Filmmaking 101: how to make your own award-worthy movie


Admit it, you've already practiced your award acceptance speech. All you've got to do now is make an actual film

Joshua Lee |

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Making a film means lots of hard work, and understanding all the moving parts. Here is actor/director Wu Jing (right) on the set of his film Wolf Warriors. He probably lost a lot of sleep during production!

Do you think you have what it takes to become the next Steven Spielberg or James Cameron?

While it might take years of training and experience to truly master the art of film making, producing a short film is easy enough to do with a group of friends, and can be a fun project to get your creative juices flowing.

Here are the steps you need to take to produce your own award-worthy short film.

Round up the talent

The first thing you’ll need to do is to gather your friends and assemble a film crew. The number of people you have in your group depends on the scale of your short film and how much work each person is willing to do. It is a good idea to assign tasks to each member of the group based on what they are good at or are interested in.

There are dozens of different roles for a film crew, including director, cinematographer, screenwriter, editor and even sound recordist (if microphone equipment is involved), that each involve different responsibilities.

What’s the plot?

Once you’ve gathered your team, it’s time to think about what your film is going to be about. Will it be an action thriller, a comedy, or a heart-warming drama? For a start, you can look at some of your favourite movies for inspiration and incorporate some of their ideas into your short film.

You can brainstorm different ideas together with your crew and write a screenplay, which details all the action and dialogue in your film. You’ll also want to create a storyboard, which includes sketches and notes illustrating the actions, positioning of the actors and props, and potential camera angles for each scene you’re going to film.

Also, consider the resources available to you. There’s no point including a high-speed car chase filled with stunts and explosions in your film if you don’t have the time, money or props to create such a scene.

Location, location, location

Once you’ve got a script and a storyboard, you can start to plan your camera angles and the logistics of the film shoot.

Go location scouting with your crew to find interesting places where you can shoot. You’ll want to take photos for later reference and also make sure you have permission to film in that area. The cinematographer should also take notes on all the shots and angles they need to take on the day of filming.

Preparation pays off

There is a lot of tedious planning, but all that preparation should pay off when it comes to the actual filming.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong when filming, from running out of battery on your camera to actors not showing up on time. If you’ve planned ahead with detailed notes, scripts, storyboards, checklists and timetables, that should reduce the chance of any disasters from holding up your shoot.

If you haven’t got a lot of time, there is a tendency to rush through filming. But it’s a good idea to make sure you film everything properly, because mistakes cannot always be fixed by editing or re-shooting.

Piecing it all together

Once you’ve got all your shots, it’s time for the editor to sit in front of a computer and edit your footage.

Remember, editing isn’t just a matter of pasting the clips together. It is a difficult art to master, and the way you edit can greatly affect the pace and mood of your film.

There are many different editing techniques you can use, so you’ll have to look online and do some research to see which cuts will suit your film best.

The editing software you use depends on what you prefer and which programmes are available to you. However, even the most basic software, such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, should give you enough tools to create your film.

The big reveal

Once you’ve finished, there’s no point just keeping the final product to yourself. Share your video among your friends by putting it online on YouTube or Vimeo.

You could even organise a screening party and invite friends and family to be the first to watch your cinematic masterpiece.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

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