(Mostly from Inspired 3D Short Film Production by Jeremy Cantor and Pepe Valencia. Some notes are my own and relate specifically to the short film I am making for school) Laws for Making a Short Film Story elements (plot, character, setting, pacing, structure) are more important than production elements (design, modeling, animation*, lighting, camera direction, compositing, sound effects) – *unless of course this is for an animation reel! Don’t bite off more than you can chew - Number of characters, effects, level of detail, complicated characters/sets, audio Show some originality – in storyline, character design, and/or art direction You must like your elements or no one else will (and you won’t have the motivation to finish it) Save Often and Back-Up Regularly! Great Short Entertaining Dramatic plot structure Each beat must move the story by, continuing, punctuating, or explaining a previous scene Or introducing, announcing, or anticipating a subsequent scene without giving anything away to early Story pacing Arc of intensity (chart it out) Character development Style – Realistic, Semi-Real, Cartoony, or Abstract? Appeal (not necessarily attractive, but must be interesting) Accessible Believable – characters and events somewhat related to reality Rules of the world do not have to be realistic, but must be consistent within that world Must make sense – cause and effect Don’t offend your audience Original Unique story, character, and/or design elements must have a balance or you will lose accessibility Memorable invokes an aesthetic appreciation or emotional response Story Once upon a time, something happened To someone, And he decided he would pursue a goal. So he devised a plan of action, And even though there were forces trying to stop him, He moved forward because there was a lot at stake. And just as things seemed as bad as they could get, He learned an important lesson, And when offered the prize He had sought so strenuously, he had to decide whether or not to take it, And in making that decision he satisfied a need That had been created by something in his past. 1. Plot Beginning (some options) Introduce a compelling protagonist with some unique character trait(s) Introduce a character who has an obvious and significant problem Establish a tranquil setting and then impose a major disruption Introduce a character and then provide him with a self-imposed or externally beckoning goal Start in the middle of an action, when your protagonist is engaged in a performance or is perhaps attempting to conquer or escape from some type of problem or antagonist Reveal an interesting setting with a unique visual style, preferable with an associated character or characters Conflict Must be sufficient or no one will care Must contain potential for good animation: Subtle Facial Lip-synch Emotion Waiting Weight shifting Dynamic Full body Weight Physical contact Locomotion Ending Make sure your story actually has an ending Deliver the anticipated scene Don’t be too obvious or derivative Decide on the final reaction you want from your audience and then end your story appropriately Don’t beat your audience over the head with a lesson or moral Make your ending climactic in that it results in a significant change in your protagonist’s life situation Think about the central conflict of you story and the most obvious or effective way to bring about its resolution If your story ends with a remarkable triumph of some kind, make sure it is logical and believable, rather than the result of a fortunate coincidence, a convenient miracle, or an unexplained burst of genius or strength. Brainstorm a full spectrum of possible conclusions – from automatic, to obvious, to common, interesting, unusual, outrageous, an completely absurd Avoid cop-out endings Detach Know what your story is truly about (theme) and then make sure your ending delivers your message effectively Original Appealing Believable Target length (60-90 seconds) What can you leave out, simplify, combine, exaggerate, min. plot twists, mime or dialogue or voice over? 2. Character(s) Super Objective Objective Design should reflect characteristics Original Appealing Believable Internal flaw? (potential for growth) 3. Setting Where General Specific When Rules (physics, social, spiritual, etc.) Original Appealing Believable (At least two out of the three must be original or there is no point. All three must be appealing and believable) Story Types and Structures The Gag Single beat – surprise twist or comic beat Series – a whole bunch of little punch lines Surprise reveal – surprise reversal/unveiling of circumstances/setting etc. The Booty Goes through a series of attempts to get something (money, food, girl, etc) The Moral Allegory or direct finger pointing to teach a social or spiritual lesson. Characters who oppose the moral suffer. The Villain Stronghold – defend Stronghold – eject Chase – evade Battle – engage The Pickle Must get out of a sticky situation, often with a ticking clock The Parody The “I Wish…” Yearns for something, happier times, etc The Rescue The Journey (external or internal) Fine Arts Non-narrative, emphasis on visuals Genre(s) Drama Comedy Suspense Sci-Fi Horror Romance Dark Comedy Crime caper/police/courtroom Action adventure Mystery Sports Tragedy Documentary/biography Musical Double Check: Is it paced well? Any plot holes or logic errors? All parts contribute to whole? Satisfying ending? If it’s supposed to be funny, (or scary, suspenseful, exciting, etc.) is it? How many acts? If three… Can you identify initial incident, climax? What is the protagonist’s goal? Is it worthy of a story? What is the central obstacle? Is it sufficiently challenging? Save Often and Back-Up Regularly!
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