I've been reading a lot of scripts recently for a Dorset based competition. This competition uses the standard short film script rules - any genre, no more than 10 pages.
There were some really good scripts and the results are coming soon. So without going into specific details of the scripts here are the top mistakes I saw and the top things I liked.
- Don't describe things that the audience can't know. For example; John, 30, has been a butcher for 25 years and also wanted to be a dancer. Fine to read, but if we were watching the film then how could we possibly know that?
- Conflict and drama is a must. Even in a comedy. Everyone getting along and having a nice time and going home again isn't a story.
- Similar to above is the need to have an ending of some description. A revelation, a surprise, a growing of a character. Something that indicates a journey has taken place.
- People just saying what they feel = bad for the film as well as being unrealistic. You may have noticed that in real life people very rarely articulate their deepest feelings in succinct sentences. You have to dig around in conversations, read between the lines and piece things together. So doing the same in a film mirrors that real-life behavior AND gives the audience something to do - piecing together the characters themselves.
- The short film is almost a genre in itself sometimes... with a heart warming reveal at the end. Smashing that genre convention wide open and challenging it generated some great ideas and stories.
- Short sharp dialogue works. Easy to say and hard to do I know. But dialogue that does just the job and no more is a real joy to read.
- A plot development or character revelation every page and a half seems about right to keep things moving.
One of the hardest things to get right (hard because their is no golden way to do it) is to make the audience care about your characters. But without that nothing else really matters. This probably deserves a future blog post by itself.
Best advice of all remains the same - keep writing, keep getting feedback :)