Most writers write more dialogue in their script than they will EVER need. That’s not to say their dialogue is poor, it’s just extraneous. But how do you recognise what you need and what you don’t?

Well in the very short film, it’s kind of obvious – dialogue takes up A LOT of space, a minimum of three lines, so you want to use dialogue as sparingly as possible, maybe even not use it at all. (It’s no accident short films with no dialogue often do very well in contests and film festivals, though I would not go so far as to recommend you use no dialogue. The two winners of LSF’s “Four Nights In August” last year BOTH used dialogue remember).

Dialogue is the least of a script’s problems, so when getting the words down on paper, my recommendation would be to write whatever dialogue you want. As you redraft, reconsider what you need – and BE RUTHLESS. The biggest issue with dialogue I see as a script editor is writers falling in love with certain lines and keeping them in regardless of whether they’re actually needed.

Obviously, get rid of the redundant phrases: “Yeah”, “‘Bye” etc which can occupy entire lines on their own and be flushed out pretty easily. Give your characters their own distinct voices via phrasing, vocabulary, etc. From there, like with scene description, make every single word count:

If your character has two lines of dialogue, can you make it one?

If your character has five words, can you make it two?

If you were to cut out ALL lines of dialogue, what happens then? (remember, you can always put them back?)

If you were to CHANGE a phrase or word, does the moment or even the entire script’s meaning change? How? Why? Is this better/worse?

Again, the above is all obvious stuff but so frequently writers “just write” dialogue and put little thought into the actual words on the page. So put your dialogue under scrutiny – it’s worth it!
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