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Short Film

In a Short Film adjudication, the Thespian must create an original short film. The film must be of original content and may be a collaboration among up to 16 Thespians. Adaptations are not permitted. Only one film may be submitted per student/group in one of the following categories: Short Film (live-action), Short Animated Film, Short Documentary Film. Separate rubrics are below for each category.

The skills measured by the adjudicators during the presentation are:

  • The ability to create opening and closing titles, credits, and graphics that orient the viewer to the story
  • The ability to visually develop a story with dialogue
  • Camera, lighting, and sound use
  • Editing, including scene length and flow
  • The emotional and physical believability of the acting
  • The filmmaker’s use of film elements to create a successful product

The Thespian must prepare:

  1. An original documentary, live action, or animated film no more than five minutes long, plus one additional minute for credits. The film must demonstrate:
    • Proper use of title cards and credits within the time limit.
    • Properly executed camera angles and shot variation to enhance the storyline and finished product.
    • Control over lighting exposures for clarity, storytelling, and a professional finished product.
    • The ability to capture, record, and manipulate all audio aspects of your production.
    • Controlled and manufactured editing choices that enhance the overall storytelling.
    • The ability to complete a storyline that includes a clear arc (beginning, middle, and end).
    • The film must meet the following requirements:
      • Music used in short films must be original, in the public domain, and/or properly credited.
        • If in the public domain or original, proper credit must be listed in the film’s credits.
        • If not in the public domain or original, proper credit must be listed in the film’s credits and proof of payment for the rights to the music must be documented and shared with the adjudicators.
      • The film should be uploaded to YouTube with privacy settings set to “Public” or “Unlisted” for adjudication. Note: if the film is set to “Private,” the adjudicators will be unable to view and score the work.
      • The film should contain no content that would exceed a PG13 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America. The film should not include any nudity or depict acts that are illegal for anyone under 18 years of age.

The Thespian(s) does not have to give a presentation — the work should stand alone. Adjudicators will supply feedback in the adjudication form online.

Short Film Rubric

STORYTELLING

Visual development of story and dialogue; opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and animations; conclusion.

Superior
Above Standard

Story is well organized, fully developed, and compelling; visuals and dialogue seamlessly advance the narrative to enhance the audience connection to the plot and character(s); choice of opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and animations enhance and support film’s message; ending concisely resolves the central conflict.

Excellent
At standard

Story is well organized, and engaging; visuals and dialogue advance the narrative and the audience connection to the plot and characters; choice of opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and animations support the film’s message; distinct conclusion.

Good
Near Standard

Story is somewhat organized and mostly developed; visuals and dialogue are moderately effective in advancing the narrative and the audience connection to the plot and characters; choice of opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and animations inconsistently support the film’s message; conclusion is somewhat unclear.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Story is disorganized and/or difficult to follow; minimal use of visual cues and weak dialogue fail to develop the narrative or produce an audience connection; choice of opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and
animations do not support the film’s message; conclusion is lacking or unclear.


CINEMATOGRAPHY AND AUDIO

Integrated use of camera, lighting, and sound.  

Superior
Above Standard

Scenes/characters are skillfully shot or framed and align with filmmaker’s vision; lighting exposure and camera movement/angles are purposefully chosen to enhance performances and advance the story; music (if applicable) underscores action and offers clues to character/ plot; sound levels are consistently even and well metered.

Excellent
At standard

Scenes/characters are appropriately shot or framed and align with filmmaker’s vision; lighting exposure and camera
movement/angles are purposefully chosen to advance the story; music (if applicable) is appropriate to the story; sound levels are mostly even and well metered.

Good
Near Standard

Inconsistent use of appropriate shots or framing and lighting exposure do not align with filmmaker’s vision; camera movement/angles sometimes advance the story visually; some music (if applicable) is appropriate to the story; sound level errors are evident.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Most scenes/characters are not shot or framed properly, are under or over exposed, and do not align with filmmaker’s
vision; scenes include multiple errors in camera
movement/angles; music (if applicable) detracts from rather than supports the story; sound levels are inconsistent.


