Thursday, May 11, 2006


I was approached by a "director" on one of the screenwriting websites and asked to write a short script for him, based upon some work of mine (a couple of writing exercises) that he had seen on the website. I know that short films are kind of a calling card for aspiring directors, but short of a writer directing their own script, I can't seem to find an upside for the screenwriter. Having said that, I did write the short for him and he's filmed it. I believe he'll be entering it into some festivals. As a writer without representation, how would I be able to use that (would I be able to use it) as a calling card for me?

Your best calling card is a full-length screenplay that an agent or producer can read to get a sense of how you tell a story (for 120-pages) and handle the craft. Through your pages, he will hear your voice.

It is certainly rewarding to see your short script evolve into a film, and there may even be possibilities to win short screenplay awards at various festivals. Plus other unforeseen opportunities could arise (which is the beauty and excitement of this business).

However, in my line of work, I haven’t seen a short film benefit the screenwriter as much as it could benefit the director (or writer-director). Oddly, a director can show off his sense of style and vision in a fifteen or twenty minute film. It’s harder for a screenwriter to show he has the ability to structure and shape a full-length script from just twenty pages.

When you market your next script, let interested parties know you have also authored a short film and see if they would like to see it along with reading your screenplay.

What is the best way to get a directing gig for hire, off your short films?

First, you need to make a short film that’s fucking amazing.

And you haven’t come close to accomplishing that here.

It certainly isn’t incompetent (though the voice-over is pretty bad), but it won’t inspire agents or producers to rally behind your talent. There isn’t anything about the film that elicits real excitement. It isn’t a project that compels me to sit my busy co-workers down to watch it. It doesn’t evoke much atmosphere (this could have been New York just as easily as Chicago), the humor falls short (the wise men are wasted), and the storytelling/writing is clearly limited. The concept is amusing, but we’ve seen modern versions of “Mary and Joseph” done before – often on sit-coms. The best scene (though very brief) is Mary telling the doctor who conceived her child. But then we cut to that shot of her strapped down to the bed – which I thought was more frightening than funny.

For a director to be discovered off a short film and given a feature length directing gig, her movie must “wow.” Not “bow-wow.”

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