Posts Tagged 'film'

Short Screenplay Competitions

The post on the DC Shorts was quite informative and the statistics said you enjoyed it. Then i decided to seek through the entire Withoutabox for competition you may enter with your short film script. I might convert it into a page and update it constantly when i get back from a trip.

Here you’ll find the links for the festival rules and some of its rules. For a competition to be listed here it must have a limit of pages for your script as i’m dedicating this page to short scripts only. I hope this turns out to be a constant reference for you. Remember these aren’t all the competitions available worldwide, but those available on Withoutabox.

Also keep in mind that earlier you join the competition, cheaper you pay. Please read the rules of the competition carefully before submitting.

If you find any errors or have suggestions, please leave a comment.

ReelHeART International Film Festival
50 ~ 80 USD
! January 4, 2013
 under 15 pages
* none
@ a trophy or medallion.

Bloody Hero International Film Festival
20 ~ 50 USD
! January 5, 2013
 under 40 pages
* none.
@ a sculpture.

L.A.Comedy Shorts
25 ~ 70 USD
! January 10, 2013
 under 30 pages
* comedy.
@ 1000 USD. goods/services: 1250 USD.

A Night of Horror International Film Festival
16 ~ 58 USD
! January 15, 2013
 less than 45 pages
* horror.
@ none described.

FANTASTIC PLANET: Sydney International Sci-Fi & Fantasy Film Festival
16 ~ 53 USD
! January 15, 2013
 under 45 pages
* none.
@ to be adjusted.

Steeltown Film Factory
15 ~ 75 USD
! January 18, 2013
 under 12 pages
* none.
goods/services: 30000 USD.

Brooklyn Girl Film Festival
15 ~ 35 USD
! January 19, 2013
 up to 30 pages
* written (or co-written) by woman.
@ yet to be determined.

Bare Bones International Film & Music Festival
20 ~ 65 USD
! January 21, 2013
 under 40 pages
* none.
@ a medallion.

International Family Film Festival
20 ~ 35 USD
! January 25, 2013
 under 44 pages
* must be registered or copyright, drama, comedy, animation, sci-fi/fantasy, musical.
@ a certificate

Canadian Short Screenplay Competition
25 ~ 75 USD
! January 31, 2013
 under 15 pages
* screenplays must not be based on another piece of work unless public domain.
@ over $75,000 worth in prizes.

Kansas City FilmFest
25 ~ 55 USD
! February 1, 2013
 under 15 pages
* must be written (or co-written) by a woman
@ 1000 USD.

Sacramento International Film Festival
20 ~ 65 USD
! February 10, 2013
 under 20 pages
* none.
@ trophy and prize package.

Liverpool Lift-Off Film Festival
15 ~ 50 USD
! February 14, 2013
 under 45 pages
* none.
@ goods/services: 10000 USD.

United Film Festival
20 ~ 60 USD
! February 17, 2013
 under 45 pages
* dramacomedyhorror/thriller.
@ trophy and prize package.

deadCENTER Film Festival
20 ~ 40 USD
! February 25, 2013
 under 15 pages
* none.
@ live table read.

California International Shorts Festival
35 ~ 70 USD
! February 27, 2013
 under 50 pages
* none.
@ a title.

Hill Country Film Festival
15 ~ 40 USD
! March 6, 2013
 under 10 pages
* none
@ to be adjusted.

St. Tropez International Film Festival
137 ~ 226 USD
! March 14, 2013
 under 30 pages
* none.
@ you should read this one for yourself.

LA Comedy Film Festival
25 ~ 70 USD
! March 15, 2013
 under 32 pages
* comedy.
@ 250 USD. value of good/services: 500 USD.

London Independent Film Festival
49 ~ 89 USD
! March 15, 2013
 under 50 pages
* obscene, pornographic or illegal material is not allowed.
@ good/services: 500 United Kingdom Pounds.

Spirit Quest Film Festival
20 ~ 55 USD
! March 15, 2013
 under 49 pages
* none.
@ none described.

Nantucket Film Festival
20 ~ 55 USD
! March 26, 2013
 under 40 pages
* copyrighted or WGA registered.
@ 500 USD.

