How To

How To Make A Short Film

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For a young filmmaker, creating a short film is like a rite of passage. 

If you are yet to make a film, this is the time. It can initially seem like an intimidating task; in reality, you don’t need that much to make a short film. 

With proper pieces of equipment, production, you can create a great short film. It’s creating an entertaining short film, and it’s about having great ideas and utilizing the filming skills. 

There are thousands of film festivals offering this format program, and there are sites such as YouTube which will be able to a global audience. 

With the new technology, it’s better than the old days that allow your short film to be projected in theatres before the feature presentation. 

The short film format has been replaced by trailers and adverts

In the past few decades, there wasn’t a market for short films. It was expensive to make them, and as a result of, getting investors to invest in a project was a real challenge. 

While I can’t confirm that the economy of short film making will improve over the years, there’s been more and more new film festivals, various crowdfunding websites, and the internet-based video platforms that have given the young filmmakers hope. 

Making a short film can be an excellent training ground for furthering your career, getting your production created, seen, and sold. 

Technology has evolved within recent years. 

With a few hundred dollars, you will be able to get a good digital SLR camera that can produce excellent picture quality results. If you cannot get a professional camera, then you can use a phone (yes a phone) or anything second hand, that you can get your hands on. 

Borrow, beg and steal (not steal actually), find someone who has the equipment, network and make friends who can help you out. 

Focus on a story that you can tell in three minutes or less. Your first movies will probably not be the best but don’t worry about it, it’s all about the learning curve. 

Best Practices for Short Filmmakers


If you are finding you are getting bored after making a few shorts, it’s a good sign that you are growing and maturing as a filmmaker. 

When such things occur, start coming up with more sophisticated short film ideas and a well-crafted screenplay. Here are a few tips to follow:

– Write down a script and produce your story on a borrowed camcorder

– Edit the footage on your friend’s computer

– Upload the project to YouTube and monitor audience reactions. Note their comments and then make another one!

– Once you have gained more skills and you feel confident, you can now move on to more significant projects. 

– Keep pushing yourself to get more skills and refined. 

These tactics will help you with the fundamental understanding of how to shoot scenes with less cost and still make them interesting for the viewers. 

A short film will help to save time and funds when you create your feature. This will give you the confidence to create more great films in the future. 

How long should my short film be?

So, there isn’t any official consensus or definition for the length of a short film.  Technically, any film shorter than 50 minutes will qualify as a short film for the film festivals, such as Sundance, whilst any film with a run-time under 40 minutes is eligible for the shorts categories at the Academy Awards.

The 11 Step Process For Creating A Short Film 


With the use of the latest technology, making a film is now a very easy and straightforward process. 

If you own a good computer (PC / Mac), a digital camcorder (SLR), and any reliable editing software, you are ready to go. 

Creating a short film is the best way of learning about filmmaking, as its, the practical doing that is so important, the cost of creating an excellent short film is now so much lower than before.

Using a digital camera will not require the use of a film, and it allows for editing on the regular standard computer, which you can self learn. 

So, here’s our 11 step process you can follow when making your short film: 

1. Choose or write a story

Most young filmmakers are tempted to take a video camera and start shooting impromptu scenes, which is not part of the script. 

The best short film has a story to tell, and there are three segments: The beginning, middle, and the end. 

Having a script will guide you towards making a story. You can choose to write the script, or you can download a script from the internet. There are several sites that offer acting scripts. 

These scripts will help you begin the shooting process. 

2. Budget

Have in mind the budget you want for your short film, setting a budget from the start will guide to and prevent you from coming up with an expensive film which you will be unable to film. 

The budget will determine the type of equipment you will require during shooting. Set up a budget in a spreadsheet in advance to avoid wasting your time making a film that will be beyond your capabilities to develop and stick to it! 

3. Choose the Right Location


When you are working on a tight budget, unlike film production companies that have tens of thousands of dollars to spend, you have to be economical with your location choice. 

Find locations that are realistic to use and affordable, as your choice can guide you to write further development into your story. 

If you want to bring your script to life, then you need to have a plan from the first word of the script page. 

