Storytelling in Short Films

with David Helfer Wells

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Course Description

The short film is one of the most fun motion-picture storytelling formats—and one of the most challenging. A short film’s power is in its punch, but its limited length means there is less time for a narrative to unfold, less time to build to a climax.

A good short film needs to have not only great visuals and sound but also a powerful story. The key to that last element is structure. There are myriad narrative approaches, and it’s crucial to determine which one is appropriate for your project.

We employ Keynote or PowerPoint to develop storyboards while also focusing on different types of mics and external recorders, along with specific techniques and exercises for perfecting our audio. You should have basic camera handling, sound recording, and video editing skills, but there are no requirements about which equipment or software to use.

Participants create their own short films over the course of the workshop, engaging in real-time class instruction and group discussion, with one-on-one conversations as needed. Throughout your project’s evolution, you receive ongoing support from fellow participants as we review, analyze, and critique your initial assembly cut, two iterations of rough cuts, and the final cut.

In the process of helping others refine their films, you hone your own storytelling skills, coming away with a powerful short film that boasts a tight and compelling structure.

Additional Information

Amateurs, Advanced Amateurs
What You Should Know:

Participants should have basic camera handling, sound recording, and video editing skills, but there are no requirements about which equipment or software to use.


View Withdrawal and Transfer Policies for online programs.

For the convenience of participants, recordings of each class session are posted privately for one month after the end of each session. Santa Fe Workshops takes the recordings down after one month to protect the intellectual property of our instructors.

Documentary, One-of-a-Kind, Storytelling, Technical
David Helfer Wells

David Helfer Wells is an award-winning visual storyteller who has worked as a newspaper photographer, a freelance magazine photographer, and most recently a filmmaker. He creates still and moving images for clients such as Bryn Mawr College and Aramco World, and his personal and grant-funded projects have been supported by the Fulbright and Alicia Patterson Foundations. Magazines that have published David’s work include FortuneTime, LifeNational GeographicNewsweek, and The Sunday New York Times, among others. His films have been shown at festivals worldwide, in Bangalore, New York City, Rome, and San Francisco.


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