Short Film Ideas: 9 Easy Ways to Generate Unique Ideas!

short film ideas

Key Takeaways:

  • News Inspiration: Explore current events for story ideas.
  • Study Shorts: Analyze various short films to understand storytelling techniques.
  • Life Events: Use personal experiences as a creative source.
  • Random Wikipedia: Utilize the “Random Article” feature for unique ideas.
  • Family Traditions: Draw from cultural or family traditions for rich narratives.
  • Nature’s Muse: Find inspiration in the natural world.
  • Simplicity: Keep your plot straightforward and focused.
  • Festival Insights: Attend film festivals for trends and networking.
  • Tech Tools: Use screenwriting software to structure your ideas.

Do you love the idea of making short films but find yourself struggling to come up with new and interesting ideas?

I think every indie filmmaker has struggled with writer’s block at some point or another. I know I have in the past. But with creative perseverance, I’ve also learned how to overcome those doubts and stumbling blocks holding me back.

From Devil’s Due to Awake to Boneyard Racers, one compliment I regularly receive for my short scripts and films is how unique or original they are. But that doesn’t mean the ideas didn’t take a lot of brainstorming or work to flesh out into full-fledged scripts.

If you’re feeling stuck in your creative process, read on for nine easy ways to generate new short film ideas. You’re sure to find at least one method that will help you get the creative juices flowing!

A great film begins with a great script, and great scripts start with great ideas. Once you have a great idea, you can take action and make your own short film dreams a reality. With a little bit of hard work and determination, anything is possible!

Start brainstorming today and see how many of these 9 methods can help you brainstorm short film ideas and help you create your own short films!

How to Brainstorm Short Film Ideas

1. Read the News

short film ideas

One way to generate short film ideas is to read or watch the news.

Staying updated on current events helps you gain insights into the stories and issues that matter to people. It also allows you to discover strange but true stories with human interest elements that can be brought to life on screen.

So, keep yourself informed, and who knows, you might stumble upon a great idea for a short film!


In addition, reading the news can give you a feel for the types of stories that lend themselves well to a short film format. With a little bit of creativity, you can take any news story (especially the weird ones!) and turn it into an interesting short film.

2. Watch Lots of Short Films

short film ideas - watch lots of shorts

A great way to come up with ideas for a short film is to watch and break down lots of short films. By “breaking down” a short film, I mean watching it and then identifying the various elements that make up the film.

These elements can include the setting, the characters, the plot, the editing techniques, visual and sound design, and so on.

Once you understand how these elements work together, you will be in a much better position to come up with your own ideas.

One of the best ways to learn about short film structure is to watch a variety of short films and then analyze them.

Try to identify the different elements that each film uses and how they are used to create an overall effect. Take note of what worked and didn’t for you as both a filmmaker and an audience member.

As you watch more and more films, you will start to see patterns and commonalities emerge. This knowledge will be invaluable when it comes time to generate your own ideas!

3. Use Your Own Life for Ideas

ideas for a short film

Many filmmakers find that the best source of inspiration for their work is real life. After all, there is no shortage of interesting events and stories to be found in the world around us.

One easy way to generate great short movie ideas is to look to your own life for inspiration!

Think about some of the most memorable moments from your personal life experiences. Perhaps there is a particular event that made a lasting impression on you. Or maybe there is a person in your life who has always fascinated you.

Whatever the case may be, real-life stories can make for good movie ideas.

short film ideas

Of course, it is essential to remember that real-life stories need not be autobiographical. If you have a friend or family member with an intriguing story, consider asking their permission to share it with the world through your film.

4. Press “Random Article” on Wikipedia

find ideas for a short film

One easy way to develop great short film ideas is to use a mad-libs-style randomizer.

Simply go to Wikipedia and press the “random article” button to do this. This will take you to a completely random Wikipedia page.

Once there, look at the page’s subject and see if anything could be turned into a short film.

For example, if you land on the page for “List of fictional dogs in live-action television,” you could write a short film about a former-star dog that is left behind when its family moves away.