EDITING

Editing skills; scene length and flow.

Superior
Above Standard

Purposeful continuity in editing produces well-composed transitions that enhance scene flow, audience engagement,
and narrative; scene length and flow purposefully and
effectively
lead audience from one focal point to another while consistently maintaining physical/spatial relationship of the narrative. 

Excellent
At standard

Continuity in editing produces composed transitions that enhance scene flow, audience engagement, and narrative;
scene length and flow effectively lead audience from one focal point to another while consistently maintaining physical/spatial relationship of the narrative.

Good
Near Standard

Inconsistent continuity in editing produces transitions that disrupt scene flow, audience engagement, and narrative; scene length and flow sometimes lead audience from one focal point to another yet seldom maintain physical/spatial relationship of the narrative.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Discontinuity in editing does not produce well- composed transitions that enhance scene flow, audience engagement, and narrative; scene length and flow do not lead audience from one focal point to another, and does not maintain physical/spatial relationship of the narrative.


ACTING

Emotional and physical believability; choices and tactics.

Superior
Above Standard

Character movements, actions, gestures, and expressions are consistently believable; choices and tactics toward an objective prompt instinctive reaction to partners or events that create insight into the text.

Excellent
At standard

Character movements, actions, gestures, and expressions are believable; choices and tactics toward an objective prompt reaction to partners or events.

Good
Near Standard

Character movements, actions, gestures and expressions are sometimes emotionally/ physically believable; choices and tactics toward an objective sometimes prompt reactions to partners or events.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Character movements, actions, gestures, and expressions are rarely emotionally/physically believable; choices and tactics toward an objective are not evident and do not prompt reactions to partners or events.


FILMMAKER'S VISION

Use of film elements to create a successful final product.

Superior
Above Standard

Filmmaker conveyed clear vision and consistently adhered to rules established for film; all elements worked together to create an impactful, engaging film with a powerful voice.

Excellent
At standard

Filmmaker conveyed mostly clear vision and frequently adhered to the rules established for the film; most elements worked together to create an engaging film.

Good
Near Standard

Filmmaker attempted to convey clear vision and inconsistently adhered to the rules established for the film; few elements worked together to create an engaging film.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Filmmaker failed to convey a clear vision and did not adhere to the rules established for the film; elements did not work together to create an engaging film.

Short Documentary Film Rubric

STORYTELLING

Visual development of story and dialogue; opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and animations; conclusion.

Superior
Above Standard

Story is well organized, fully developed, and compelling; thoughtful visuals and interview sequences seamlessly advance the narrative and audience connection to the subject(s) and their experiences; choice of opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and animations enhance and support film’s message; ending succinctly resolves central conflict.

Excellent
At standard

Story is well organized, and engaging; visuals and interview sequences advance the narrative and audience connection to the subject(s) and their experiences; choice of opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and animations support film’s message; distinct conclusion.

Good
Near Standard

Story is somewhat organized and mostly developed; visuals and interview sequences are moderately advance the narrative and audience connection to the subject(s) and their experiences; choice of opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and animations inconsistently support
film’s message; conclusion is somewhat unclear.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Story is disorganized and/or difficult to follow; minimal use of visual cues and weak interview sequences fail to develop the narrative or produce audience connection; choice of opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and animations do not support film’s message; conclusion is
lacking or unclear.


CINEMATOGRAPHY AND AUDIO

Integrated use of camera, lighting, and sound.  

Superior
Above Standard

Subjects, images, and scenes are skillfully shot or framed and align with filmmaker’s vision; lighting exposure and camera movement and angles are purposefully chosen to
enhance
subject and visually advance subject's story; music (if applicable) clearly underscores the action and offers clues to subject and experiences; sound levels consistently even and well metered.

Excellent
At standard

Subjects, images, and scenes are appropriately shot or framed and align with filmmaker’s vision; lighting exposure and camera movement and angles are purposefully chosen to advance subject's story; music (if applicable) is appropriate to the story; sound levels are mostly even and well metered.

