How to write a short film - Two characters, one location.
Hello and welcome to The Film Coach blog, the home of simple and practical advice on how to write and make an interesting, engaging and hopefully successful short film.
Today I will be looking at the advantages of writing a short film with just two characters and one location. This is something that can be helpful for writers of all levels of experience but I think that it is particularly helpful for writers setting out to write their very first script.
(A still taken from my short film Scrable. More details: www.anthonyhett.com/scrable)
The first reason I think that you should try to write at least one short film with just two characters in one location for the entirety of the script, is because it is a challenge! I'm not suggesting that it is easy to write a script with multiple characters across multiple locations. However, it can be very difficult to hold a readers attention when you are restricted to writing about the same two characters, who spend the whole script in one place. If you have multiple characters and several difficult locations, it can be a little easier to add the action, drama and suspense that will help you to keep the audiences attention, for the full length of your film.
Secondly, hopefully you are writing a script in order for it to be made it into a film. This doesn't have to be the case, you can be writing a script to enter it into competitions or purely for your own enjoyment. But whatever your motivations, I would suggest that you think about your script as the start of the filmmaking process, rather than a completed piece of art of its own. This could be a film you are going to make yourself as a writer/director. Or it could be something you are planning to give/sell to a director, producer or production company. In either case, when you are writing the film, it can be helpful to consider how easy or hard it is going to be to make this film.
Directors, producers and small production companies might be looking for those complicated scripts with multiple locations. However, they could also easily be put off, as compared to a script with just two characters and one location, they will take considerably more time and a much larger budget to complete. This is not to say that you shouldn't write these films but that it might be better to save these ideas for later, when you are more experienced and have started to grow your network and contacts.
Here are just a few ways in which making films with more than two characters and more than one location can be difficult:
Actors - the more actors you cast, the longer and more complicated the casting process and the more people you will need to organise, pay and keep happy on set.
Locations - the more locations you have the more locations you need to secure and potentially pay for. You might be able to get one perfect location, fairly easily for a small fee or possibly even for free. However, if you are trying to find 10 perfect locations, this is going to be a very long and potentially expensive process.
You will also need to think about how you can move cast, crew and equipment between these different locations. Therefore, if it is necessary to have multiple locations, having those locations close together will make things easier. So if you know that you will be directing and/or producing this project yourself, then think about this during the writing process.
Equipment - if you are planning to rent expensive equipment, then it is important to take the length of the shoot into consideration. It can be reasonably affordable to rent a high end camera for a single day, which should be enough time to make a <10min short film with two characters and one location. However, shooting across multiple locations might mean extending your shoot to two, three, four days or even more. At which point, the camera you could afford to hire for one day becomes too expensive to hire and you might be forced to reduce your package and hire a lower spec camera.
So those are my thoughts on why it might be a good idea for you to try and write a short film with just two characters and one location. I wrote several scripts with just two characters and one location while I was studying scriptwriting at University. While I have also made an award winning trilogy of short films which all have no more than 2-4 characters and 1-2 locations each. So this is something that I have practiced, as well as preached. You can watch my trilogy of shorts at: www.anthonyhett.com.
I hope that you found this blog helpful? If you did, make sure - if you haven't already - to checkout my previous posts and also don't forget to checkout my YouTube videos: www.youtube.com/anthonyhett.
And I will be back next Wednesday at 9am (GMT) with a new blog post (and video) on the theme of: Naming Your Scripts.