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4 Reasons Why You Need To Write A Micro-Short Script


Guest blog by produced screenwriter Rick Hansberry. To stay current with Screenwriting Staffing, join our mailing list.


A micro-short is a script that is less than 2 minutes in length. Basically, it’s the film equivalent of a television “bottle episode” where the main characters typically remain in one main location with one main plot throughout the duration of the script.


In addition, micro-shorts usually tend to have a twist or surprise ending since its length makes it hard to deliver escalating levels of conflict.

On the plus side, there are dozens of dedicated film festivals that cater to the 60 second and 90 second type of films.

These contests and festivals offer a tremendous opportunity to showcase your chops without spending months on writing and producing a regular short film. Our Script Search Board often searches for these shorts.


Don’t have a micro-short in your portfolio yet? If not, here are my suggestions and 4 reasons to have one:


1. ULTRA COST-EFFECTIVE

To put a new slant on an old phrase – “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” The mere existence of smart phones and cameras and editing software begs the new adage – “If it were inexpensive everyone would do it.” These days, with budgets being restrictive of making even some shorts, a micro-short is ultra cost-effective.

The very limitations of the platform – less than 2 minutes – and the limits to sets and characters inherently makes this an attractive option financially and therefore doable for most people without crowdfunding or finding investors.

Here’s an example. My micro-short “Missed Stop” was found on Script Revolution by a filmmaker looking to build a reel as a Director. As a commuter, he knew he had access to the appropriate subway train for the shoot.


After blocking the trip with his cast and extras, it was a matter of timing with the lighting and weather. While certain elements are beyond a rogue shoot – Outside sounds, unexpected people, etc., the fact that you only need a handful of shots eliminates the number of things that can go wrong. Keep it simple.


Here’s a link to the film. https://vimeo.com/274372854


2. FORCES WORD ECONOMY


We’re wordsmiths. I get it – there are times we want to lay out the perfect stage direction. It crackles with evocative images and shows incredible reveals. We stand back and bask at it.


Save it for your feature. Paste it into your work-in-progress. Hell, cut it out and tape it to the top of your computer but leave it out of your micro-short. When I wrote my first, I convinced it was impossible. There was just no way to create an engaging story in only a page or two. After I completed a few and placed in a few 60 second film festivals, I learned that it’s not only possible – it helped me become a better writer.

Fewer words on the page create the coveted “white space” that makes a screenplay read sing.

What micro-shorts need is for the writer to capture all the nuance and emotional complexity over the span of words, not pages.


Subtext is key. Give the audience just enough information to be able to explore the nuances and complexities you’ve set up on their own. Set the reader and your audience up for larger themes and let them bring their own histories and emotional touchpoints to your story.


3. DISTRIBUTABLE IN MORE PLATFORMS THAN SHORTS

Micro-shorts can be viewed as both advertising and entertainment purposes. The extremely short length allows viewing on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook and, Film Gods willing, the ability to go viral. Already have a script written and looking to get it produced? Have your pitch blasted to over 3K industry pros.


Some commercials venture past 60 seconds now and the production value is sky high. Ultimately, you are competing with the Apples and Nikes of the world. You are promoting a product and building a brand – but you’re also telling a story. The better the story, the greater the impact of the message. The greater the impact of the message, the better the chance to capture the attention of producers, studios and filmmakers that want to explore opportunities to work together. As with the cost benefit, all of this comes with a far-less taxing time involvement in creating the micro-short.


4. MAXIMUM IMPACT


Any Producer worth their salt will pick up a 2 or 3 page script with high expectations that they are NOT about to read some small talk around the water cooler. Action and conflict will be almost immediate and therefore should be properly set up. If a bomb is going to explode – the tension exists in knowing that the bomb is about to explode. Don’t skimp on the set up. Set the table appropriately. Show us what ‘could’ be about to happen.


My most ambitious micro-short script, “FReak” packs a punch. I wanted to create awareness that even the smallest gesture to stop school bullying could help. I crafted “Freak” around the stereotypes of school bullies and victims and raised the stakes to life and death. My hope is to get this produced, especially with the epidemic of mass shootings we’ve encountered recently in society. If that’s why some producers shy away, I’ll understand. Not everyone wants to make a statement with films but this is one platform that I hope can make difference. Stay tuned.

The important thing to remember when approaching your first micro-short is that it will NOT be your identity. It will not label you as a certain type of writer. It’s a proving ground. It is an opportunity to put a statement on the table that draws curiosity. You are creating brand awareness. Your brand.

Think of something you would like to make a statement about and set that up in dramatic fashion. Give yourself as little room as possible to stray and your statement will be that much more impactful. Also, don’t be short sighted. Don’t only have a micro-short in your toolbelt because the whole point here is to draw attention to what you can do in under two minutes. If someone likes it, they’ll want to see what you can do in 4 or 8 or 15, so be ready with another strong example of your storytelling and make the most of the chance to showcase your skills now that you’ve gotten someone’s interest. Post your short on our Logline Board.


If you’ve never written a micro-short and find it difficult, try to at least pair down to the essentials: Make the first page of your draft of the script, the set-up or Act One. Then, make the second page Act Two. If that bleeds into two pages, so be it. Finally, make the last page your Act Three. That way you have three separate balls of clay to whittle down.

Shave them to the bone and make sure every word is necessary. Challenge yourself to expand your vocabulary and find a way to express something with one word instead of three.

Get cryptic with your stage direction. Choose just the right word rather than a phrase. Think of the difference between: The room looks disheveled. Fine. We get it but what if your character opens the door and you’re describing what he or she sees. If it looks disheveled as the previous stage direction indicated, maybe simply write: Chaos. One word SHOWS all the set designer needs. Efficient writing is essential to the micro-short script.


Bottom line – If your Micro-Short hits the mark, it shows the audience (producers) that you are capable of creating a powerful message and they’ll want to see more of your work. Then, you can wow them with your ready-for-the-market screenplays. Build it and they will come. Get at least one in your portfolio.


Looking to for a micro-short to produce? Post on our Script Search Board.

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Blog written by Rick Hansberry

Rick Hansberry is an award-winning screenwriter with more than 25 years of industry experience. With several produced credits on his IMDb page, Rick has written, produced and directed several short films. 2017 saw the release of two feature-length movies, "Alienate" and "Evil In Her." 2018 brought the release of another award-winning short, "My Two O'Clock". In 2019, Rick wrote, produced and directed his first web series pilot, "Clean Slate" and delivered creative and narrative material to an Emmy-winning documentary, "This Is My Home". Watch out for new productions from Rick later in 2022, including the feature roadtrip dramedy "Baggage Claim" (with Nikki Neurohr); a short romantic comedy, "Impression" (with Brooke Vanderdonck) and a horror feature, "Crimson Shadows" (with Chloe Carroll).


Rick is presently working on new shorts and features. He has dozens of scripts available for production and is also interested in spec writing, collaborating and adapting stories for the screen. Many of his scripts can be found on Script Revolution: https://www.scriptrevolution.com/profiles/rick-hansberry

 

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