Signs – Show, Don’t Tell

Signs – Show, Don’t Tell

Any scriptwriter will tell you the golden rule is “show – don’t tell”. A good script relies on strong visuals to tell the story, not dialogue. The characters shouldn’t tell the audience what happened, they should be immersed in it.

It can be a great exercise for a writer to try and write a scene completely dialogue free.It is very challenging and requires skill in constructing images and events to present a clear storyline, but reality is like that. Real people don’t speak in long soliloquys or explain backstory to complete strangers for the benefit of an audience or use five words when one will do. By cutting out all but the most essential dialogue, the words that remain are suddenly given great power.

As an illustration of how powerful a dialogue-less scene can be, here’s a treat. I love this short film, and if I’m honest, this preamble is just an excuse to share it with you. It was produced for the Schweppes Short Film Festival by Publicis Mojo and @RadicalMedia and was directed by Patrick Hughes.

Go on – it’s only twelve minutes long. Make a cuppa and sit down to enjoy it. It’s just lovely writing and very well produced, relying a lot more on actor’s expressions and actions for exposition than anything dialogue could produce.

Spread it around. This video deserves to be seen. If you live in Australia, you’ve probably already seen other examples of Hughes’ work in commercials for Vodafone, the Honda CRV, and more. His site includes some other short films as well. I hope he continues to produce clever visuals and strong ideas like this.


  1. Hi Jonathan, I gotta say I love Australians. This video really taught me about communications, that it is more than words spoken but there are many ways we can convey our messages across to someone else. I almost cried watching this. It is simply wonderful.

  2. Great video mate, thanks for the link!