STory development for a shoRt film, feature or serie

The first part of development is about developing the story. The second part is to write a screenplay / script based on the initial story. The third part to make initial estimations of income and cost for this type of film and get an initial financing for pre-production. 

This chapter is based on the book Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.



The logline tells the hero's story: Who he is, who he's up against, and what's at stake. The nice, neat form of a one- or two-sentence pitch tells you everything. 




The reason categorizing your movie is a good idea is that it's important for you, the screenwriter, to know what type of movie you're writing. when you are stuck in your story or when you're preparing to write, you will "screen" a dozen movies that are like the one you're working on to get clues about why certain plot elements are important, why they work or don't, and where you can change the cliché into something fresh. 

length of film

  • Shortfilm < 30 minutes, recommended lenght for festivals is 5-10 minutes
  • Features > 90 minutes
  • TV-series are either 30 comedy or 60 minutes drama with timeslots for commercials (22/44 min for commercial channels, 27/56 min for public channels)

Normally you will have one page per minute for one camera shots. There will be more pages if using several cameras at once.

On an average one scene per minute for features, less for dialoge heavy dramas, more scenes for action.

Average clip length for features is 12-15s. Average clip length for TV-series is 4-7s, i.e. faster pace. Assumption is you need more scenes and more cameras in TV-production. 


Synopsis for feature film based on beat sheet together with a description of main characters

  1. Opening image
  2. Set-up
  3. Theme stated
  4. Catalyst
  5. Debate
  6. Break Into Two
  7. B story
  8. The promise of the premise
  9. Midpoint
  10. Bad guys close in
  11. All is lost
  12. Dark night of the soul
  13. Break into three
  14. Finale
  15. Final image

For a short film with a length of 5-10 minutes is it not possible to tell a complicated story and its very hard to use a whole beat sheet. If one beat is several scenes and each scene is one minute, then a short film is limited to 3-4 beats or a three act structure. 






Title: Lost iPhone and girlfriend
Logline: He lose his smartphone on his way to work and his girlfriend leaves him the same day. Without knowing what happend the day before, he tries to get his old life back.
Genere: Drama
Estimated lenght: 22-25 minutes
Budget: Micro budget shortfilm, to be written and produced by myself
Constraints: Filmed in Malmö and Copenhagen. Swedish dialogue, subtitles in foregin languages