Every award winning short film begins life with a clever idea, a good story and a screenplay. Sadly this is not the case for many short films. I have had the privilege to work on both short film competition selection panels and juries at the Oscar accredited Foyle Film Festival in Derry City in Northern Ireland and over the years have watched many thousands of short films both there and online. Each year the festival receives up to 1,500 short film entries from around the world – both live action and animation. Some festivals such as Sundance receive as many as 6,000. Having made short films and written short screenplays myself I know how much work and effort goes into the whole process, how tough it can be and how much a labour of love it is for many enthusiastic filmmakers. Hence it troubled me to see so many short films failing, often for mistakes that could be corrected with a bit of knowledge and thought.

In 2009 I decided to keep a separate notebook and list the many things that we saw going wrong as we viewed that year’s wave of entries. By the end of the process I’d noted some 70 points – some minor, some major. Some of the problems were technical issues, others related to the talent of those involved and some were about the subject, story and structure itself. The top three causes of failure however were first, the lack of a well-developed or interesting story or screenplay; second, bad acting and third, sound problems whether recording or design. Closely following these were lighting issues, the use of clichés and stereotypes and editing difficulties.

Story failure was by far the biggest problem. Many films simply lacked a good story to tell or indeed any story at all. It also became apparent that many of these films lacked an experienced writer’s input or involvement. Many appeared to have been written by their directors or, in some cases, one of the principal actors. Many stories lacked real drama and failed to elicit any kind of emotional response. Some were poorly structured and paced, while others lacked an interesting hook to get the audience, viewer, jury involved. It all came down to having a good idea and story that was well developed and properly written and constructed.

This provided the stimulus and inspiration for my book: Short Films: Writing the Screenplay. I hope this book will help everyone who wants to write, direct or produce a short film to find a good story and learn to write a great screenplay before moving to production. The book highlights many of the mistakes and things to watch out for in the writing process. It also draws the attention of writers to the many benefits of writing short screenplays. Too many writers start out by trying to write feature length screenplays without fully learning their craft. They become disillusioned when they struggle to complete their script or when it’s rejected for basic writing and storytelling mistakes. Writing short screenplays is a great way to learn and develop your writing skills, skills that are transferable to writing for features or television. I discuss the many benefits of writers writing short screenplays in this book.

Storytelling is one of the oldest traditions in human history. People love to tell and listen to stories whether it’s cavemen sitting round campfires at the dawn of time or audiences sitting in front of the latest blockbuster or moving drama in the local multiplex. Story is king. Audiences and juries love a good story well told and ultimately filmmakers who want to be successful, win awards and establish thriving careers need to learn how to find them, write them and tell them. Short Films: Writing the Screenplay will help short filmmakers do just that. It has twenty chapters of information, guidance and advice including three award winning screenplays, two from Oscar nominated short films, and interviews with their writer-directors. I hope it helps you to write and make your own award winning short film.

To celebrate the launch of the Creative Essential Short Films: Writing the Screenplay Patrick Nash will be taking part in a panel discussion alongside filmmaker Douglas Hart, agent Julian Friedman and Edward Hicks, Head of Film, Television & Radio at RADA, as part of the London Short Film Festival on Friday 13th January at 4pm at RADA

Under discussion will be the entire screenwriting process from story, structure, character and dialogue to loglines, treatments and screenplay competitions.

Copies of the book will be available to buy at the special price of £10

The launch is followed at 7pm by the screening of new short films. Details can be found at the London Short Film Festival Website.