LAFF Vegas
25 ~ 60 USD
!  March 31, 2013
 under 49 pages
* comedy.
@ none described.

Woods Hole Film Festival
15 ~ 45 USD
! April 10, 2013
 under 30 pages
* hard copy required
@ yet to be determined.

Las Vegas Film Festival
35 ~ 55 USD
! April 15, 2013
 under 75 pages
* none.
@ over 10000 USD shared among the winners.

Snake Alley Festival of Film
20 ~ 60 USD
! April 15, 2013
 under 30 pages
* none.
@ wood sculpture.

Vegas Cinefest
20 ~ 65 USD
! April 25, 2013
 up to 25 pages
* none.
@ none described.

DC Shorts Screenwriting Competition
35~ 75 USD
! May 31, 2013
 up to 15 pages
* none.
@ 2000 USD.

Creative World Awards Screenwriting Competition
24 ~ 69 USD
! June 1, 2013
 less than 40 pages
* screenplays must not be based on another piece of work unless public domain, no more than two authors.
@ 250 USD. Goods/Services: 1000 USD.

Columbia Gorge International Film Festival
15 ~ 95 USD
! June 3, 2013
 less than 15 pages
* hard copies required, .
@ none described.

Denver Indie Fest
15 ~ 50 USD
! June 24, 2013
 under 50 pages
* none.
@ it’s not a competition, so no prizes.

Eddie Bauer Jr. Screenplay Competition Benefiting the National Childrens Cancer Society
20 ~ 65 USD
! July 1, 2013
 under 50 pages
* none.
@ value of good/services: 5000 USD.

2013 SF Shorts: San Francisco International Festival of Short Films
$ 25 ~ 55 USD
! July 7, 2013
under 10 pages
* live-action, narrative, non-period, non-effects based.
@ value of good/services: 1900 USD. Script produced under 5k budget.

Action On Film International Film Festival
30 ~ 55 USD
! July 20, 2013
 under 19 pages
* none
@ value of good/services: 100 ~ 2500 USD.

SoCal Independent Film Festival
15 ~ 55 USD
! July 26, 2013
 under 30 pages
* none.
@ none described.

Manhattan Short Film Festival
35 ~ 40 USD
! July 31, 2013
 under 20 pages
* none.
@ none described.

Hollywood Screenplay Contest
25 ~ 55 USD
! August 10, 2013
 under 75 pages
* none.
@ over 20000 USD  in cash, prizes and services shared among winners.

Silent River Film Festival
25 ~ 45 USD
! August 13, 2013
 under 50 pages
* none.
@ an award.

New York Screenplan Contest
25 ~ 50 USD
! August 20, 2013
 under 70 pages
* none.
@ none described.

Eerie Horror Film Festival
15 ~ 50 USD
! September 1, 2013
 under 69 pages
horrorscience fictionmysterysuspense of the supernatural.
@ sponsor prizes.

West Field Screenwriting Awards
30 ~ 50 USD
! September 30, 2013
 under 40 pages
* none.
@ an award.

WILDsound Feedback Film and Screenplan Festival
35 ~ 40 USD
! Rolling deadline
 under 50 pages
* none.
@ a read of your screenplay for the audience.

How to grab the right idea

And when an idea dies on you it is, in fact, one of the best things that can happen. Because you ve just saved yourself an enormous amount of time and grief. Some ideas just don t want to be written. They don t want to be written by you. Some ideas have fooled you into thinking that they have more power than they, in fact, do. If you find that out after writing a first draft, you ve wasted a lot of time and you ve also lost faith in yourself because you believed in something and you couldn t pull it off.

- Paul Schrader

You won’t have one single solitary idea. You’ll have plenty. The trick is to separate the wheat from the chaff. First thing you must know is that nothing goes to the garbage can, as i’ve said before, you should save all your ideas, mostly won’t be useful by themselves, only combined with other idea, so even if you discard it now, keep it around.

You have a list of ideas, it’s time to highlight some of them based in a question to yourself “Would you watch this?“. If yes, underline it, otherwise, discard it. It’s really important for a writer to incorporate different personas in the craft, according to Maurice Blanchot it already happens; you can’t read your own work as the writer of it, you gotta break your writing to turn into the reader.