Good
Near Standard

Subjects, images, and scenes inconsistently shot or framed and do not align with filmmaker’s vision; lighting exposure and camera movement and angles sometimes advance subject's story visually; some music (if applicable) is appropriate
to the story; sound level errors are evident.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Most subjects, images, and scenes are not shot or framed properly, are under or over exposed, and do not align with the filmmaker’s vision; scenes include multiple errors in
camera movement and angles; music (if applicable) detracts from rather than supports the story; sound levels are
inconsistent.


EDITING

Editing skills; scene length and flow.

Superior
Above Standard

Purposeful continuity in editing produces well-composed transitions that enhance scene flow, audience engagement,
and narrative; scene length and flow purposefully and
effectively
lead audience from one focal point to another while consistently maintaining physical and spatial relationship of the narrative. 

Excellent
At standard

Continuity in editing produces composed transitions that enhance scene flow, audience engagement, and narrative;
scene length and flow effectively lead audience from one focal point to another while consistently maintaining physical and spatial relationship of the narrative.

Good
Near Standard

Inconsistent continuity in editing produces transitions that disrupt scene flow, audience engagement, and narrative; scene length and flow sometimes lead audience from one focal point to another yet seldom maintain physical and spatial relationship of the narrative.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Discontinuity in editing does not produce well-composed transitions that enhance scene flow, audience engagement, and narrative; scene length and flow do not lead audience from one focal point to another, and does not maintain physical and spatial relationship of the narrative.


POV AND PORTRAYAL OF SUBJECT

Filmmaker's POV; choices that affect the portrayal of the subject(s).

Superior
Above Standard

Consistently strong POV gives viewer a deeper understanding of film's subject(s); filmmaker's main thesis and intentions for telling story are always clear; strong choices and tactics employed by filmmaker create solid and insightful portrayal of subject.

Excellent
At standard

Mostly consistent POV gives viewer insight into film's subject(s); filmmaker's main thesis and intentions for telling story are clear; choices and tactics employed by filmmaker help create solid and insightful portrayal of subject.

Good
Near Standard

Fairly consistent POV sometimes gives viewer insight into film's subject(s); filmmaker's main thesis and intentions for telling story are sometimes clear; at times, choices and tactics employed by filmmaker help create a meaningful portrayal of subject.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Inconsistent POV rarely gives viewer insight into film's subject(s); filmmaker's main thesis and intentions for telling story are rarely clear; no evidence of choices and tactics that help to create a meaningful portrayal of subject.


FILMMAKER'S VISION

Use of film elements to create a successful final product.

Superior
Above Standard

Filmmaker conveyed clear vision and consistently adhered to
rules established for the film; all elements worked together to create an impactful, engaging film with a powerful voice.

Excellent
At standard

Filmmaker conveyed mostly clear vision and frequently adhered to the rules established for the film; most elements worked together to create an engaging film.

Good
Near Standard

Filmmaker attempted to convey clear vision and inconsistently adhered to the rules established for the film; few elements worked together to create an engaging film.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Filmmaker failed to convey a clear vision and did not adhere to the rules established for the film; elements did not work together to create an engaging film.

Short Animated Film Rubric

STORYTELLING

Visual development of story and dialogue; opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and animations; conclusion.

Superior
Above Standard

Story is well organized, fully developed, and compelling; visuals and dialogue seamlessly advance the narrative to enhance the audience connection to the plot and character(s); choice of opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and animations enhance and support film’s message; ending concisely resolves the central conflict.

Excellent
At standard

Story is well organized, and engaging; visuals and dialogue advance the narrative and the audience connection to the plot and characters; choice of opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and animations support the film’s message; distinct conclusion.

