the cinematic experience; in other words, get lost in the narrative and enjoy the film without worrying about the argument you will eventually cultivate. During your second viewing, try distancing yourself from the plot and instead focus on interesting elements of the film that you can highlight in the review. You may separate these elements into two broad categories: 1) formal techniques such as cinematography, editing, mise-en-scene, lighting, diegetic and non-diegetic sound, genre, or narratology, and 2) the matic content that resonates with issues such as history, race, gender, sexuality, class, or the environment.

After watching the film a second time, take careful notes on the formal and thematic elements of the film. Then attempt to create a central idea for your review that brings together the film’s formal and thematic elements. If your second viewing does not yield a strong central claim for the review or if you need to take more notes, you may have to watch the film or parts of the film a third time.

Writing the Film Review

Although there is not a set formula to follow when writing a film review, the genre does have certain common elements that most film reviews include.

1) Introduction- In the opening of your review provides some basic information about the film. You may include film’s name, year, director, screenwriter, and major actors.

– Your introduction, which may be longer than one paragraph, should also begin to evaluate the film, and it should allude to the central concept of the review. A film review does not have to contain a thesis or main claim, but it should focus on a central analysis and assessment.

2) Plot Summary

– Remember that many readers of film reviews have not yet seen the film. While you want to provide some plot summary, keep this brief and avoid specific details that would spoil the viewing for others.

3) Description

– While the plot summary will give the reader a general sense of what the film is about, also include a more detailed description of your particular cinematic experience watching the film. This may include your personal impression of what the film looks, feels, and sounds like. In other words, what stands out in your mind when you think about this particular film?

4) Analysis

– In order to explain your impression of the film, consider how well the film utilizes formal techniques and thematic content. How do the film’s formal techniques (such as cinematography, editing, mise-en-scène, lighting, diegetic and non-diegetic sound, genre, or narrative) affect the way the film looks, feels, and sounds to you? How does the thematic content (such as history, race, gender, sexuality, class, or the environment) affect your experience and interpretation? Also, do the formal techniques work to forward the thematic content?

5) Conclusion/Evaluation

– The closing of your film review should remind the reader of your general thoughts and impressions of the film. You may also implicitly or explicitly state whether or not you recommend the film. Make sure to remind the reader of why the film is or is not worth seeing.