The writer cannot abide near the work. He can only write it; he can, once it is written, discern its approach in the abrupt Noli me legere which moves him away, which sets him, which obliges him to go back to that “separation” which he first entered in order to be attuned to what he had to write. So that now he finds himself as if at beginning of again and discovers again the proximity, the errant intimacy of the outside from which not make an abode.

- Maurice Blanchot

Whenever you realize that the YOU whom writes is different than the YOU whom reads, then you’ll manage to get the most important feedback amidst all: YOURS. Self-criticism is the first step to select a good idea and is significant because it evolves with you. Along with your learning of the craft you’ll be in reach with several ideas and experience will make it easier to filter for the ideal one. You’ll be the one working on this idea, so you must be comfortable to do it, although you might be still insecure about the idea, which moves us to the next step.

A good idea is comfortable.

Get some outer-feedback. If your self-criticism is not as sharp and it should, you might get cocky and too confident after your self-evaluation, to prevent that you gotta expose your idea, however, don’t go to your hipster movie goer friend you’ve met on MUBI, you want to please a regular person and rouse its attention into your idea, since they won’t be biased. Pitch your idea under a camouflage, don’t say straight away that it is your idea, tell you watched a movie with your idea or anything like that, it’s more important to read the listener’s reaction than their opinion. That’s like asking if they “would watch this“. This is the moment when “story of an outsider boy whom must seek for a new reason to live after being dumped by his girlfriend” idea falls apart. This will be called as a hipster idea from now on.

A good idea hooks the listener.

Now that your idea grabbed someone’s attention, you gotta get back to your desk and seek for more self-criticism. “Can this idea evolve?” is a key question at the moment and its answer will change along the writing. Until you finish the first draft of the script, it’s all about writing. Write, write, write. Just get the story done. In the middle of this process you’ll find the answer to this question right in front of you. Still, if you can’t take your idea to another level right away, it doesn’t seem like it is the best moment to spend your time on it.

A good idea seems promising.

Notwithstanding, one of the most important things to have in mind is that a short film is mostly visual; due to a matter of time, you must focus on showing and telling your story visually. If la photographie, c’est la vérité, et le cinéma, c’est vingt-quatre fois la vérité par seconde, according to Jean-Luc Godard, then a 120-minute feature film has 172800 truths to be told. A 5-minute short has 7200, so you better use them well. The spoken word takes much more time to be absorbed than the mise-en-scène. A “Hello” wastes 24 frames, to say the least. For this reason, your idea for a short film must have a strong image, because you won’t have a lot of time to introduce and develop it.

A good idea has a strong image.

This strong image thing looks bullshit, but you’ll find out there are several great short films that are purely visual masturbation. It works. Think about strong images and you’ll be in the right direction. To illustrate that, one of the best short films i’ve ever seen:

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Table of Ideas

Here i am again to talk about short films. As i’ve been saying in my fractured monologue, commonly the best short-films to go viral are not character driven, but situation driven, using the character as tools to exploit the aimed moment. So stretch your hands, here comes an idea to work with:

A couple comfortably sit in a quite fancy restaurant table, but certainly not the best in town. They’re happy together, but misplaced in the background. Not used to all that candle light and proper manners. The waiter comes over, delivers the menus and brings a basket of bread. She looks at the menu, but he is dazzled by her beauty, she orders the soup and so does he. Enchanted. He puts his elbow in the table and it declines. The table is short in one leg. The bread rolls in the basket. She worries, but he gotta fix it, so he stoops down to check the damage. Emerges, smiles at her, takes a few paper napkins. Fold them and place under the broken leg. The soup arrives. They start the meal, however, the table tilts to the other side and the plate spills the hot soup over her lap. She stands up and starts to clean up the mess. He looks after her. The waiter comes over to check what’s happening and the man asks for another table, the waiter promises to get them the next free sit. She excuses and goes to the ladies’ room. The man gets angry and decides to fix this table once for all. Looks for something to use and gets the box-ring from his jacket pocket. Opens it, take the wedding ring out and keep it with himself. Place the box under the second short leg. The waiter brings two glasses of wine as an apology. The man asks him for the bill. The woman comes back with a wet stain in her dress. They drink some wine and another table’s leg completely break. Making fall over the woman’s side. The candles slip and set the table cloth on fire. The man, in a ballsy move, try to quench the flames, flipping the table over. The woman looks at him and finds the box-ring in the floor. Excited, she picks it up. He’s too busy to notice. She opens it and gets disappointed. Looks at him as if it was all a big joke and storms away from the restaurant. The man extinguishes the fire and searches for his lady. She’s already gone. He sits back at the chair. The waiter brings the bill.