Good
Near Standard

Story is somewhat organized and mostly developed; visuals and dialogue are moderately effective in advancing the narrative and the audience connection to the plot and characters; choice of opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and animations inconsistently support the film’s message; conclusion is somewhat unclear.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Story is disorganized and/or difficult to follow; minimal use of visual cues and weak dialogue fail to develop the narrative or produce an audience connection; choice of opening and closing titles, credits, graphics, and
animations do not support the film’s message; conclusion is lacking or unclear.


CINEMATOGRAPHY AND AUDIO

Integrated use of camera, lighting, and sound.  

Superior
Above Standard

Scenes and characters are skillfully framed and align with filmmaker’s vision; lighting exposure and camera movement
and angles are purposefully chosen to enhance performances and visually advance the story; music (if applicable) clearly underscores action and offers clues to character and plot; sound levels are consistently even and well metered.

Excellent
At standard

Scenes and characters are appropriately framed and align with filmmaker’s vision; lighting exposure and camera movement and angles are purposefully chosen to advance the story; music (if applicable) is appropriate to the story; sound levels are mostly even and well metered.

Good
Near Standard

Inconsistent use of appropriate framing and lighting exposure do not align with filmmaker’s vision; camera movement and angles sometimes advance the story visually; some music (if applicable) is appropriate to the story; sound level errors are evident.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Scenes and characters are not framed properly, are under or over exposed, and do not align with filmmaker’s vision; scenes include multiple errors in camera movement and angles; music (if applicable) detracts from rather than supports the story; sound levels are inconsistent.


EDITING

Editing skills; scene length and flow.

Superior
Above Standard

Purposeful continuity in editing produces well-composed transitions that enhance scene flow, audience engagement,
and narrative; scene length and flow purposefully and
effectively
lead audience from one focal point to another while consistently maintaining the physical and spatial relationship of narrative.​ 

Excellent
At standard

Continuity in editing produces composed transitions that enhance scene flow, audience engagement, and narrative; scene length and flow effectively lead audience from one focal point to another while consistently maintaining the physical and spatial relationship of narrative.

Good
Near Standard

Changing continuity in editing produces transitions that sometimes disrupt scene flow, audience engagement, and
narrative; scene length and flow sometimes lead audience from one focal point to another yet seldom maintain the physical and spatial relationship of narrative.​​​​​

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Discontinuity in editing does not produce well-composed transitions that enhance scene flow, audience engagement,
and narrative; scene length and flow do not lead audience from one focal point to another, and does not maintain the
physical and spatial relationship of the narrative.


VOICE ACTING AND ANIMATION TECHNIQUES

Believability and compatibility of voice and animation; animation style and choices.

Superior
Above Standard

Character voices and animation (movements, actions, gestures, and expressions) are consistently believable and work in unison to create character; strong and consistent animation choices are reflected through an original art style that helps build a unique animated world for viewer.

Excellent
At standard

Character voices and animation (movements, actions, gestures, and expressions) are believable and mostly work in unison to create character; consistent
animation choices are reflected through an original art style that helps build a unique animated world for viewer.

Good
Near Standard

Character voices and animation (movements, actions, gestures, and expressions) are sometimes believable and work in unison to create character; animation choices are reflected through an original art style that helps build a unique animated world for viewer.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Character voices and animation (movements, actions, gestures, and expressions) are rarely believable and do not connect well with each other; strong animation choices are rarely evident, and the art style does not help build a unique animated world for viewer.


FILMMAKER'S VISION

Use of film elements to create a successful final product.

Superior
Above Standard

Filmmaker conveyed a clear vision and consistently adhered to rules established for film; all elements worked together to create an impactful, engaging film with a powerful voice.

Excellent
At standard

Filmmaker conveyed mostly clear vision and frequently adhered to the rules established for the film; most elements worked together to create an engaging film.

Good
Near Standard

Filmmaker attempted to convey clear vision and inconsistently adhered to the rules established for the film; few elements worked together to create an engaging film.

Fair
Aspiring to Standard

Filmmaker failed to convey a clear vision and did not adhere to the rules established for the film; elements did not work together to create an engaging film.

 

Download All Rubrics (PDF)