I have a fifteen-minute short film I wrote and directed about a year ago as a student project. It has a strong concept, but one that requires viewing all the way to the end to get. Unfortunately, the execution is not so hot. Having gained a year’s distance on the project, I can now see several problems with the acting, pacing, and writing. This view is backed up by the fact that the film’s been rejected by the majority of the festivals it was submitted to. In screenings, there is often inappropriate laughter in the beginning and middle, but the film consistently “gets” people in the end — there’s a bit of a twist ending, and people seem to find the resolution and overall concept satisfying.
Given the film’s problems, at this point I’m embarrassed to even show it around anymore. My question is, should I follow my instincts and just bury it away, focusing instead on spec scripts and potentially other shorts? Or is there still some value in a short with a good concept but poor execution? It represents a fair amount of money and a lot of dedication by a good crew, so I figured it was worth asking.
Bury it. As much as you hope people will see through the poor execution, they won’t. They can’t. That’s one of the most frustrating things about screenwriting: the final film may or may not reflect the quality of the writing underneath. (Yet we give awards for “Best Screenplay” based on the movie, not the script. Discuss.)
If there’s an idea that really is phenomenal at the heart of the short, you’re better off writing it as a script again.