How to make a short film
Let me start off by saying by no means a professional film maker. However, I have worked on a few projects including some big productions and picked up a thing or two when it comes to the process of how to make a short film.
Before I get into it there really isn’t a standard way on how to make a short film. Some people just grab a camera and go shoot while others spend a lot of time planning and storyboarding. I like to use a blend of the two and work right down the middle of these two methods. Sometimes it’s fun to grab a camera and some friends and go make something. But most of the time I plan to get a general idea but leave a lot of room to try out different things on set.
So here is my workflow to help you write a script for short film and get out there and shoot.
Plan Your Short Film
When I started out making shorts probably the most intimidating part was how to write a script for shot film. How do I get the ball rolling. I’ve learned before anything else spend some time and develop a story. Some people like to plan it out with 3 to 5 acts while others will try to sum it up in a paragraph or two.
I personally like to create a simple idea, order a pizza and sit down with my friends or Co writers and hash out The ” what where when and why”. What is the story about, who’s the characters etc… Once I have a solid idea of what my story is I create a 2 to 3 paragraph treatment.
How To Make A Short Film Script
After I finalize the treatment I get to work on my script. I try to keep the script to about 15 pages. I find a page of dialogue works out to be about a minute of screen time. I’m pretty informal about writing in film script format. I just write it out so it’s easy for me to read however, if you want to learn more about film script format click here.
Basically you have you’re acts… which are broken up into sequences….which are made of a collection of scenes. So for example you can write a scene where a driver is contemplating jumping a bridge and that one scene is part of a bigger car chase sequence.
Now remember short films don’t leave you a lot of room. 10 to 15 minutes goes by fast so make sure each scene you write is contributing to your story and moving it a long. When you have a first draft sit down and read it out load by yourself or with a friend so you can hear the pace of your script and get an idea of what’s working and what’s not.
How To Make A Short Film Storyboard
The next step in my how to make a short film process is storyboarding. This step is when you take the script and start planning the look of your short film. It’s normally done in like a comic book like format. You can make notes on camera angle, zooming etc.
I am a horrible drawer so all my story boards are with stick people on top of online photos. To me storyboards are a quick reference to how I want it to flow. A quick guide if you will, but with that said some directors will draw out each shot exactly how they want it camera movements and all. That’s totally fine too.
How To Make A Short Film Shot List
I like to make a quick shot list so I can keep track of all my important shots. Having a solid shot list allows me to shoot out of sequence of my short which is useful if I use the same location throughout my movie.
Speaking of locations, this is a great time to get out there and finalize your locations. Take a camera and try some test shots to get a sense of composition and lighting. If you are planning on using natural light take some notes, are you shooting at golden hour? Where’s the sun going to be at that time? Do you need permits? Are there neighbors? These notes can really come in handy during production.
Finally the day has arrived and it’s time to start your production. With a good shot list you can have a sense of what needs to get done. Let’s talk about the gear you are going to need for your shoot. When I shoot I normally try to bring a production team of at least two to three people. I run the camera, one friend records audio and one other friend tracks takes and watches out for inconsistencies.
Obviously you are going to need a camera. Now I’m a big fan of using a camera you are comfortable with and that suits your workflow. Shooting in 4K seems like an awesome idea but you are going to need a lot in hard drive space and processing power in post. If you can’t afford that than a dslr or even your phone will work great. Don’t believe me? Check out Tangerine, it was shot completely on a iPhone. Remember it’s all about story. If you like check out theses free camera apps like Filmic Pro or ZY Play.They are super powerful and some of the best free camera apps out there.
Here are a few great cameras you can check out if you are just starting. I use a black magic pocket cinema and I love it. It doesn’t shoot 4K but is easy to use.
Batteries, invest in a bunch and have a charger on hand. The pocket cinema will eat a battery up in 15 min. For that reason I invested in a battery extension pack which gives me hours now not min. Check out my article on how to supe up your bmpcc.
Having a couple of lenses is also a nice tool. Your storyboard will give you an idea what you focal Lengths are but you also have to consider are you shooting in low light? If so you are going to want a lease with a lower f-stop or wider aperture.
Lights is a good investment to but if you are doing a lot of run and gun shooting take advantage of any natural light. Having something that will bounce the light and fill is easy and cheap. You can literally make a light reflector to bounce from a white sheet.
When shooting short film, audio is just as if not more important than the video. You can have the best video in the world but if it sounds terrible no one will believe it. Most cameras and phones capture audio but it notorious bad. At least invest in a camera mounting mic that is a little bit more directional to your actors.
Check out my review I did of my favourite 4 track recorders on the market right now.
A better step is use a boom mic and field recorder. You can put something together for under $500 and will make massive improvement to your production. Here is the mic and field recorder I use. I have an article of other field recorders you can check out as well. I’m going to write a second article on how I edit at a later date. I would love to hear about your workflow.