10 Tips on Turning Your Short into a Feature

By: Laura Huie

When a short film successfully captivates its audience, it often leaves them craving more. This desire for a deeper exploration of characters, themes, and plotlines has led many filmmakers to consider adapting their short films into full-length features.

Converting a short into a feature comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities, but with careful planning and creative vision, it’s a rewarding endeavor that can breathe new life into your story.

Let’s chat about 10 valuable tips to help you transform your short film into a compelling feature.

1. Start with a Strong Foundation

Before beginning to transform your short to a feature, ensure that your short film has a solid foundation. Revisit your story in its short form and ask questions. What is the core concept or message? Who is the protagonist and why is their story relevant today? What are the emotional highs and lows of the narrative? Addressing these fundamental questions will set the stage for a successful expansion of the story into a longer form.

2. Identify the Core Elements

Determine the core elements of your short film that you want to preserve in the feature. This could include characters, themes, key scenes, or even the overall tone. By identifying these essential aspects, you ensure that the heart of your story remains intact while allowing for additional layers of storytelling.

3. Embrace New Storylines

While retaining the essence of your short, have the confidence to dive into introducing new storylines and subplots to enrich the narrative. Explore characters’ backstories, create layers of secondary conflicts, and expand on thematic elements that may have only been touched upon briefly in the short.

4. Deepen Character Development

The transition to a feature-length format grants you the opportunity to delve deeper into your characters’ motivations, growth, and complexities. Take the time to explore their inner worlds, their relationships, their flaws, and character arcs, making them even more compelling and relatable to the audience.

5. Consider Pacing and Structure

Pacing and structure are vital in maintaining the audience’s engagement over a longer runtime. Evaluate the pacing of your short film and determine how it can be adjusted to suit the pacing requirements of a feature. Introduce multiple moments of tension and release and experiment with different narrative structures that allow for sustained narrative development, a climactic moment in your story, and an eventual resolution.

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6. Expand the Universe

If your short film is set in a unique or intriguing world, consider expanding that universe in the feature. Whether it’s through world-building details, exploring different locations, or introducing new characters, expanding the universe can add depth and breadth to your story.

7. Address Unanswered Questions

Short films often leave audiences with questions, intentionally or not. Take advantage of the feature format to provide answers and closure to these lingering questions. This can create a satisfying sense of resolution while still leaving room for new mysteries.

8. Introduce Conflict and Complexity

Incorporate additional layers of conflict and complexity that keep the audience engaged throughout the feature. This could involve introducing new challenges, obstacles, or antagonists that pose fresh threats to your characters’ goals.

9. Maintain Consistency

While embracing new elements, it’s crucial to maintain consistency with the tone, style, and themes of the original short film. Strive for a seamless transition that allows the feature to feel like a natural extension of the existing story.

10. Leverage Feedback

Throughout the process of expanding your short film into a feature, seek feedback from fellow filmmakers, mentors, and potential viewers. Constructive feedback can help you identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas that may need further development. Check out Shore Scripts’ comprehensive coverage services here.

Your Turn!

Adapting your short film into a feature-length film is an exciting opportunity to explore your story’s potential in greater depth. By building upon the foundation you’ve already laid, embracing new storytelling avenues, and carefully crafting every element, you can create a feature that resonates with audiences on a whole new level.

With our Script Development Fund opening in September, now is the time to start ideating on your next TV/film concept! We’re looking for submissions in the form of short treatments or the first 10 pages of a feature, TV show, or short film. The Grand Prize Winner will get a $2,000 cash grant and one year of script development with our team. Time to get writing!

Click here to learn more about how you can submit to the Script Development Fund.

Laura Huie is an experienced writer and editor involved in comedy-drama screenwriting, fiction editing, and full-time marketing copy. Laura is also a freelance article writer for Shore Scripts and has worked with Script Pipeline on their live Symposium series. She is one-half of screenwriting duo, Bloom & Huie. Together, they have written multiple television series as well as a feature-length film. Their mission is to write honest and witty female stories wrapped up in unbelievable worlds. 

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