How to Make A Short Film and Gain Film Experience

June 11, 2014

Although filmmaking is a highly technical discipline involving a variety of skills, making a short film is a good hands-on way to learn about filmmaking. The entry barrier to making a short film is lower than it has ever been due to advances in technology. Digital cameras require no film and allow for post-processing on standard personal computers. Here are some steps to follow when making a short film.

How to Make a Short Film

how to make a short film

Choose A Short Script

Although a filmmaker might be tempted to grab a camera and begin shooting impromptu scenes, the best short films tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. A script ensures that a film tells such a story. Looking to write your own script? Learn about screenwriting format to meet the industry standard.

One can always write a script, but an alternative that will get you to the filmmaking practice faster is to download a script from the Internet. For example, several sites offer duet acting scripts.

A duet acting script depicts a single ten-minute scene between two actors and often involves nothing but dialogue. Ideal for those just starting out, such scripts offer a great opportunity to dive straight into the process of familiarizing yourself with shooting.

Create A Storyboard

Once a script is secured, one can make a storyboard, that is, a panel-by-panel outline of each shot. A storyboard resembles a comic book and determines the flow of the film and the sequence of its scenes. Much of the work in making a film is in setting up a storyboard, especially given that it saves a lot of time and organization work in the long run.

The advantage of this work is that it is less expensive and time-consuming than figuring out the flow of a film while filming. A good storyboard needn’t be an artistic masterpiece; as long as it allows a filmmaker to focus on camera work when it comes time to shoot the film, it’s a good storyboard. Try finding a storyboard template or examples to help you build it.

Scout for Filming Locations

Although a film’s locale will be determined by the script, it is important to find a suitable location to begin filming.

For example, if a film takes place in a coffee shop, one has to decide whether to film in an actual coffee shop, which would require permission from the owners or to mimic a coffee shop environment. If the film takes place outdoors, one needs to find a safe, legal location to film. If it takes place indoors, one needs to find an indoor spot where filming will not be interrupted. If the film relies on props, those, too, must be considered when scouting a location.

Be mindful that it’s not easy to find locations on the cheap, so unless you’ve got a sizeable budget for this, try to craft your script around filming locations that you’ll actually have access to rather than places such as banks or supermarkets.

Select A Camera

Traditional motion picture cameras are expensive, but digital cameras provide a far less expensive option for budding filmmakers. In fact, it is possible to use an iOS or Android device to make your film and even a few successful feature films have been shot using only a smartphone.

The main disadvantage of these devices is storage space, so a prospective filmmaker may want to purchase a dedicated digital movie camera. Although high-end digital movie cameras are expensive, there is a market for less expensive consumer cameras. Such cameras can record high-definition film and are highly portable. Moreover, they allow footage to be transferred to a computer easily for editing and post-processing. Learn more about film techniques and the 12 Camera Shots Every Actor Should Know.

Edit Your Film

Raw footage does not tell a story and often contains extraneous material not relevant to the script. A movie is made when raw footage is crafted into a narrative with a distinct beginning, middle, and end.

Don’t know how to edit videos? Fortunately, editing has been made easier with the current generation of video editing software. Although some can cost multiple thousands of dollars, for short films many of the free software packages usually suffice. Windows, for example, comes with Windows Live Movie Maker, which has stood the test of time for years.

Most Apple Macs come with iMovie, a movie maker designed for newcomers which is actually fairly powerful. If you’re a Mac user looking for a superbly intuitive mid-range option that won’t cost the bank, look no further than ScreenFlow (which is priced at around $100):

Following these steps provides a hands-on experience with filmmaking and will give prospective film students a rough idea of how to make a movie.

Learn Filmmaking at NYFA

Interested in becoming a filmmaker? At NYFA Filmmaking School, our students learn more than just what it takes to make a short film. Visit our Filmmaking School page to learn more!