Sort films are great for more reasons than one. First, they are entertaining in their own right, and often end up transmitting just as much meaning or emotion as feature films do – without feeling unnecessarily stretched. Second, they accurately showcase the talent (or lack of talent) of the people involved in their making, including the director, the screenwriter, the cinematographer and the actors. It is actually quite fun to look at what shorts now-famous directors started their careers with. Take a look at Chris Nolan’s and at Ben Affleck’s. Anyways, this is not the point of the article – it will instead be centred on mistakes that people make in their short films, which eventually end up ruining them.
1. Poor audio or video
We all rejoiced when Nokia revamped the classic 3310 and also added a camera on the beautiful device. But as wonderful as this might be, it does not mean that you should go around and make films with it. Neither should you try to record the audio side with your webcam’s built-in microphone. You might think, who does that? Well, a lot of people do – maybe they don’t use the exact devices that I mentioned, but they achieve similar results. Please don’t.
2. Atrocious acting
Assembling a good cast is indeed one of the most difficult aspects of making a film, particularly if you don’t have access to great riches, or if you have no connections with talented actors. Often, you will go for convenience, which means selecting the most promising would-be actors from your immediate friend circle.The problem with this is that, many times, their acting skills are atrocious. Even with a great story and well-written dialogues, a terrible delivery will break the whole thing. Just to illustrate this with a quote from Inglorious Basters: Lt. Aldo Raine: ‘Omar speaks third most [Italian], so he’ll be Donny’s assistant’. Pfc. Omar Ulmer: ‘I don’t speak Italian’. Lt. Aldo Raine: ‘Like I said, third best’.
3. You don’t get an idea what the film is about after a few minutes
The whole point of a short film is that it’s concise, and presents characters, events or ideas in a condensed format. There’s no need for overly-long background information or agonizing build-up that, in the end, adds nothing at all. If attention is not captured straight away, people will simply stop watching, since pressing play on an embedded video is not a huge investment of resources.
4. Your film has an opening credits sequence
This is really one of the dumbest decisions that I regularly encounter when watching short films. Unless it’s an impeccably made and meaningful short sequence (I haven’t encountered one to date), it has no place in a short indie film. It’s most likely that nobody knows who you, the director, are. It’s certain that nobody cares. If you did a great job, they can see your name at the end just fine. Don’t push it in the begging, please.
5. There’s little to no originality
Indie producers usually operate under many constraints, and one important way to compensate for minuses in other sections is to go for a big plus in creativity. This happens regularly, and yet some films decide it’s best to take a mainstream formula, shorten it to fit the proposed format, and change almost nothing, substance-wise. Which defeats the entire purpose of a short film – they exist to be different and to make a difference, not to serve the same stereotypes that mainstream productions juggle with over and over again. We know all those formulas by heart – what we would like to know is novel ideas or fresh takes on such frameworks.
6. You have a bad poster
Sure, a poster cannot speak about the quality of the film – I’ve seen many great productions that were submitted with horrendous excuses for a poster. You might not be a graphic design artist – the same could apply for your entire crew. That’s fine. You just spent hundreds, possibly thousands of pounds/euros/dollars making a film. Surely you can spare a couple more for a talented graphic designer to design something nice for you.
7. Your logline is problematic, or full of grammar mistakes
Your film’s logline is the first point of contact with everybody. Critics will most likely read it before pressing play, while for audiences it might play a big part in the decision-making process: to watch or not to watch? For such a crucial piece of writing, it sure receives a serious lack of attention. It might mix possessives with shortened verbal forms, it might mess up word order completely, it might not make any sense – it might do all of these in one go. Even if the spelling and the flow are fine, it might still be riddled with cliches. Thus, we recommend this article from our great partner, InkTip, who kindly shows you what mistakes to avoid when writing a logline.