Or, if you land on the page for “Timeline of the Big Bang,” you could make a short film about two scientists who make a startling discovery as to what caused the Big Bang.

There are endless possibilities for short film script ideas with this method!

5. Use a Family Tradition or Holiday

how to generate short film ideas

Have you ever thought about making a short film but didn’t know where to start? One easy way to generate ideas is to use a national or religious holiday as a setting.

This can be a great way to add some extra meaning and depth to your film.

For example, if you set your short movie on Thanksgiving, you could explore the holiday from different perspectives.

cornucopia, thanksgiving, autumn

What if you told the story of a family that doesn’t traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving but decides to give it a try?

Or what if you focused on a character who is grateful for what they have, despite all of their challenges?

Or a character who moves to a foreign country and attempts to fit in by celebrating their local holiday or tradition without understanding it at all?

There are endless possibilities for using a family tradition or a holiday as a setting for your short film. So get creative and see what you can come up with!

6. Get Out in Nature

short film ideas - get out in nature!

One of the best ways to brainstorm ideas for a short film is to get out in nature.

By exposing yourself to the natural world, you can tap into your innate creativity and develop some genuinely original ideas.

Here are a few easy ways to generate short movie ideas while you’re exploring the great outdoors:

  • Take a hike in a nearby forest or park and let your mind wander as you take in the sights and sounds of nature. See if any story ideas come to mind as you commune with nature.
  • Visit a local botanical garden or nature preserve and observe the plants and animals. See if you can find any interesting characters or storylines that could be used in a short film.
  • Go for a swim in a natural body of water and let your imagination run wild as you float in the refreshing waters. See if you can come up with any unique ideas for a short film that would be set underwater or in a remote location.
blue and brown steel bridge

Exploring the great outdoors can ignite your creativity, allowing for fresh and unique ideas to flow for your upcoming short film project.

7. Keep Your Plot Simple!

short film ideas - keep the plot simple

One great way to come up with ideas for a short film is to keep your plot simple.

A great example of this is the classic Pixar short, Geri’s Game. Though it is an animated film, there is nothing in it that couldn’t have been filmed as a live-action short. And it’s as clear-cut as it is entertaining.

The entire film is about an old man playing chess alone in the park. There are no subplots or secondary characters, just a simple and sweet story with a single main character in a single location that is easy to follow. Copy the link below the picture and paste into your browser to see this cute short!

Geri's Game

Another great way to spark ideas for a short film is to start with a character. Think about someone you know well, or even yourself, and try to imagine their life in a different or unusual situation.

For instance,

  • What if your best friend was suddenly thrust into the role of a superhero?
  • What if you woke up one day with the power to read people’s thoughts?
  • What if your grandmother went to the wrong birthday party?

Having a strong central character is key to the success of your story. When you start with a robust lead character and keep the plot simple, generating great ideas for a short film becomes much easier. So, focus on developing a great protagonist, and watch the rest of your story fall into place!

8. Go to Film Festivals

find ideas for a short film - go to film festivals

Film festivals are a great way to watch great short films and meet other filmmakers.

By attending festivals and talking to other filmmakers, you can get a sense of what types of stories are being told and what kind of short films are being made. This can help you brainstorm new and unique short film ideas.

In addition, festivals provide an opportunity to learn about new filmmaking techniques and to see how other filmmakers approach their work.

By attending festivals and talking to other filmmakers, you can gain valuable insights that will help you develop your own short film ideas. It’s also fun to meet like-minded artists and fans!

9. Use Screenwriting Software

use screenwriting software to find short film ideas

One of the most challenging things about making a short film is finding that perfect story idea.

Every indie filmmaker struggles with this, especially if you are stuck with using the locations, props, and costumes that you’ve got at home! If you’re stuck, a few helpful tools can get you moving in the right direction.

One option is to use AI story software, which can help you generate narrative possibilities based on specific parameters you set. You could give the software some of the costumes, settings and props that you have on hand, and ask the software to give you ideas for a short that would work given what you have.

Screenwriting software and storyboard software can also help develop your short film ideas.

These tools can provide structure and assistance in fleshing out your ideas into a full-fledged script.