This is just a brainstorm from a situation-driven plot and it can certainly be changed. Nevertheless, it’s noticeable the most important check-ins for a story: GOAL (propose her) and OBSTACLE (the broken table). With that we can move on, there’s a story somewhere there and our job is to harvest its finest.

Budget X Creativity

If you’re reading this it can only mean two things: 1. You know me or we’re Facebook friends somehow. 2. You’re a aspirant screenwriter and i’m accidentally good at SEO.  Perhaps you’re a film student looking for some advice for your graduation project. You wanna make a movie or something.

You recognize that you need a script for that, that shows how worthy these years in college were. Still, i believe you’re under a tight budget since the beginning. You won’t pay anyone; gonna use the university’s equipment; your mom will do the catering and your dad is the closest thing you’ll have to an executive producer. But that’s how filming your first important film looks like. Keep that in mind: filming. Not writing.

While writing you gotta let your imagination loose, you should not be pondering do we have the budget to film this? I used to think like that, then i showed a project to one of my teachers and he thought the idea was great, then he gave me an advice: you gotta stop thinking in low-budget. Went home thinking about it and said Fuck it! Included an airplane crash and a jaguar in the story and you know what? It got so much better i couldn’t let those two elements go away in the following drafts of the story. You’re working in the purpose of the story ONLY, if you don’t respect that, your writing won’t do either. You should replace your question to IS THIS WORTH FILMING? When the immediate reply is YES, you know the job is getting done.

Obviously, this process might not allow you to film the script due to a lack of money, nevertheless, in the meantime you created a decent script, learnt more about the craft and respected the idea. You must have several ideas, one of them will make a great low-budget film, just don’t waste a high concept story into a low-budget film.

A Slice of Lifetime

So you have that blank page starting at you and you’re think that it would be a good idea to fill it with some fine touch of story. But wait, did you make THE QUESTION? No? Then you just can’t keep going.

Before writing the header of your scene you should ask yourself: “Why now?“. Yes, this gets more complex. You’re possibly dealing with a character which has born, grown and lived quite a bit of his life and you’re not stupid enough to follow him since he was a fetus, so when you’re writing a story you’re taking a slice of his lifetime. That is what all movies are.

Why this slice of life begins in the particular moment you thought of? See, the first scene is possibly the most important scene with a number tag on it.

“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”

That’s from Franz Kafka’s METAMORPHOSIS. First paragraph. Well-known as one of the best beginnings ever written. After that paragraph we get to know the two most important things to introduce in the beginning of a movie:

  • Who our character is?
  • What’s the problem?

If all movies are slices of lives, then all movies are ABOUT changes. And the PROBLEM is exactly that: what is problematic enough to change my character’s life? Because your movie begins there.

In SUNSET BOULEVARD (Billy Wilder, 1960), the movie starts with our main character shot dead in the pool, so you have our problem (DEATH) and the story is about the events which led to his murderer.

in THE SEARCHERS (John Ford, 1956), the movie begins with Ethan’s family slaughtered and so he rides through the desert in the seek for revenge. That’s problem. Ethan is a racist and wouldn’t look out for Debbie since she’s turned into another indian, but when he catches the fleeing teen in the middle of a full battle, he catches and holds her. That’s change.

in THE DESCENDANTS (Alexander Payne, 2011) our main character’s wife suffers a boating accident and he finds out she had an affair. The movie proceeds with his search for answers about her lover and about himself.

Eventually all feature films plots go down to this: problem & change and they’re connected: the problem must cause a change and the change must be caused by a problem. Nothing comes from nowhere.

