Depth of Characters in Shorts

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  • Depth of Characters in Shorts

    I was wondering if you all would be able to give me any tips for creating characters with depth in a 15-20 minute short? Thanks!
    Passion Fuels Passion

  • #2
    Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

    Was I alone in assuming this thread concerned the likes of Lt. Dangle from Reno 911?
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    • #3
      Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

      Depends on the short. I've seen short films and read short film scripts where there is remarkable character development in just a few minutes or pages. I've also seen short films and read short film scripts where there is virtually no character development, because the story relies heavily on concept rather than character. Both can be equally effective depending upon the script you're hoping to write or the film you're hoping to make.

      A joke or twist short film, often the best kind, establishes character quickly with behavior or appearance. Tape on the glasses, pocket protector, greasy out of style haircut. We know immediately that this guy is a geek. He probably lacks confidence and lives with his mother. He likely doesn't date much if ever and may play video games for up to 12 hours a day. That's a hell of a lot of information from just the visual appearance. By the time the hot cocktail waitress comes up to him and puts the can of Mountain Dew in front of him, and asks, "Can I get you anything else?" we know he's not going to ask for her number. If she brings him a bottle of whiskey, we know something bad has probably happened ... or this guy isn't who he appears to be on the surface.

      Conversely, a character driven short, which can be beautiful if done well, can delve very deeply into a character in just a few minutes through the behavior and revelations in dialogue of the characters. I saw an excellent little short film that relied almost entirely on character development to tell a coming of age story about two teen girls in 1970s Upstate NY. It was beautifully shot, exquisitely acted, and had almost no story. I could watch it over and over again. These kinds of short films are much harder to make than the joke/twist short films, because you must rely much more on the actor's performances than the concept itself.
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      • #4
        Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

        "Fighting for peace is like fvcking for virginity."
        Well, it is, you know.

        Both involve alot of wrestling and hand to hand close combat, and after a crescendo of frenzied and passionate action result in blissful unity and peacefulness. Both are motivated by deep-seated emotions. Both are corrupted of their ideals when money becomes the motive.

        Stealth bombers are like lovers' whispers.
        sigpic
        "As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world -
        that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves."
        -Mahatma Gandhi.

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        • #5
          Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

          Originally posted by tabula rasa
          Both involve alot of wrestling and hand to hand close combat, and after a crescendo of frenzied and passionate action result in blissful unity and peacefulness. Both are motivated by deep-seated emotions. Both are corrupted of their ideals when money becomes the motive.
          Speak for yourself, I'm on and off again in 2 seconds, no hassle, no fuss, and no emotion whatsoever, just a tingle of fleeting pleasure.

          Just like characters in short screenplays, really.

          -Derek
          -> * <- Click on this magic star to be transported to my website. Ruby slippers optional.
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          • #6
            Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

            dpaterso: maybe it has something to do with the lack of reciprocity you get from the blow-up doll?
            " Life is high school with money. " Frank Zappa

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            • #7
              Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

              Hey, Saucy Sue gives plenty, never underestimate the power of static electricity. Not to mention the slow puncture for that "gasping" effect, sometimes it's as if she's whispering my name, SsssssSSSeeeSSSeeek, SsssssSSSeeeSSSeeek, SsssssSSSeeeSSSeeek...

              -Derek
              -> * <- Click on this magic star to be transported to my website. Ruby slippers optional.
              ________________________________________________
              Take the critiques you get with a grain of salt. Invariably, some of the critics will be kooks, bitter curmudgeons, or complete fools. ~odocoileus
              Just One Scene contest
              Results posted!

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              • #8
                Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

                First of all 15 pages is a good length. Five pages per act. This length works perfectly for me. Brevity is the best advice I can give you. Get to the heart of your character within a page or two at most. Unless, like Hairy said it's a character study then you can take the entire script to unveil your character. And please don't treat your short like a joke or rely on the twist to be the plateau of your story. It's such lazy and uninspired writing. Treat the story with the same respect as you would a feature. There's no reason you shouldn't.
                "Only he is an emancipated thinker who is not afraid to write foolish things.-
                -Chekhov

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                • #9
                  Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

                  Just please, don't write a 5 minute first act or a 5 minute 3rd act for a 15 minute movie. Way too long to set up and pay off for a short. 3, 10, 2 is a good ratio for 15 minute shorts. 4,9,2 at worst. Long 3rd acts are death to short films.

                  The short I'm going to direct soon has a 1 1/2 page 1st act, 6 page 2nd act, and 1 page 3rd act. 8 1/2 pages total.
                  http://confoundedfilms.com

                  http://www.myspace.com/confoundedfilms

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                  • #10
                    Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

                    If you want to get some mileage out of them, keep'em SHORT.

                    5 minutes. I've written and directed two short films 20 and 25 mintues long. Both got distribution Atom.com and Ifilm.com. But they like them shorter. Zack Braff (Garden State) said in an interview, that he made the mistake of making his first short film 25 minutes. He said hardly any of the festivals would take it because of its lenght. They like to program the shorts before feature lenght films and don't want to tire out the audience with a long short.

                    I agree.

                    landis

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                    • #11
                      Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

                      Thanks for the advice guys. I really appreciate it and there's a lot of good stuff there. I'm not quite sure what this short is going to be all about yet, but I'm pretty sure it won't be a comedy at least. I'm just not that funny frankly and I won't try to fake it. Drama is probably my best bet....maybe a suspense film.
                      Passion Fuels Passion

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                      • #12
                        Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

                        A little genre advice ... don't make it autobiographical ... the most painful shorts to watch are almost always the introspective dramas. Make it interesting! Nobody cares that your cat ran away when you were 12. I promise. Hell, not even your cat cares.
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                        • #13
                          Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

                          Hahah...yeah I got over that autobiographical phase about five or six years ago. I've been making films since I was about 13, so nearly a decade now, but I just have never taken the time to write a good script up until this point and I'd really like to get more serious with it all. I'm confident with a camera and with giving direction and editing, now I just need that solid script. I was actually thinking about doing some kind of skiing movie, but we'll see.
                          Passion Fuels Passion

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                          • #14
                            Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

                            Cool.

                            If you don't consider yourself a writer, why not read a few of the short scripts available in the writing exercises section and see if you like the style of any of those writers? If so, you could possibly get them to write something for you. I'd imagine many of the writers on this site would love to write a short for you if they knew it would be produced. You might even find something already written that you want to make.

                            Just a thought.
                            http://confoundedfilms.com

                            http://www.myspace.com/confoundedfilms

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                            • #15
                              Re: Depth of Characters in Shorts

                              Maybe it's just that it's my genre of choice but I find that comedy works very well in shorts.
                              "Only he is an emancipated thinker who is not afraid to write foolish things.-
                              -Chekhov

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