In addition, you could always take an online filmmaking course – this can be a fantastic way to meet new people and do lots of brainstorming!

Utilizing these resources allows you to take your short film from concept to completion more efficiently and effectively.

Man Holding Camera and Woman Playing Violin

If you’re still stuck for ideas, try one of these other methods:

  • Photography & Art: A single image can tell a story. Browse through photography websites, art galleries, or even Instagram for visual inspiration.
  • Dreams: Our subconscious mind can be a treasure trove of bizarre and interesting narratives.
  • Books & Literature: Short stories, poetry, or even an interesting quote can be the starting point for a screenplay.
  • Music: Lyrics, instrumentals, or the emotion a song invokes can lead to a unique idea.
  • Historical Events: Look into the past for lesser-known incidents or periods that can be adapted into modern contexts.
  • Myths & Legends: Adapt folk tales, legends, or myths from various cultures.
  • Collaboration: Brainstorm with friends, family, or fellow filmmakers. Sometimes, just talking about an idea can evolve it into a story.
  • Travel: New places, cultures, or experiences can offer fresh perspectives and stories from real life events.
  • Social & Cultural Issues: Addressing societal issues or cultural discussions can make for powerful short films.
  • Life’s “What if” Questions: Pose hypothetical scenarios to yourself. For instance, “What if people could read minds for a day?”

Remember, inspiration can strike anytime, anywhere. Keeping an open mind and staying curious are key to generating great ideas for a short film!

How to Use AI To Brainstorm Short Film Ideas

AI (artificial intelligence) story-generator tools have come a long way. If you are struggling to develop good ideas for your short film, try using one of these programs for ideas!

While AI story generators cannot yet write complete stories without humans, they can sure make story writing more manageable.

To see how well this works using my favorite AI creative writing program, Sudowrite, I inputted the following sentence into the “brainstorm” function:

Sudowrite brainstorm

Here’s what it gave me as ideas:

Sudowrite short film ideas for Christmas

While they are not all fantastic ideas, I appreciated that I could keep pressing the thumbs up or thumbs down buttons and new ideas kept coming! Here’s the ideas I liked at the end:

Sudowrite short film brainstorm session

As you can see, using AI can be a shortcut to creating fantastic story settings.

It can also be used for other aspects of storytelling, such as describing characters, plot points, and events. I have used both Sudowrite and for AI storytelling, and Sudowrite is my favorite!

Sudowrite offers a free trial so that you can try it for yourself at no cost. After that, if you decide to buy a monthly subscription, you will receive 10,000 words for free if you sign up through the link below!

Alternatively, just ask Chat-GPT! If you have a general idea for your short film, you can prompt Chat-GPT to give you a list of specific ideas.

For example, you could prompt it “give me a list of 10 unique short film ideas for a movie about a family going on a holiday to Hawaii”.

Here’s what I got when I inputted that prompt:

Chat GPT short film ideas outputs

Those are some great short film ideas!

Feature Films vs. Short Films

Feature films and short films are both popular types of movies, but they have some key differences.

A feature film script is typically much longer than a short film script, running at least 60 pages and lasting for an hour or more on-screen. They also tend to have larger budgets, which allows for more extensive sets and special effects.

In addition, full-length films usually feature established or well-known actors and actresses, whereas short films often cast unknown or up-and-coming talent.

As a result of their length and production values, feature films typically carry more weight than short films in the film industry.

However, short films can be just as entertaining and thought-provoking as their longer counterparts, and many filmmakers have translated short film success into feature films.

Entrance to a Movie Theatre

In recent years, short film festivals have become increasingly popular, allowing audiences to enjoy a wide variety of short movies from around the world.

While both types of films can be enjoyable to watch, they serve different purposes in the film industry.

Full-length films are usually designed to be commercial successes, while short films are often used to showcase a filmmaker’s talent or tell a personal story.

Why Choose a Short Film Over a Feature?

There are tons of great reasons to try making a short film, especially if you are a newer independent filmmaker! Let’s take a look at some of the top reasons.