The problem is that working on short films we don’t have enough runtime to expose our characters enough for a change to be substantial. This is the reason why there’s no decent short film about characters (unless it is a documentary like Sunshine) and that’s the spot where most beginners stumble, since they want to write about their lives, their loves, their changes.

Short films are about a single situation, two at most. They’re exclusively about the problem. We’ve seen that last week with the 2 short films i used as example: The Black Hole & Lucky. The first is about a guy whom finds a paper with a black circle that works just like in the cartoons, the character takes advantage of this tool and the film is over when he can’t do that any longer. The latter is about a guy whom must escape from a car in movement, it ends when he escapes, quite ironically somehow. Check ALL PIXAR shorts, they’re all about a situation and its outcomes.

Now we know the biggest difference between short films and feature films, one is situation driven while the other is character driven. You can start separating the wheat from the chaff now.

AND a pixar movie just for the record:

Until next time.

But… What’s a short film?

Obviously, the same rule applies to when you set the logical difference between a person with dwarfism and a person without it. Well, actually, this goes much beyond a matter of length when discussing the differences between short films and their bigger brother (not older, since, obviously, short films are the first instance of cinema)

If you look for the best-voted short films in IMDB you’ll find some REALLY great films: Sherlock Jr. (45 min); La Jetée (28 min); Un Chien Andalou (16 min); Partie de Campagne (40 min); Meshes of the Afternoon (14 min); Zero de Conduite (41 min); Nuit et Brouillard (32 min); Scorpio Rising (28 min) etc. See that i kept the runtime for each example? Can we have a 45 minutes short film nowadays? Honestly, i don’t think so. From that list only Un Chien Andalou and Meshes of the Afternoon fit in the 15-minute limit (ok, mercy for Buñuel in this one), yet, both are experimental projects, quite absent of a logical narrative, which is our goal here in case you forgot. Concluding, IMDB gave us nothing at surface.

In my personal opinion a short film should have AT MOST 15 minutes, but if you want to know my preference it would be 5 minutes. FIVE? What can be told in five minutes? The examples shall come.

The main way of exhibition for short films is the internet, more specifically youtube and vimeo. Now tell me, what holds you longer than 5 minutes in a youtube video? FinalCut Pro tutorials? Certainly not a videoblog. In those places we’re expecting short experiences.

You go to the mall, buy a movie ticket, enter in the theater room, sit, watch the trailers, the movie begins. You possibly went to the bathroom BEFORE because you did this entire ritual expecting to sit still for 90 minutes at least, so if not much happens in the first 5 minutes, we forgive the movie. In a short film, if you don’t deliver something in the first 30 seconds, the spectator will just close the video or click in a featured suggestion beside, because the DEAL you’ve made with your spectator is a short-term one and it demands a quick response from your side.

The reason why i indicate the 5-minutes edge is because of our exhibition devices. When Sherlock Jr. or Partie de Campagne were released, 40 minutes was a quite common runtime for movies, the effort was to sell a Napoléon or longer length movies. Nowadays we just can’t enjoy that luxury anymore.

This post intends to stand basic differences between short and long films, which will consequently lead to the divergence of their narrative resources. To emphasize how quickly the PROBLEM that a short film story will deal in its length should be exposed, i’ll give two examples:

Lucky, by Nash Edgerton

The Black Hole, by Phil and Olly

Until next time.

Act I: Introduction

Somewhere in the book Story, McKee says that the story picks you, not otherwise. Can’t remember the exact quote and this crap PDF doesn’t allow me to search through it, so you gotta trust me. I also believe that the story also chooses its format, some of them fit better in a smaller package. Not all stories are supposed to be displayed as feature films.

The issue that concerns me is that we don’t know much about the structure of a short film. Actually, we barely know what is a short film in terms of narrative. Is it a piece of a scene? Is it a strange situation? A limb of a bigger story? Or pure visual masturbation?

Does it follows the general structure of feature films? Shall we invest in three or more acts, characters arcs, themes, climaxes and whatsoever?

This blog intends to be an open study about the nature of the short film in terms of script and i’d like to dig deep into its structure along with available historical examples to find out what suits best the format.



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