how to be a villain short film

How To Be A Villain

A Short Film by Helen O’Hanlon


How to be a Villain is a valentine card to eccentric villainy and the classic 1930s films of James Whale and Boris Karloff.

It is 3am, the end of vintage horror night at an urban cinema… a curious mobile mini-cinema sits in wait, inviting us to go inside to see a featurette… to find out How to be a Villain.

Inside the screen sparks to life as we taken on a dark, elegant tour with shadows, mirrors and candlelight. We are greeted by Supervillain who extolls the merits of a dark existence. He seduces us to the ways of his art form, imparting his vast knowledge, advising us on career paths for villains, where to put an evil lair, what kind of henchmen to choose and, of course, when to use your evil laugh. The featurette is punctuated with shadow puppet vignettes taking us deeper into his world, his humour and his madness.

But perhaps this is not just a picture show.. Is Supervillain’s megalomania and love of monologue merely a disguise for his own Masterplan? Have we unwittingly become his prey….?


In 2003 How to be a Villain, a step-by-step guide to joining the forces of darkness, was published by Chronicle books. While killing time in a record store one Sunday in New York, Helen came across the book…. it was love at first read. She bought numerous copies over the years to give as gifts or self-help advice to colleagues and friends, but always believed there was a great little film to be built from it.

Ten years later, having taken her first steps into directing film, she felt it was time to make this happen. After hammering out a couple of drafts she tracked down Neil Zawacki who was to much delight, incredibly supportive. Our huge thanks to Neil and to Chronicle books for supporting our film and letting us sample some of the finest lines and words of advice a baddie could ever wish to utter.


Text © 2003 by Neil Zawacki, Illustrations © 2003 by James Dignan

Used with Permission from Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco.

how to be a villain book