There are a number of different filmmaking rules and guidelines. One of the big rules that I like to keep in mind when I'm working on a short film is the 80/20. It states that 80% of a short film’s story should be delivered through visuals, while 20% of the story is delivered by a character talking. Film is a visual language and we can sometimes stray from this, so how do we keep films visual?
Actions speak louder than words. Instead of having a character say something, I will have him do something. This will help your film stay clear from the trap of exposition dialogue. Exposition dialogue is where an actor has a long monologue where he or she is simply telling the audience information they need in order for them to understand the story. Usually this is used for backstory (things that happened before the film started). To avoid this exposition dialogue try having the actor do something that reveals his character or the essential story beat that you are trying to communicate to the audience. For example, instead of having a character say to another character “My grandpa passed away when I was 15. I really miss him”, have the actor looking at an old photograph or start the film with the character in the graveyard looking at the gravestone of his grandfather. To push things further, you could have the actor shed a tear and the audience could come to the conclusion that the character really missed his grandfather. Showing the character in action makes for a more visually dynamic film. This was one of my thoughts with the Alice In Wonderland i(1951) Stop Motion, which the link is above. I used the dialogue sparingly, just to enhance the story. The story itself could have been told with just visuals and music track, but with the key use of dialogue it added another layer of depth to the whole film.
The 80/20 rule won’t work for every project but it does help you think visually. Whenever I receive a script I like to imagine it with all the dialogue removed. I ask myself two simple question, how could I tell this story without any dialogue? What would be the necessary visuals to tell this story?