What Makes A Good Short Film?

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What makes a good short film?

Lessons from Anne with an E

I've recently been watching the Netflix series "Anne with an E". In Season 2 Episode 4 there is little B-story that runs through the episode which was beautifully written and very well told. 

Diana's mother decides that Diana and Mini May must learn to become young ladies and because they cannot go to finishing school, she takes it upon herself to teach them. Of course she takes it too far telling them their childhood is finished. We see scenes of the two girls walking with books on their head, showing their father, who scoffs at them. 

In a later scene, their father tells their mother the girls will be 'lucky if they become fishmongers wives.' Diana and Mini May quietly sit looking hurt as they hear this and their mother is irritated.

In a later more disturbing scene, we enter the scene as Diana is shouting at Mini May who has wet their bed. She yells at her that she will be fortunate if she can get a fishmonger to marry her. Mini May is crying and upset and Diana is obviously spouting exactly what she has heard her parents say to them. Diana's mother enters upon this scene and realises what her teachings is doing to her children. She crumples and asks their forgiveness. 

If you take away the rest of the episode, this would make a beautiful short film.

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diana shouting at mini may for wetting the bed

These sequences work as a story on it's own and I wanted to analyse why. 

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CONFLICT

Diana's mother wants her two daughters to become perfect young ladies, her daughters want to have fun and be children. 

There is another extra element of conflict added between Diana's father and mother. The father has a certain level of contempt for his wife and for what she is doing. This adds extra stress to the already tense family dynamics. 

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CLEAR, VISUAL COMMUNICATION

We see the mother buying a book about bringing up young ladies. We see the two girls walking with books on their heads. We hear their mother reproaching them at the dinner table while they look very unhappy. 

We can see the wet patch where Mini May has wet the bed, we can see Diana shouting at her and we can see Mini May's look of shame and upset. We also see the expression of guilt and remorse on their mother's face when she comes in. 

You could turn the sound off to these sequences and still have a rough idea of what is going on. That's good filmmaking. Not always, but usually, a good story is one where the visuals do most of the work. 

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A CLEAR STRUCTURE

Diana's mother decides to teach the girls to be ladies. 

The girls struggle to obey and tensions rise between mother and daughters and father and mother. 

There is a climax in drama as the girls start to fight amongst themselves and the mother resolves the situation. 

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THE AUDIENCE CAN RELATE

I am sure we have all had experiences as a child where our parents disciplined us a little too hard on a certain issue, or as an adult we have lashed out at someone else because we were being hurt by someone else. 

Although finishing school and being brought up as a young lady is not in my world, discipline, bed wetting, growing up and family tensions have been at some stage in my life...in everyone's life. 

I actually think this is the main reason these sequences would work as a short film, because they connect with any human being. We have all been children, we have all misread adults behaviour towards us as children and tried too hard to please. 

We have all pushed others too hard and regretted the consequences. These are all themes and ideas that any human being can relate too. That is what you must find when writing and making your own films. The human connection. 

What's the best short film you've ever seen? Tell me about it and why it was your favourite in the comments below! 


 
 

My name is Jay, I am a female filmmaker and I make videos for beginner filmmakers on my YouTube Channel The Director's Logbook. I'm currently doing some research so I can make better videos for you, so if you have a few minutes to answer some questions below I would be so grateful! 

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