Interesting Characters

Characters gain interest in a variety of ways. The nature of the fight that the character is involved in can sometimes generate enough tension to pique our interest. We don’t know much about the protagonist in “405”. He’s stuck on the motorway with a massive jet bearing down on him and no way out. This scenario is compelling enough to keep our attention throughout the film (just under 3 minutes). However, if the movie lasted longer, we’d be interested in learning more about him.

In short films, a character’s actions is frequently what makes him interesting. The matters to the audience is how the protagonist reacts to crisis, what actions he takes, and the repercussions he faces, not what he says or what other characters say about him. You must first determine what features or attributes make your character appealing to the audience, and then devise ways to demonstrate those qualities or traits in action.

Filmic and Cinematic Qualities

All good films, it should go without saying, must be filmic. They must be more than just mouthpieces. They must be visually appealing. The true strength of film rests in its ability to tell a tale utilizing both sound and vision.

– Imagery’s power: “A picture is worth a thousand words” Visual information is processed far faster in our brains than verbal information. What we see has a profound impact on all of us, both consciously and unconsciously. Films present stories in far more physical detail, in far less time, and recreate a sense of realism on screen rather than simply suggest it.

– Fluidity or movement: A narrative film’s story unfolds over time. We don’t just hear about it; we see it. We take an active interest in the tale as we see it evolve via the actions and counter-actions of the characters in a good film.

What will happen next, we wonder? Without our knowledge, our minds are trying to figure things out. We mull over the open-ended question until we receive a satisfactory response. We grow more invested in the characters as we see them strive to find what they want. We support people who are attempting to accomplish something and are unconcerned about others who are not.

Film’s ability to move through space and time is another distinguishing feature. We go through the story as the filmmaker moves his camera, encountering characters and plot in ways that engage our senses as well as our brains in our search for meaning. Our perception and experience of screen events is considerably enhanced by camera location and movement, heightening feelings such as alarm or elation.

Again, the filmmaker’s ability to employ his instruments — space, light, color, sound, and time — is determined by his talent. However, the filmmaker’s initial blueprint — the screenplay — must provide many opportunities for him to use his visual expertise. The instruments of the filmmaker are comparable to those of the painter. He creates emotive images by combining space, light, and color. He extends the reach of those visuals by adding time and sound to make a narrative story. The capacity to instantly intercut between geographical locations as well as time frames (past, present, and future) expands the editorial options of a film. The tension created by juxtaposing present and past events, or jumping from city to city, may keep a film fresh and engaging. Again, we walk through a film, having a wide range of sensations and sentiments with the characters. When we abruptly change between time periods or locations, we experience something that the characters do not: we experience the point of view of the storyteller.

The story must be presented through action, even in a short film. What exactly are the characters up to? What acts do we observe them taking that advance the plot? The often quoted rule is “Show, Don’t Tell,” and screenwriters and filmmakers must remember that.


Read more:

Characteristics of an excellent short film (Part 1)

Characteristics of an excellent short film (Part 3)

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Reference Sources:

  1. Animation World Network:
  2. Cartoon Brew – Technology:
  3. Befores & Afters – Visual effects and animation journalist:
  4. Bloomberg News:
  5. Insider: