How to Write a Short Film Screenplay ( Script)


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If you are new to short filmmaking and want to write a screenplay but don’t know how to write and format it, then this post is all you need. In this post you can learn everything about script writing, but first I want to clear one thing that there is not much difference between writing the screenplay for a short film and a full length movie because both full and short film script formats are pretty much the same. The difference is in their story structure but the script writing of both is same. Also keep in mind that this post is about writing and formatting a screenplay, not about the short film story structure because that is a completely different topic that we have explained in our previous post. So before writing screenplay we would suggest you to check out our previous post where we have explained writing short film story structure.

What we have covered in this post:
a) What is screenplay and it’s importance.
b) Points to remember while writing short film script.
c) Checklist before writing.
d) Screenplay format.


What Is a Screenplay ? And It,s Importance. 

If you google the meaning of screenplay it will give you the best simple answer that screenplay is the script of a film which is created based on the film story plot, including scene description with time and location, editing instruction and dialogues. Screenplay writing is a very important part of the filmmaking process because your entire short film depends on it. Whenever you will be out there shooting, it will be the only source of reference for you as well as your cast and crew's understanding the perticuar film scene. The screenplay of a short film contains evereything from mood of the scenes to dialogues. Writing the script in advance helps to fasten up the filmmaking process and saves much time which could have been wasted on thinking about mood, dialogues, etc on the shooting day on set. Let's say you hired a camera man and do not have a script in hand, imagine how difficult it would be to explain everything to him multiple times.

Point's To Remember While Writing The Screenplay.

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You can't always write what you want, so even before you start writing the script below are a few point's that will help you to ease up the process.

1. Read our previous three posts on Idea, Story and Location, so that you have a clear understanding on how to come up with an idea for a short film and structuring the story and find suitable locations for the story you wrote. Reading through those 3 posts will also ensure that you have a strong baseline before you start writing your short film's screenplay.

How To Get An Idea/Concept For Short Films.

How To Write And Structuring A Short Film Story.

How To Find Locations For Short Films.

2. Keep those picture beside you which you took during the location scouting. These pictures will serve as good reference points for writing the screenplay. These pictures will be of great help because When you have a clear and real life picture of the available location in hand the screenplay will be better adjusted according to a particular scene and setting of the story. For instance if you are writing dialogues between the two characters you can also write about how will the characters interact with the surroundings whether sitting or standing in that particular location.

3. Do not make the mistake of writing your valuable screenplay on a piece of paper because there are high chances that paper will be lost leaving you frustrated and angry to repeat the entire screenwriting process again. Instead write your screenplay on a nice notebook so that you always know where it is and can also carry it safely wherever you want. Or blow you can download professional script writing software “celtx” best for film writing scripts .more talk about later

4. Reading through the screenplay of your favourite feature films or some short films can give you lots of inspiration to start with. Consider them as a chest of knowledge and read through as many screenplays as possible. Start writing after breaking your story in small parts, and write about them daily for some time. Spent as many days as you can on writing the screenplay because once it is completed it will be very difficult to make any changes in it. And most of the time you will be the only one doing most of the work for your short film.


Now Step By Step How To Format a Screenplay (Script).

Film Plot.

When you begin writing the screenplay make sure to write its story on the first page. The story of your short film will help as a road map on how your screenplay should proceed. It will also help you to easily explain to anyone what your short film is about whether it is a cast and crew member or anyone else you need to understand about it. If you do not know how to write a short film story then you can easily learn from our previous post.

Title Of The Script.

Choosing the title or name of your short film can be done at at any time of writing the screenplay, but is very important part of the process because it is the title of the short film that will make it easier for you to convey to the audience what your short film is about and it is the first thing anyone notices about the short film. Let's say if anyone of your friends ask you about which short film you are making and you tell them a title that is not interesting enough they will probably not care about it. The title of your short film can suggest the genre of it, indicate the conflict in it. For example the title "Payback" suggests that the short film is of action genre and the title also indicated the conflict in it.

Your title can be short, catchy and easy to remember like "Speed" is a title that is very easy to remember. You can also choose something that is direct and sounds cool. You can obviously choose the title you want just make sure it matches your story and is not taken by anyone else,or unique , you can check that with a quick google search.

Formatting Screenplay.

Carefully see the image below for better understanding.

short film screenplay format


This is the first thing you have to write on page while writing screenplay, fade in means that scene has start a fresh new scene with a new location and if you want to close the scene write fade out which mostly used to close the scene.


Next thing you write after the face in is scene headline where you write where the scene take place, location and the day whether is night ,sunny day, rainy day, means you have to describe the weather, always write EXT: when the scene is take place outside and after that describe about that location and scene .


Write ‘INT:’ when the scene take place inside of any location.


Write every instruction you want in a scene while editing of a film.


Next thing you'll need to write about is called Scene description or action. In this part you have to describe about the scene where and what is happening in that scene if there are character in scene describe Example :  "manish and rahul sitting at the corner table of the shop where manish is convincing Rahul to go for the trip", This way you can easily keep track of different scenes of your short film.


Next up we have to write dialogue conversation between two people. And always remember write the name of the character above the person dialog. It is obvious that some unique dialogues can turn a simple story into a hit short film. Writing dialogues isn't as difficult as you think. Just know your characters very well and make sure that your characters have different voices from one another, and they should be discussing the things related to the plot. And majority of the dialogues should be in a flow. If you want to learn in depth on how to write dialogues for your short film then you can refer to our next post on dialogues.

One important aspect of writing a scene you'll have to understand is called it's Mood. It is basically the centre theme of a scene that determines what type of a scene it is whether comedy, horror, etc. It can be easily shown through the expressions of the characters in that particular scene. For example if you want a scene to be comedic then make one of your characters crack a joke at the beginning of a scene or if you want a scene to be tense then put your characters in a tough situation in that particular scene.


If your scene is completed but your another scene is at the same place then, then you don’t have to describe that scene again you can simply start writing example “ coffee shop”


A Parenthetical remark can be an attitude, verbal direction or action direction for the actor who is speaking the part.


Extension means how the sound should we hear on a screen or after the film completed for example you there is voice over it write the person name and write (v.o) where v.o indicate voice over example : james (v.0).


When a paper is filled and you are start wring to a new fresh page and write more at the end of filled page and continued to the starting of new fresh page.. it show that the scene is still continues.

Follow these above format and write accoriding to it your whole short film story script.


Some Extra Tips For Short Film Makers.

After you have completed the final script you can edit and write extra information for yourself as a director on that script. which will help you to make your work easier while shooting your film.

>> You can also write camera angles on every scene, if you have made some short films in the past and have some experience under your belt then you can go ahead and write the camera angles after every scene and dialogues but if you are a beginner then we would highly suggest that you read our detailed post on camera angles and movements before writing them for your short film script.

>> Write props you need in that particular scene Props are basically the real or fake but real looking things that you'll use in a scene accordingly and getting the right props for a scene can be difficult sometimes because not all things are in your hand. As an independent filmmaker you have certain limitations when it comes to resources. But the trick is to get what you can and make what you can't get. Write down everything that you'll need for a scene. For example if in a conversation scene you might need cups and plates that you can easily get but if you want blood for an action scene you'll have to make fake blood. Making props like fake blood and many others are explained in our coming post about props that you can read and understand easily.

>> If you are the director then write a brief description about the story and how it will connect to the scene that you will be shooting at a particular day. It will of a great help for understanding easily what you'll be doing on the set and save you a lot of precious time. This can be written in the easiest possible language that you will understand for yourself.

>> At last distribute the story and screenplay to everyone in your cast and crew. This will ensure that everyone understands the short film and is on the same page while shooting and also avoid any confusions.

>> After finishing the screenplay get some friends together to read through your script. Get their feedback, create a list of problems they told you. And then write the problem areas again. If you are afraid of asking for feedback, a trick would help to critique your script as harshly as possible and write all the worst possible things that others would have said about it.


That is it from our side, hope it helps some of you out there struggling to write your screenplay. Now as I promise you to give best script writing software “celtx” for free. Celtx is most popular screenplay writing software used by most every filmmaker, by celtx you can easily write a professional screenplay, it has an great features everything you need to write screenplay,story boarding . Or It's also available for mobile user's for free DOWNLOAD HERE. And for Pc User Click the image below to direct download the software.
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Well that's it on how to write a screenplay. If you like this article then please share it and if you have any suggestions regarding to script writing then comment them down below.

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4 Comments on “How to Write a Short Film Screenplay ( Script)

    1. Thanx Ateeb Ahmad, subscribe to our newsletter we will send you email notification, whenever we published new post 🙂

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