Seeds Challenge 4 is now live. In the previous Seeds challenges we sought out short films, student films, pilots, and teasers. So far, the Seeds program has awarded $56,000 to promising talent. Congratulations to the winners of our previous $3000 Student Film Challenge, Fetch.
This time around, we’re going to try something a little different and put the Celtx community’s creative chops to the test. Here’s the breakdown:
- a Celtx user.
- over 17 years of age (for the purposes of signing a legal contract).
Style: Narrative Short
- Your piece must tell a narrative story in the conventional sense. Overtly experimental films and/or video art need not apply.
Maximum Runtime: 30 Seconds
- Thirty seconds start to finish, including credits. No exceptions.
Wildcard: No Dialog
- Your characters must not speak. This isn’t to say it has to be a silent film – music, sound effects, foley work, and wild sound are all acceptable.
A grand prize of $1000 USD will be awarded to an entry selected from among the top voted entries by our panel of expert judges. They’re looking for originality, effective storytelling, and a bit of visual flair. For the first time ever in the Seeds program, we’ll also be offering a $500 USD runner-up prize. Remember to promote your entry! The more votes it receives, the better your chances that it will be considered for the grand prize.
To throw your hat in the ring, Log into Celtx and visit the Seeds page. If you’re not an existing Celtx user, no worries! Registration is free and fast. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Some Pointers From Our Expert Judges
Trying to tell a cohesive story with a beginning, middle, and end within 30 seconds is a fairly daunting task. Filmmakers, as a rule, tend to think big and broad when it comes to the stories that they want to tell. For this contest, you’re forced to condense everything you know about writing, conceptualizing, shooting, editing, and directing actors.
For this contest, writing your script in the screenplay format may not work to your advantage. A screenplay without dialogue isn’t really a screenplay per se, and the format will invariably lead you to over-write. We suggest using Celtx Index Cards to plot out your story. For example, you can start with 3 index cards, each representing 10 seconds of screentime. Think of these as your dramatic acts. An additional 6 index cards, each representing 5 seconds of screentime, could be used to develop your plot points. With a running time this short, every second needs to be carefully considered.
When conceptualizing your story, you’d be well advised the number of settings down to a bare minimum. One or two should suffice. The more settings you try to establish, the more time it will take to make them cogent to the viewer. When watching a movie, people need time to understand what they’re looking at, and how what they’re looking at relates to what they’ve just seen. Show them too much too fast and the story will fall apart.
You can consider having your story taking place within a larger story. You won’t have much time to explore the backgrounds of your characters, and you will have no time for exposition. Why not just drop them in the middle of the action? This in medias res approach will capture your audience’s attention immediately. Additionally, genre is your friend here. You’d be hard pressed to create a 30 second relationship drama (especially when they can’t talk) – but a 30 second horror movie? A 30 second comedy sketch? A 30 second action caper? Each of those naturally inform the final key to a successful micro-short: a memorable ending. If you can manage a great punchline, a big scare, or an unexpected twist at the end of your piece, you can be confident that your entry will stand out in your audience’s memory.
Shooting & Editing
For a piece this short, you don’t necessarily need access to high-end equipment to pull it off convincingly. The smartphone in your pocket is a more versatile camera platform than you think, and it’s extreme maneuverability can allow you to achieve shots that would be otherwise difficult using conventional equipment. Our friends at Wistia offer an excellent primer on smartphone cinematography. Two final notes: please don’t shoot vertical video, and be prudent in your edits. An average feature length film features upwards of 50 cuts a minute. You have 30 seconds. If you’re making a cut every 1-2 seconds, your movie is going to look like a strobe light.
Acting without dialogue is more challenging than one might think. You’ll need people with interesting physicality, presence, eloquent body language, and expressive faces. Cast appropriately – the way your actors look and movie will serve as the dramatic crux of your story.