March 18, 2020

How to Make a Dynamic 60-Second Short Film

Gone in 60 Seconds
Have you heard about #NFS60? We want to help stack your reels and resumes with some minute cinema. But how? 

Think about what takes only one minute? 

Slowly pouring a cup of coffee, listening to your partner complain about the lack of sports, or even making a big fat bowl of ramen.

There is something special about the 60 seconds it takes to do something, especially when that something is creative and unique.  

Like telling a story. 

A minute doesn't seem very long, but I can assure you that it's more than enough time to impress someone with your storytelling techniques. That's why we issued the #NFS60 challenge and also why we think writing and directing an excellent minute-long short is one of the best ideas. 

Today we're going to go over how to write and direct a movie that only takes a minute. 

And you can use that minute to get yourself an industry job. 

Okay, let's go!  

How to Make a Moving 60 Second Short Film

One of the best things you can do in a short film is to distill everything down into a theme that might only take a minuter to figure out. You can talk about first loves, meetings, and everything in between. 

You can do something in the realm of science fiction, horror, romance, or drama. Literally anything. The point is, you want to establish the genre right away, as well as the stakes. 

Is your story about life and death? Is there a relationship that hangs in the balance? Is it about getting food, clothing, or just understanding from someone else?

So How Do You Outline a 1-Minute Movie? 

Well, if it's a documentary you're shooting, just be informative all the way. Keep the audience involved and make sure after the minute is up we feel incredibly educated. 

Now let's talk about the narratives. 

Open as late as possible, preferably on the conflict you want the movie to resolve. 

By opening late, you can hook the audience right away. Within the first 10 seconds, let us know the stakes. 

Is this life or death? 

And what's the genre? 

In the first 20, we should have met the characters and understood their relationships. Look for shorthand in how to do this, like color, lighting, costuming, framing, set design, etc.

By second 30, you should be in the heart of the story and bringing obstacles rapid fire. 

Montages can help you pass the time if need be, and quick cuts will be your editor's friend here. 

By 40, we need to think your characters will fail.

60 Second Short Film Examples 

Let's look at a few great examples of minute-long short films and see what people create when they have time limits. 

Okay, a good start is the science-fiction epic, Phil Sansom & Olly Williams' movie Blackhole

What works here is that we understand the mundanity of the world right away. 

We then get the people and the stakes. We even get a change in the stakes as we go. 

This short is insanely rewatchable. 

Keep an audience surprised for the whole minute. 

Chong Leun Ping's Late takes thins to another level. 

We know the stakes of this couple right away. Arriving late, pun intended. 

I think the emphasis here on the simple is great, and so is the huge reveal. 

We're moved because of the stakes and because of the big mistake we realize this person caused. I love how the story and characters build through simplicity as well. 

And a really cool water effect. 

You don't need that much clever cinematography or effects. Sometimes you just need a great performance and great writing. 

So lastly, let's look at David Stevens' M22

What we focus on here is a face. Someone going through something quite visceral. 

And then there's a huge reveal. A jump through space and time in the form of quick cuts that waste no time. 

We get the deeper look into the desire for our lives to go on even past the memories and brief segues in our brain. 

Sum It Up!

Get out there and get creating. 

We need entertainment more than ever now. And if you make something excellent in one minute, you can add something really special to your reel.

Know how hard it is to get people to watch anything? 

Well, it gets a helluva lot easier if you tell people it's only a minute long. 

Think of this as the opportunity to create your calling card. 

Happy shooting! 

What's next? Learn more about writing short films!

Chances are you’re reading No Film School because you’re not only obsessed with Hollywood, but you want to be a part of it. But breaking in is never easy. That’s why I think writing short films and even making them yourself, has become a viable option for breaking into the business.

Let’s get going!     

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2 Comments

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March 18, 2020 at 10:26PM

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"We need entertainment more than ever now."
Hum, all there is is entertainment nowadays. We need meaningful art that allows people to think by themselves, be creative, live a better life, not more dumb entertainment that transform people into manipulated sheeps who can't read a book or watch a real film anymore.
Nice shorts though. Not easy to do!

March 19, 2020 at 3:09AM

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Vincent Galiano
Filmmaker / Screenwriter / Photographer
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