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NARRATIVE FOR SHORT FILM – covered in Sunday’s session 14.12.14

  Drama is life with the dull bits cut out”
Alfred Hitchcock

A narrative story has characters, settings and conflict. It’s what you typically think of when you think of “a story” – something that tells a tale instead of just relaying information like a textbook.

Both factual and fictional films have narrative shaping, but they use different devices to tell their stories.

Narrative relates to plot and structure. It is important to have a clear idea of the beginning, middle and end of your film and what the narrative arch is.

Other key elements include characters, subplot, themes and visual/audio storytelling.

Specifics of Short Film

  • Fewer characters
  • No subplots
  • Less budget, less well known cast
  • Fewer settings/locations
  • Shorter timeframe

Other things to think about:

Characters/Who is in your film

  • Issue/Theme
  • Stylistic Approach
  • Setting/Location
  • Story Arch

Keep your audience interested:

“What’s happening now must be inherently more interesting than what just happened. The goal of structure – the goal of your entire screenplay, in fact – is to elicit emotion in the reader and audience.”

Use visual storytelling:

In cinema a story is most visual when ideas and emotions are expressed through performance and aesthetics as opposed to dialogue.

Filmmakers can use composition, framing, blocking of actors and their position to camera, colour palette, costume, lenses, light and camera movement to tell the story.

For a good example of visual story telling watch Luminaris –



Candy Crime
What you can say in 90 seconds. Theme. Style. Location.c00001808_p640


Pumpkin – made by academy students
Theme. Style. Characters.

Gallery 3


What Makes a Good Short?

From BBC Film Network –

There are no hard-and-fast rules as to what makes a good short film but here are a few tips that might help:

  •  Exciting and Original Idea
  •  Strong Script
  •  Good Acting
  •  High Production Values
  • Make it Short
  •  Strong Beginning


Suggested Resources:

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
Screenplay by
Syd Field
Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee


Links to useful information about short films:

Watch short films online: