How to write a script for a short film?

Have you considered making it big into the film industry as a scriptwriter or had a brilliant idea for a short film but no idea about writing a script for it?

Turning your idea into a script is no piece of cake, as it is not just about spilling your thoughts on a piece of paper. it requires learning proper script writing techniques 

So before diving into the nuances of scriptwriting, it is essential to know

What is Scriptwriting?

Scriptwriting can be defined as writing your story or idea in the form of a 


 So what exactly is a screenplay format?

The answer is that screenplay consists of locations, character dialogue, and action. It is a technical document that enables a director to convert the story into an actual film that is seen on the big screen.

Now that the concept of script writing is clear, let us dive into the basic steps that will be of immense help while starting –

  1. Know your story

knowing the story in and out is one of the most critical steps in

writing a great script. Therefore, one should focus on the core premise of the story in order to lay a strong foundation around which the characters of the film can evolve.

  1. Determining the length of your short film

The length of a typical short film can vary anywhere from 20 mins to 40 mins. The academy of motion sciences and arts considers any film shorter than 40 minutes or less a short film. Therefore, while writing a script, length can be a crucial factor.

  1. Determine the genre of your film (action/comedy/drama)-

When it comes to developing a script for a short film, there is not much room for genre-bending. It is recommended that one should stick to one specific genre to keep the sharp script crystal clear.

  1. Write out your outline

Script outline is the scene-by-scene breakdown of the story

it includes –

Scene description- it consists of writing the overview and details of the scene.

Character transformations: these include developing the emotional journey and transition of the character over time in the story

Key Lines: Key lines of dialogue to employ when the scriptwriting begins.

  1. Development of Character and Backstory

Characters are the heart of any story. Therefore, iconic characters are always remembered. 

Therefore it is recommended to invest much time in character development.

Let us understand what exactly goes into character development-

it comprises determining the purpose of the character in the story and the different traits and emotions that the character may possess. It is a significant step in scriptwriting.

Now there are mainly three different types of characters-

  • The Leads

There will be almost constant appearances of these characters in the film

The plot will revolve around these characters 

The backstory of this character should be complex and well defined

  • Supporting Characters

These characters will either help the lead character or cause hindrances.

There should be at least some sort of backstory for them and they may appear multiple times in the story

  • Minor characters

In the film, they will only play a small role

Completing a quick task or having a brief conversation with another character. There is no need for backstory

One question that may arise is, what precisely is a backstory?

The answer is simple: Backstory is a character’s history. It provides a reference to the character’s past and motivation. Therefore, it is important to have depth in the back story.

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  1. Fill in dialogue for every scene

The best films of all time have one thing in common, which is splendid and crisp dialogues.

These can help further the plot and express our characters’ points of view.

The following are some essential things to keep in mind while writing dialogues:

Taking inspiration from real life -Observing the real world can help you write realistic dialogues. One can observe people in public places for inspiration.

Use Dialogue Tags– Attribute tags such as he said, she said, —are usually all one needs to indicate who is speaking, hence resisting the urge to get creative to keep the tone of dialogues simplistic yet effective.

Use of silence– At first, one might not think about it, but if you carefully observe scenes in some great films, you will notice have silence can be used to create doubt or suspense in a scene.

Now, after a deep dive into the development part of scripting writing, let us

shift our focus to the formatting part

there are some set practices that scriptwriters follow to format their script logically, and these include practices such as –

  • 2-point Courier font size.
  • A 1.5-inch margin is on the left of the page.
  • A 1-inch margin on the right of the page.
  • A 1 inch on the top and bottom of the page.
  • Each page should have approximately 55 lines.
  • On the left side of the page, the dialogue block begins 2.5 inches from the top.

But to simplify things, one can take advantage of script writing software such as studio binder, enabling you to be more creative with your script rather than worrying too much about the formatting.


Scriptwriting is tedious and challenging. However, if you observe these tips and do the required work, you will better understand how to develop and write a great script.

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