By: Laura Huie
Shore Scripts created the anatomy articles in response to repeated requests to share successful scripts from our contests so that other emerging screenwriters could learn from their examples. Placing in a screenplay contest can create value for a writer’s IP and so meeting this request presented a challenge. How do you share what needs to stay private – at least for a while?
Deconstructing what made our Judges and readers select a script for placement, rather than publishing the script in its entirety, was a way to meet this challenge. And, we think, it is even more, useful to writers considering entering our contests. We thank our former Winners and Finalists for sharing their scripts with us and allowing us to share our evaluations with a wider community. Read on to find out what, for us, makes a great short film script.
When writing a short film, it’s important to keep your main character’s arc and the structure of your story front and center. The best short films revolve around a protagonist that must deal with a clear goal or challenge. Whether your story centers on their internal or external conflict—or a little bit of both—it’s integral to have a solid structure to guide your plot.
THE COMMITMENT by Rachel Benaissa is a short dramatic comedy that was placed as a Top 5 Finalist in the Spring season of the 2022 Short Film Fund. THE COMMITMENT focuses on a wife and mother grappling with postpartum depression. Although the main subject matter is dark, Rachel balances this with heart and humor to take a different spin on this uniquely female experience that other women can certainly relate to.
Creating that sense of immediate engagement and empathy is essential in a short film script and is the first area in which THE COMMITMENT excels.
With any story, the opening scene must grab the reader’s attention. In THE COMMITMENT, the hook is strong, funny, and intriguing. There’s a sense of surprise and dark humor as Madeline and the dog across the street stare at each other understanding. Then, there’s a gut punch of real emotion when she reveals that she feels numb inside while she and her husband are having sex.
Rachel also cleverly mirrors this opening scene at the end, neatly bookending the story and providing a satisfying setup and payoff for the reader and audience alike.