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  • Writer's pictureLee Hamilton

10 Elements of the Winning Short Script

But to cut a long story short...

1. Be Original: This is fundamentally the most important element to a winning short script.

2. Take Risks: Tackle bold topics, use unconventional narratives, get immersive, be taboo, visually excite – all of the things that perhaps become limited with bigger-budgeted feature films.

3. Emotionally Engage: Hook the reader on an emotional level and they’ll champion your script, giving it a greater chance of advancing through a contest.

4. Excite: A competently-written script isn’t enough to win if the story is boring, predictable, or conventional.

5. Write Lean: Get to the point quickly.

6. Foreshadow: Readers (and audiences) love setups and payoffs, which structurally enhance a script in the process as it means that nothing is wasted.

7. End Strong: Great shorts don’t just have a solid conclusion, they’re highly memorable too, meaning that ending on a bang is a must have.

8. Be Budget Aware: If a script is going to be ultra-difficult to shoot, it probably won’t win, so having some knowledge of film production could help here.

9. Be Visual: Why take five seconds to speak a line of dialogue when a two second reaction shot could tell us the same thing?

10. Perfect Formatting: This alone won’t win you any contest, but if there’s one thing that script reader’s hate, it’s writers who haven’t bothered to learn the basics.

(Bonus Tip) Have a clear theme or message: Shorts with a strong message or compelling theme that resonates are more likely to connect with the reader.

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