  • Short films are great for refining your filmmaking skills with minimal time and money.
  • It’s the perfect platform to:
  • Short films are useful for building a portfolio to attract agents and producers.
  • They can act as a stepping stone to test ideas for feature films and gauge audience reactions.
  • Short films are typically (much!) more cost-effective than feature films.
  • They are quicker and easier to produce, ideal for industry newcomers or those looking to try a new style.
  • Shorts are a potential fundraising tool for future feature film projects – a successful short can attract potential investors! Investors will be more likely to back your feature film project if you can make a convincing case for your short film.
short film ideas

This is exactly what happened to my own short film, Boneyard Racers. It was an excellent opportunity to tell a unique story on a minimal budget and take some risks in front of and behind the camera.

The results were more than our team anticipated, as the film found a home at many film festivals worldwide and even won several awards covering the spectrum of talents at work, from Best Cinematography to Best Director to Best Actor/Actress to Best Film and many others in between.

This, in turn, led to a worldwide distribution deal for Boneyard Racers.

Click the video above to watch as I play the devil in the trailer for Boneyard Racers

The experience was so positive that it enabled us to get funding for our next project – a feature film called Spin the Wheel, which has recently been picked up for distribution.

Because we were able to show how much we could do with significantly less money when it came to Boneyard Racers, the short became our calling card when speaking with potential investors.

It also became a proof-of-concept for a feature-length retelling of the same story to give investors a clear idea of the look and feel we would want moving forward.

So whether you’re looking to experiment, raise money, or simply tell a great story, making a short film is always worth considering!

Final Thoughts

If you’re feeling stuck or need a new project to work on, try out one of these methods for brainstorming short film ideas.

Not only will you get some practice in screenwriting and filmmaking, but you’ll also have a finished product to show off (or submit to festivals)!

And who knows – maybe your own short films will lead to bigger and better things! Find some great script ideas and get started!

short film ideas

Common Questions (FAQs)

What are good topics for a short film?

Good topics for a short film often explore universal human experiences, such as love, loss, redemption, or self-discovery, and can also touch on timely societal issues. How about diving into a day with someone a bit out of the ordinary, like someone with a quirky job or wild hobby? Or, you could zero in on a big life moment – think weddings, funerals, or life-changing events – and unpack the rollercoaster of emotions leading up to and following it.

What is a silent short film?

A silent short film is a dialogue-free movie that tells its story through visuals and music. Popular in the early 1900s and experiencing a recent revival, these films are universally accessible and don’t rely on language. In many ways, they are the perfect medium for conveying feelings and ideas that are difficult to put into words.

How do you write a short silent film?

To write a short silent film, remember its roots: motion pictures without sound but often accompanied by live music. Silent films used a higher frame rate for fluid action and intertitles to share key plot details. Ensure actions are easily understood, use intertitles wisely, and design scenes to stand alone without sound.

What is the most famous short film?

The most famous short film is probably Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie. The film was released in 1928 and starred Mickey Mouse. Steamboat Willie was the first sound cartoon, and it was also the first appearance of Mickey Mouse. The film was a huge success, and it helped to propel Disney to become one of the most well-known names in animation.

What makes a short film good?

A good short film can tell a complete short story in a limited amount of time. This means that the film must be well-paced and focused, without any wasted scenes or excessive dialogue. The plot should be easy to follow, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. The characters should be interesting and relatable, and their motives should be well-defined with a clear emotional arc.

What are some short horror film ideas?

Several short horror film ideas can be used to create a suspenseful experience for viewers. One option is to set the story in a dark and deserted location, such as a forest or an abandoned house. This will help to create a feeling of isolation and fear in the viewer. Another idea is to use jump scares – sudden, unexpected moments of terror – to keep the viewer on edge throughout the film.

Interested in screenwriting and filmmaking? Check out these great articles:

How to Write a Screenplay Synopsis: 7 Tips for Screenwriters

5 Top Indie Filmmaking Tips from a Film Festival Director

Save The Cat Beat Sheet Basics [with FREE Template]

9+ Best AI Video Editor Software Tools [Reviewed]

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *