Screenwriting : Expanding a Short Film by Jaime Furda

Jaime Furda

Expanding a Short Film

Hello! Hope y'all are having an excellent week (or as excellent as one can have in times of COVID).

I'm just getting into screenwriting after spending a handful of years in the mental health field, and I've recently finished the first draft of a short animated film that I'd love to expand into a feature (think Studio Ghibli in terms of style). Do any of you have tips on how to expand a "finished" story?

Thanks! :)

Roberto Dragonne

Hello Jaime, I think you should focus on the conflicts of your story, what new obstacles you can create for your characters. I hope this helps.

Aaron Matthew Kaiser

I went through the process of turning a short into a feature. When I started, I had no idea what to do because I felt the short was complete and concise. I didn't just want to extend it and make the story feel padded, so I kinda took a step back and looked at the building blocks. I fleshed out smaller supporting characters to be more impactful, sometimes having to write entire backstories for them. I also wasn't afraid to let a lot of the details change. My end point had to be the same, but the journey along the way could drastically be different and that's what ended up happening. Spiritually, my short and feature are the same, but the feature is not just a stretched out version of the short.

I did a lot of my work in Final Draft's beat board (which is also where I developed the short, but in a less detailed manner). My story involves time travel, so I was working to make sure I didn't have any of those unique plot holes. I used the index cards to define characters, timelines, plot points, and to lay out my entire three act structure.

So, I'd approach it with the mindset of "if we want to get to know this character more, what would happen to drive that story" instead of "how can I make this longer". And don't be afraid for the feature to go in a slightly or majorly different direction. Focus more on what's right for the character and not what's right for the plot.

Nick Assunto - Stage32 Script Services Coordinator

Depends what you mean by finished. Did your character go through an entire arc and find a complete and satisfying closure that wouldn't warrant continuing the story from that point on or is your short more like a segment of a larger world of possibilities showcasing just a single moment for that character. Depending on which it is, you just have to expand in one direction or another. Think about the before, think about the after, or think about things that could have happened in the middle that add to the journey.

Claude Gagne

How much expansion do you want? Say in pages?

WL Wright

Ive done that with a few short stories. The only thing I think about it is you need to expand it all, I added to the story and added characters too.

Jodi Ippolito

Hello Jaime, I too am a novice at this and a professional in the mental health field. Glad to see others out there like me, who are trying to dive into creative arenas. I don't have much experience writing animation. Good luck with it.

Peter Roach

Take the theme of the short story; give the characters backstory, create a new conflict that will that will cause real problems, resolve that problem and leave the ending open to a sequel.

I had a short story about a teen boy dating a ghost. That story is one scene in the feature. She is now the bad ass Queen of the Undead while he is trying the Frankenstein thing to bring her back to life.

William Martell

I would suggest that you write another screenplay that is intended to be feature length instead of trying to expand the short. Screenwriting contains a learning curve, and whether it's Gladwell's 10,000 hours of work or that old WGA survey that found the average professional screenwriter wrote (and rewrote) 9 screenplays before earning a cent, you are at the beginning of your journey and want to move forward with a new script, rather than try to turn what was intended to be a short into something that it is not.

Stephen Thompson


Barry John Terblanche

...after spending a handful of years in the mental health. What where you in for? LOL

Barry John Terblanche

Its your story that only you know what best to do with it - does it really need expanding? If so... Just let your writing juices flow--

Phil Clarke

If you do want to expand a short into a feature, then you should look at other ways in which you can tackle your story's message without going too much of on a tangent. Appropriate subplots and supporting characters that still tie into your lead character's story goal are just some ways of doing that. You should also look at adding more story-relevant obstacles in the way of your protagonist as well as enhancing your hero's character arc.

Here's a link to how some well-known shorts were adapted into successful features.

And if you ever want to talk further, feel free to PM me.

Kiril Maksimoski

I had a situation on contrary....few scripts I intended to write in feature length format ended up being short :) Anyway, Jaime Furda why don't you try get it filmed as a short movie? If it gains success you can then transfer it into feature script, can even get hired to do so. Lot's of such examples out there...

Tasha Lewis

Welcome! Your skill set is much needed in today's new normal!

Dan MaxXx

I’d suggest to finish one thing at a time - finish meaning from paper idea to rewrites to production to screening for an audience. Finish the short.

Jaime Furda

Thank you all so much for the suggestions! I appreciate it :)

Peter Roach

Boss suggestions Phil

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