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What Makes a Good Short Film?

Optus’ Connect5 submission date is coming up and they want your short films, your creations, your ideas. But maybe you’re stuck, or you’re unsure about how to approach the theme of “connecting lives” in such a small time frame. The question here is: how do you make a five minute film really stand out? We asked some people what they think makes a good short film, and here’s what they had to say:

“It needs engaging and interesting characters that are relatable and appealing.” – Dylan, 21. 

What is it that you remember about a film? Usually it’s the characters, the way they interact with each other or their environment. In some films, they are the only aspect and therefore, their role is fundamental to the power of the film.

“It will use a simple idea and builds on it so the character and interaction becomes the focus. It also feels like the “voice” of the director is coming through.” – Tom, 21. 

An example of this is a short film called Granny Smith, winner of Tropfest Australia 2014. It chronicles the outcomes of what saying to your boss “a relative died so I’m calling in sick” could be. On the outside, it’s a simple idea but that’s where the best ideas begin. It also “captured a sense of a grand story and character through only a handful of interactions and characters.”

“One of the best ones really embrace the format by telling one-off stories.” – Lachlan, 21. 

An example of this is Cargo, a finalist in Tropfest. It has a refreshing twist on the zombie genre while telling a self-contained story. Because of the time frame, you don’t get much time to know the character but the directors really communicate the sense of how desperate they are.

“A good short film makes excellent use of technology to bring it onto a wider cinematic playing field.”

Neil Blompkamp’s ‘Oats’ series has movie-grade effects while still telling experimental stories, and that can be really important in reaching a wider audience. Because it’s all well and good to tell a short, experimental story, but people won’t necessarily watch it if it doesn’t look any good.

“The subject matters and themes. The film is too short to develop characters too much or have an episodic story, which leaves you with having one last resort to entertain viewers- the lessons of the film.” – Kyle, 20. 

What is it you are taking away from the film? Is it the fragility of relationships? The importance of friendship?  The possibilities are endless and films have the power to convey any message.

“A good short film manages to get straight to the point without losing its impact.” – Tracy, 20. 

The way the acting, dialogue and visuals are coordinated will determine how the story is captured. Some short films don’t even need dialogue to convey the story if you can see the emotions of the characters or relate to what is happening. An example of this is Impasse, a short film where a Neo Nazi and African woman sit opposite each other on a train, and it captures what it means to be internally struggling with your beliefs and your intuition.

Whether you want to animate, vlog or film, each story is unique and it can only be created by you. Experiment, research, and enjoy the process. With just two weeks left, you can enter the Optus Connect5 Competition now!

For full submission requirements and to enter Connect5 visit optus.com.au/connect5 between now and 1 October 2017.