Most locations will charge a fee to use for a funded film, so when you approach a location owner that’s not public, let them know you are a young filmmaker, maybe you are local and supporting/featuring their business in the project – this should get you to use it for free, especially if you ask nicely.  

4. Scriptwriting Software

Scriptwriting software can be expensive, so opt to use programs such as Word or Google Docs or any other text program, as you will have a hard time correctly arranging the text into screenplay format. 

There are some available soft wares such as Celtx and Trelby, and these are reliable software that can help you format the scripts for you, and they are very user-friendly. 

Do your research and choose what is right for you. 

5. Casting and Crew

If you have friends with creative minds who you can rely on for a favour, then this will be your first port of call and better in helping keep the budget down. 

You can then focus your funds on logistics and the equipment. 

However, if you do not have friends whom you can rely upon, then you slightly have a steeper hill to climb on this part. 

You might need to get a reliable crew to assist you, maybe a local production company you could approach to see if they will support your project. 

Based on your script, determine what is required and what you are going for. In general, you need a director (you), the photography director (which could be you), a sound mixer (this needs to be someone), makeup artist (optional – but ideal), production assistant (100% need this), and the grip.

Actors – it goes without saying, it’s likely you will need actors, depending on your story and style of the short film. Tap into your local colleges, drama schools and universities. There maybe budding actors in your friends network and look at Facebook network groups for support. 

6. Create a Storyboard


This is an organized way of planning your shots before filming them, and you can be able to visualize the shots you are making. 

The advantage is that you can make some changes at an earlier stage of shooting the film, and not wait until you have completed filming. 

7. Start Shooting

When shooting a short film, go straight into the action and don’t waste time with backstories or long scenes where nothing much happens, you just don’t have the time in this format. 

Get the story going by using dialogue and action and forget about the long build-up. 

8. Editing – Post Production  

After you have completed shooting the footage, spend time editing it down. 

Make sure that every second counts, try shooting more material than you need so as you can be able to condense it down when editing it. 

Be strict and try to get rid of any unnecessary parts, so you can create a compelling short film. 

Here is the best video editing software and the best free video editing software for you if you’re not sure what to use yet!

9. Music Licensing & Composition

Music is a fundamental aspect of any film, it helps tell and support the story, the narrative and builds tension, drama, enhancing scenes to improve the audience experience. 

It’s common that young filmmakers leave music as a post-production afterthought, but think about music from the get-go, and know what you can and can’t use from a legal aspect (licensing) or if you want to commission original score or title music to your film. If you want some free advice on the use of music in your film, then we can help you with music supervision and music licensing, get in touch with us. 

10. Write a Treatment

These are summaries for feature films; however, you can use treatment when creating a short film to help you account for the whole film. 

This is a chance to monitor how your story is developing, and you are able to visualize it, thus getting rid of the things that are not working out. 

11. Feedback

You can get rid of the unnecessary parts of the film by showing your treatment to people and asking for honest feedback. 

By doing this, they are able to notice the things that don’t work or characters that need more role development or any aspects that don’t make sense or are missing in the film. 

This will enable you to save time by making changes before showing the film to a public audience. 

Get People to View your Short Film 


After making your short film, get the film out there so as many people can see it. 

Consider entering your film into competitions, uploading it to video sharing sites such as YouTube, and encourage people to view the film. 

You can also use a program like YTD, where people can watch films when they are offline. Listen to their feedback and consider them when making another short film. 

It will be a long road of trial and tribulations, but with great perseverance and months of work, you will be accumulated to finish your short film. 

It will be a sense of pride and excitement to present your short film for people to see it before thinking about submitting your short film to film festivals and getting people to watch your film. 

Take a step back and reflect on your achievements. 

You have made a film! 

Be incredibly proud of your accomplishments and look forward to making a bigger and better film in the future. Short films can be an exciting, compelling, and a wonderfully creative process; 

However, it’s essential to make sure you cover every part of the process and try to follow the tips provided. 

This whole learning curve is the best way to processing your career in film and opening yourself up to the world of the film industry and beyond – good luck.  

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