SETH’S 10 TIPS FOR
WRITING A SHORT FILM SCRIPT

SETH ÁLVAREZ

Generally, my creative process is triggered by a phrase, an image or a story that I hear. When I am going to write a short, I always take the following into account:

1. Produce from writing
One of the things I learned in my first writing class was to put my feet on the ground. A blockbuster is very difficult to make happen, so I prefer to do projects that are easy to produce. I do that from writing.

2. Few characters, few locations
Following the above premise, most of my produced shorts were written that way. I always make sure that my stories have few characters and few locations. I focus more on making interesting whatever it is I want to tell.

3. A single situation
As in the written yarn, I always try to base the story on a single situation and generally without the use of subplots. One of the characteristics of the short film is its ability to synthesize, so I always try to manage all my resources.

4. Convert dialogues into actions
One thing Michael Rowe emphasized to me is that I shouldn’t “say”, but rather “show”. I always review my dialogues and if I can turn them into actions, I delete them and write a scene. My characters don’t say that they are going crazy, we see them going crazy.

5. Know and respect the format
As a script jury member, one of the things I notice most is that writing is not properly formatted. Using programs like Celtx or Final Draft can help avoid this situation. The well-written format allows for speed reading, comfort, and better understanding of the story.

6. Zero camera directions
It is difficult to read a script with camera directions. If you want to attract a potential investor or producer, you have to avoid using them. That’s what the technical script is for.

7. Describe the character and settings, but only the essential
With characters and settings, I only describe what is dramatically important to the story. I always look for balance: not so concise, but neither excessively detailed in my descriptions.

8. The turn of the screws
What matters most to me in a short film is the final blow within the story. That which impacts your mind and makes you talk about the movie for several days. It’s what I work at the most when thinking about my cinematographic text.

9. There are no absolute truths or rules, as each project is different
I have read many books about writing for the cinema and I think it’s important to know them as a general rule, but I’ve come to realize that each short film is written and structured differently. The story itself tells you how it should be told.

10. The Rewriting
When I finish a script, I let it sit for a few days and review it again. Then I check it again and then I check it again.

ABOUT
THE AUTHOR

SETH ÁLVAREZ

Seth Álvarez is the screenwriter of Polvo blanco, a short film and winner of the 1st call to support production in the states 2015 of IMCINE, and El ocaso de Juán, a short film awarded the Ariel in 2017. He has been a finalist in various film festivals in the category of short and feature film script. He has been part of the selection committee of the Script Contest for Scholarships 3rd EnIbEsCine 2015, coordinator of the Short Film Script Contest of the 2016 Colima Film Festival, evaluating advisor of EFICINE 2018 and jury of feature script preselection at the International Film Festival of Guanajuato 2018.