How to outline your first short film - for actors (or anyone who wants to write their first short fi


Writing an outline for your short film can be hard.

But it can also be really fun and rewarding.

I'll take you through the steps I used to outline my film The Cabin.


1. Getting started...

A story has a beginning, middle and end or 3 Acts - each act has a beginning, middle and end as well, but we will get there.

Grab a legal pad and section it into thirds.

Do you know how your story will end, like I did? Good! Put that at the bottom.

Have you visualized an opening? Awesome! Put it at the top.

Now it's easy to have one piece but we have to fill it all in.

2. Do some thinking...

Think about what you want your character to go through.

We are thinking about main ideas not the details (but if you get a spark, write it on the side for later.)

We want: Part A happens, then to part B and finally part C.

Write the main ideas in each section.

Part A goes at the top, Part B in the middle and Part C at the bottom.

Here is my example which I'm thinking of on the spot with no editing for this blog.

Ex. She hits a deer driving through the country, top of the page.

The hunters who were hunting the deer, start hunting her now, middle of the page.

She gets caught, killed and skinned, bottom of the page.

So now we have a very basic outline. Yea!

3. Dig deeper...

But remember, each act has a beginning, middle and end as well.

So now let's break each section down.

We will look at each section and break the main idea down into a beginning, middle and end.

Write this below your main idea head line for each section.

Continuing with the example:

Part A Main Idea: She hits a deer driving through the country.

...breaks down to...

* Beginning - A young woman is driving at dusk along a country road singing vigorously to music.

* Middle - Suddenly a deer runs onto the road. The woman reacts as best she can but still hits the deer. The deer scrapes across the side of her car. She swerves and brings her damaged car to a stop.

* End - She slowly gets out - she's shaken from the accident. She walks to the deer. It's bloody and dead.

Part B Main Idea: The hunters who were hunting the deer, start hunting her now.

...breaks down to...

* Beginning - The woman hears rusteling that turn out to be footsteps. She runs to her car frightened.

* Middle- She tries to start her car to get away but it won't start. She sees three people emerge from the edge of the woods near the dead deer. They check out the deer and start pursuing her, guns raised.

* End - She frantically continues to try to start her car but it won't turn. Out of options, she dashes out the driver's side toward the opposite side of the woods. The hunters begin chasing and shooting.

Part C Main Idea: She gets caught, killed and skinned.

...breaks down to...

* Beginning - She is running through the woods getting scraped by branches and dodging trees. The hunters are gaining on her.

* Middle - She comes across a drain pipe and goes in to hide in the darkness so they can't see her. The hunters are approaching. They are pausing near the drain pipe entrance. They seem to have given up looking for her. She slowly comes forward in the pipe to see if the coast is clear. She sees two men staring with guns. She is suddenly grabbed from behind. She lets out a scream.

* End - We are at a cabin in the woods. The hunters are prepping their kill. The girl is being drained, skinned, cut, packaged. One hunter says this meat looks good.

Now there's an outline!

4. Now you write...

Now your ready to get started on your own story.

But, don't just copy this example, countless people have seen this example, and if you copy it, people will know.

Plus your not benefitting yourself by copying.

You want to be able to come up with tons of stories that you want to tell.

To help you, I've made a worksheet to jumpstart your writing process.

You can get it here.

And if you want to hear from me on a regular basis, click and sign up here.

Happy writing!

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