How to Make a Short Film: Advice from Jim Cummings

Are you trying to figure out how to make a short film? You’re in the right place!

Filmmaker Jim Cummings has launched a YouTube series called Filmmaker 360, in which he’ll share suggestions for new creators.

Considering his feature film Thunder Road won the Grand Jury Prize at the SXSW Film Festival in 2018, he’s a good person to listen to!

How to make a short film

Jim’s first episode focuses specifically on shorts.

Here are the main takeaways from Filmmaker 360 episode 1:

Impress the Audience Through the Craft

Use camera, sound, and everything else to compel the audience. You have to beat your competition!

Read and Watch Great Short Fiction

From the best short stories to the website Short of the Week (which has specific channels for Sundance and SXSW, for example), you need to know what’s out there and what’s working.

Cut Everything Superfluous

From an unnecessary line of dialogue to a redundant image, be deliberate and strict. Do you really need it?

Make Some Jokes

If every single moment of the film is dead-serious, it will fail.

Discuss Evergreen Subjects

Stick to stories about things like life, love, legacy, grief, happiness.

Ask Yourself If Things Are Realistic

If you realize that something in your film is just not the way it’s done in real life, change it!

Directors’ Visions Are Often Mirages

Things don’t always turn out the way you envision. Be flexible.

A Short Is Not a Sketch

A short has different language than a sketch. It’s more about important moments than getting a simple idea across for a laugh or a scare.

Keep the Credits Short

They shouldn’t be as long as your entire film!

You can tell that Jim has experience with shorts because he’s kept his advice so succinct.

On his second episode, he’s joined by Danny Madden, whose film Beast Beast just came out:

We’re looking forward to watching future Filmmaker 360 episodes. Who knew you could learn so much from dudes hanging around in a field!

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