Short Film Ideas for Students

Short movie ideas abound in this article. Whether self-taught or through formal education, all filmmakers inevitably work on a short film project at some point. These films typically fall between five and 15 minutes, but they can be as long as 40 minutes. A short film is generally conceived from a simple idea — but it can come in a variety of genres and styles. Feeling stuck? How about a murder mystery or a day in the life of your cat? We’ve got a few ideas to help you get the creative film gears turning.

Short Film Ideas for Students

The possibilities are endless when it comes to short film ideas, but one major factor that might limit your options is the size of your budget. For example, shooting a sci-fi fantasy script idea might prove difficult on a shoe-string budget. Alternatively, having a simple idea with a bigger budget might end up in unnecessary spending that could go toward a more ambitious project. For this article, we will focus on ideas for students and those on a budget. We will break them down into the following categories:

  • Mini-Documentary
  • Mystery
  • Romance
  • Comedy
  • Music Video
  • Experimental

Mini-Documentary

Shooting a mini-documentary might be a little easier in terms of camera setup and materials. Since most of the dialogue comes from real people, the script can be slim. A general outline will help keep track of your storyline and scope. Find a topic or cause you’re passionate about and set up interviews. Some examples might include: the history of a local business/landmark, a political cause, awareness of a disease, or even a day in the life of your pet. You might be able to produce more installments if you find you have a lot of material to cover. Don’t forget to record voiceovers and shoot lots of B-roll.

Mystery

If you’re limited on actors, a “whodunnit” short film can be an option. This can help avoid scheduling conflicts by focusing on one main character who interrogates one suspect at a time. Some examples of premises include: a missing personal item, a murder, a robbery, or a case of mistaken identity. Find your voice to put your own spin on your short.

Romance

They say love makes the world go round, so why not give it a whirl in your next short film? This can be done with as few as two actors. Most great storytelling features a main character with a problem or a goal at hand, so throwing him or her into the trials and tribulations of love will surely keep the audience entertained. Here are a few ideas: unrequited love, cheating/affairs, tale of two worlds, forbidden love, or a love triangle. The tone will depend on what type of genre you tackle. For example, you can create a melodramatic soap opera if you direct your actors to exaggerate their emotions.

Comedy

If you have a funny bone and a knack for jokes, then comedy might be the route for you. The easiest way to do this is to create a parody. With this device, your motive will involve poking fun or satirizing an existing popular film or show. Another option is to take a look at comedy sketches like the ones on Saturday Night Live. Whether character-driven or situational, comedy comes in many forms. Explore your inner comedian by finding material that inspires you.

Music Video

Although music videos are usually separate from short films, many of them employ the same storytelling style and run time. Do you have a Biology presentation due? Why not translate your chapter on photosynthesis into a music video? Take those vocabulary terms and find an existing pop song’s instrumental version to create a parody. What about your English class? Make those literary characters come to life through a music video. One of the pros of a music video is that you won’t need as much sound work since the track will be playing over your video.

Experimental

What better way to dive into filmmaking than by going wild with an experimental short? These shorts can literally be anything — unconstrained by narrative and not following traditional shooting styles. For example, you can shoot inanimate objects and add a poetic voiceover on the meaning of life. Or you can shoot a dance video interjected by time lapses of growing plants with title cards that illustrate your favorite song. This might perplex your audience, but sometimes learning the craft means letting go and finding your own style.

In Summary

That was the list of short film ideas for students or anyone else wanting to make movies. Filmmaking is a creative process from script to screen. Even with a limited budget, students can still create great short films that engage and entertain the audience. Different genres include: Mini-Documentary, Mystery, Romance, Comedy, Music Video, and Experimental. Among these, you might consider a love triangle or a parody. Grab your crew and bring your idea to life — lights, camera, action!

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