Sharp Shorts 2022 – An Update from a Reader

Last month we announced the 12 shortlisted projects that will be developed through our short film scheme Sharp Shorts this year. We recently asked a member of our freelance Script Reading team to summarise their thoughts on the assessment process and experience reading your applications.

Recently, I became part of the freelance Script Reader team, and let me tell you, it has been a joy. Over the course of a whopping 110 projects I read that were submitted to the Sharp Shorts scheme, I traveled far and wide. From the noughties, American-teen film-inspired Scottish high schools to the shadowy underworld depths of Glasgow. At one point, I even ended up in the post-apocalyptic desert plains of the Scottish Highlands. It’s been a wild ride to read such exciting stories from so many incredibly talented writers.

From personal experience, most writers (me included) want to think that their story is wholly original and conceived out of whatever picks their fancy. But, of course, we are all products of our time. Therefore, it is only natural for a certain level of awareness to prevail through such a large volume of projects. Recurrent themes throughout the projects reflected the need for diversity and inclusivity for those from under-represented backgrounds. Particularly those from the disabled and transgender communities, respectively. The beautiful thing about many of these stories is that they are not stories defined by their protagonist’s identities, abilities, or any other societal prescriptions. They are so much more than this. These brilliant stories provide an insight into who these characters are, the lives they lead, and how they change along the way. Beyond this, many stories reflect the need for friendship and community (I expect this is born from lockdown). Whether dramatic or comedic, your stories are urgent responses to pressing issues. As a reader, it is an incredible privilege to have my worldview informed and changed by reading 110 unique perspectives. So, to all those who entered Sharp Shorts, I thank you.

“As a reader of Sharp Shorts, I found that the most compelling proposals struck a balance between good storytelling (i.e. a journey of change/transition), prowess over project vision, and an authentic voice. That latter point is crucial, as we need to hear how your story sounds.”

It might be a bit cliche, but an unprecedented level of talent was found throughout these submissions. So many proposals were clearly knock-out projects, and it was tough to make a selection. As a writer, I totally understand the pain of conjuring that black magic required to effectively convince the reader that your project is the BEST. As a reader of Sharp Shorts, I found that the most compelling proposals struck a balance between good storytelling (i.e. a journey of change/transition), prowess over project vision, and an authentic voice. That latter point is crucial, as we need to hear how your story sounds. This works particularly well if you’re propelling us into a unique world that you know exceptionally well. It’s a great way of allowing us readers to immerse ourselves in the world of your story.

In addition, sometimes less is more. Ensure every word and sentence is necessary to effectively communicate your proposed project. You might not necessarily need to fill the word count on each section. The following note extends beyond Sharp Shorts: ensure you’re versed in the BFI Diversity Standards. As writers and filmmakers, it is our duty to make sure our art is inclusive and reflects the diversity within our broader society. At first, they might seem daunting, but trust me, these guidelines are your best friend and will do wonders for your stories. And finally, love your characters. If I see that you clearly exude passion and love for your characters (even if they’re nasty), they jump off the page with life and vitality. Love is an infectious thing. If you love your characters, so will we.

Clearly, some brilliant energy is manifesting amongst emerging and early-career filmmakers in Scotland. This is incredibly exciting and something we ought to be proud of. Short Circuit is doing an incredible job of promoting and supporting early-career filmmaking talent. With the success of recent Sharp Shorts films such as Too Rough, there is undoubtedly a strong global appetite for hyperlocal Scottish narratives. People all around the world want to see our stories.

Before you know it, the submission window for Sharp Shorts 2023 will be open. So what are you waiting for? Start getting those ideas down on paper. We can’t wait to read them next year!

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