5 Tips for Polishing Up Your Short Film Script

By: Laura Huie

Polishing up your script is a crucial part of the writing process that’s not always talked about in the screenwriting community. When you reach the final word of the last page of your script, you should celebrate such a major accomplishment. And then when you’re ready, polishing it up is the next important step towards going from page to screen.

But what exactly goes into putting the final touches on your short film script? Let’s uncover five tips for getting your short film script up to par for producers.

#1 Proofread & check your formatting

Every word in your script matters. They may only look like words on a screen now, but one day they could equate to hundreds of production hours and possibly thousands of dollars. That’s why proofreading your script with a fine-tooth comb is so important. Not only for the reason of simple grammar, but also it shows potential producers that you put as much thought as humanly possible into your work.

With so many short film scripts circulating in the industry, minimizing risk is crucial. Remember, producers, agents, and managers aren’t just investing in your script—they’re also investing in you as a writer. Having said that, formatting also matters a lot in the industry. For instance, Final Draft is the standard when it comes to correct formatting practices. And in order to properly hear the flow of your writing, try reading your short film script aloud.

Tip: Proofreading resources like Grammarly, Scribendi, or outsourcing for a proofreading professional through online services like Script Reader Pro, are all excellent options.

#2 Finalize your scope & tweak for production

If you’re looking to get your short film made, realistic adjustments may need to be made depending on the content of your script. For instance, high-concept sci-fi or fantasy projects will not be as enticing to some producers because of a greater budget cost. Even during the writing process of your short film, make sure that the scope of your idea is achievable within your means.

If there’s a small scene that increases your budget significantly—do you really need it? Will you be able to attach the caliber of production or cast that you originally thought? You’ll want to strike a balance between story and budget, but that does not mean you have to sacrifice quality.

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#3 Tighten up your story elements

Maximizing your short film script’s impact often includes giving the reader the most bang for their buck. Shortening your already short film can seem daunting, but really take an objective look at what adds to the story and what doesn’t.

Ask yourself the following questions when polishing up the story elements in your script:

Is this scene, description, or line necessary to the plot? At the risk of sounding too nit-picky, find words that are unnecessary to what you are trying to convey. This often occurs when describing the setting or characters. For instance, do you really need to tell the reader that Joe is wearing a “very opulent, dark burgundy shirt” or could it just be described as a “fancy, red shirt”?

Is there a stronger way to convey your necessary elements? Keep an eye out for places where you can really pack in as much value as possible. That might mean cutting out small talk or an integral scene that takes place in a vast setting but the same message can be portrayed in a regular room.

#4 Feedback, feedback, feedback

As with any type of project or script, constructive criticism always matters. Having someone else as a sounding board—especially someone who is more objective—is crucial to discovering aspects of your story that may not make sense or need to be clarified.

Before asking someone to review your script, make sure you ask them specific questions about what works and what doesn’t. And if you’re not sure who to ask, there are many competitions and online resources that offer script coverage. Here are just a few (including Shore Scripts!):

#5 Take a step back

This tip may seem overly simplistic, but taking a step back from your script may be one of the most advantageous things to do when you finish writing. Oftentimes, we get too caught up in what we’re currently writing to the point where we fail to notice areas of improvement. Give you and your script proper room to breathe, so you can return to it with fresh eyes.

You only get one shot—so make it count

Spec scripts usually have only a single chance to really “wow” a reader. That person could be an agent, manager, or producer, and they’ve probably seen their fair share of screenplays. Take adequate time to polish up your script, so your intended visual and verbal message combines in such a way that any reader can see the value in your story.

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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