1) The first rule of Short Film is that the film must be short.
I've imposed a 60 second limit to the running time. Strictly 60 seconds. Not a second more. Problem is I think there are no limits to the length of most shorts so when their 5 minute film ends up twice as long there's no one to tell them to go back and cut it down. 60 seconds. That's it.
2) If it's worth doing it's worth doing properly.
Don't film your mates on your Dad's camcorder - this one is from experience. Proper professional equipment, proper crew, proper music, proper post-production and most importantly proper actors. It's gonna cost more but it'll be worth it in the end.
3) No titles or end credits.
I watched some short films that had opening credits that went on for about half an hour. With a short film every single second is precious don't waste it on boring text. You've got to grab your audience immediately. Hit the ground running. A single card with the film's name for three seconds can be allowed. End credits should be a web address.
4) Be nice.
5) Cut. Cut. Cut.
The audience are a lot quicker than you think. Cut everything out that is unnecessary. All
gratuitous shots - cut, gone. All other shots, cut in half. The greatest crime is to bore your viewers. Cut the story, dialogue, the shot list, the edit. It doesn't have to be Black Hawk Down style (although it did win an Oscar for Best Editing) but there is also a difference between "gentle rhythm" and acomatose.
6) Get it out there.
When it's done and you think it's good enough, get people to see your film. As many as possible. Work on innovative ways of getting your film to the audience. Like what we're doing with RED WIRE BLUE WIRE. We're buying cinema screen time to take control of the film release and distribution. Showing the film to audiences on the biggest and best screens in Ireland. It's never been done before. Until now.
7) Break all the other rules (if you want to.)
Filmmaking seems to be made up of thousands of 'rules' that get thrown at you every two seconds. 'You can't cross the line,' 'We need to have another character here,' 'You have to put the tape into the camera to record on it'. These rules are suffocating and destructive. Ignore them as much as possible and if everyone else is following them except you, your film might end up being original and different.