Making A Short Film: 5 Tips For New Filmmakers

Making a short film is the rite of passage for many new filmmakers. If you have never made a short film, now is the time.

Seriously.

Not only are there a gazillion film festivals that offer a short movie program, but with websites like YouTube, you have the ability to reach a global audience.

Making A Short Film

This is better than the old days. Back then, making a short film meant that your work would get projected in theaters before the feature presentation.

But that trend ended. The short film was replaced by trailers and advertisements.

In the decades that followed, there wasn’t much of a market for short films. It was almost impossible to make money with a short film. As a result, finding investors to back a short was super challenging.

While I can’t say that the economics of short movie making has improved dramatically, the emergence of crowdfunding, festivals and internet based video platforms offers hope.

But regardless, you’re a filmmaker. And making a short film is a great training ground for getting your feature made, seen and sold.

Making A Short Film

Here is a quick video outlining my tips for making a short film:

Many people in Hollywood bounce around for years pretending to do work, when all they are really doing is pretending. Many of these people call themselves producers, yet they have no screen credits and have frankly failed to do anything!

Don’t do that.

If you haven’t yet made a short, my suggestion is to get started!

For your first few movies, don’t spent time worrying about lighting or special effects. Just learn how to utilize your limited resources and make something cool out of nothing.

Making A Short Film: Gear

For around two-thousand dollars, you can buy a camera that produces cinematic results. And if you can’t afford to grab a professional camera, then just utilize any camera you can get your hands on.

(Yes, this includes camera phones.)

Again, making something is better than making nothing.

In the event you cannot yet afford your own equipment, then find someone who already has gear and make friends.

Short Film Ideas

You next step is to get an idea for a short.

I suggest you focus on a story you can tell in three minutes or less.

When I was managing a film program, I noticed a lot of first-time filmmakers created dramatic stories that focused on suicide or some guy staring into a mirror and talking, or some chick shaving her head while reminiscing about apples and spiders.

These movies sucked, but they were good practice.

Your initial movies will probably suck too.

Don’t worry about it.

Give yourself permission to suck. Here is an example of a bad short film:

Yeah. It is MY second short film and I don’t know what I was thinking.

But it was good practice. I learned a lot.

Keep in mind, I included this short film example this to provide encouragement. Odds are good you can do better than this poo. I challenge you to get started and do something better!

Just remember, the more you practice, the better you get.

And if you’re making a short film, but find yourself really low on short film ideas, then the next best thing is to create a music video… Which is essentially a short movie too.

The other things you can do is watch other short films. A while back, I stopped by the Haig Manoogian Screenings of the best short films.

The films represented the best of the best of the NYU film school and were presented by former NYU alumni Eli Roth.

101shortfilm125x125Shot in film (not HDSLR video), all of the movies looked expensive and awesome. But at the same time, guess what?

…Every film was serious and dramatic.

By now, I think this is the reality of making a short film – It seems like most student filmmakers create serious and dramatic movies.

I don’t know why this happens.

So in response to a short film festival market saturated with drama, my ongoing to suggestion for making a short film is this:

“When making a short film, DO NOT do drama!”

Okay… If you think you have something dramatic you just HAVE to share, by all means, make your movie!

Case in point, I thought the best movie of the night was Little Horses.

Skillfully directed by Levi Abrino, this movie has a ton of heart. Here is an excerpt:

While my review of Levi’s short film is slightly biased (I have been a fan of Levi’s work for years), the laughter of the audience was evidence that Levi’s movie offered a nice break from all the drama.

So anyway… Go Levi!

Keep in mind that your short film will probably end up on YouTube.

So if you can be funny and get Internet viewers to share your movie with other people who will then share your movie with other people, you will have achieved a great thing.

In addition to all the points mentioned thus far – Your audience is your business. Growing your own audience is up to you. And the process starts with making a short film, getting your movie online and exposing your work to the world.

Making A Short Film: 5 Tips For New Filmmakers

After making a few short films, you may find yourself getting bored. This is actually a good sign, because it shows you’re growing. When this happens, begin to come up with more complex short film ideas and then write a well crafted screenplay.

  1. In the event you have not yet made a short movie, write one or two page scripts and then produce your story on a borrowed camcorder.
  2. Edit the footage on a friend’s computer.
  3. Upload the footage to video sites like YouTube. Test audience reaction. Is it good or bad? Learn from it. Then make another video… Then another… Then another.
  4. Once you feel confident with short storytelling, move on to bigger and bigger projects.
  5. Keep pushing yourself. Keep refining and learning!

The short movie marathon exercise described above will provide you with a fundamental understanding of how to shoot scenes for minimal cost and still make them interesting.

Making a short film will help you save time and money when you create your feature, while providing you with endurance, experience and the confidence to make movies with greater efficiency.

When you upload your work for the world to watch, audience feedback will reveal areas needing improvement. Even though you’re working with non-professional equipment and talent, if you can learn to make great movies with a small camera, you can make them with a big camera.

Theoretically, if you make one or two three-minute movies like this every weekend for six months, you will have the equivalent experience of making a feature.

Then later, when the feature filmmaker in you is ready, the feature will reveal itself.

101 Short Film Ideas To Get You In The Action

Sometimes making a short film and coming up with short film ideas can be a pain in the butt. So I put together an action guide specifically designed to help you find short film ideas.

101 short film ideasTitled 101 Short Film Ideas. In addition to providing short movie ideas, this action guide also contains some extra bonuses!

The system is designed to help you overcome any creative blocks.

In addition to having an action guide that contains 101 short film ideas, As part of this system, you will also get my ten step audio program for making a short film

This is mp3 audio that you can put on your iPod or mp3 player and listen to it anywhere. If you are looking for short film ideas, check it out here.

Comments

  1. Martin says

    Great advice. What are your thoughts on trying to put together a web series vs a short film as far as potential markets? I’ve noticed several talked about from time to time either getting picked up as potential tv shows or the actors/creators moving on to bigger and better things as a result of the web series. Since they’re short like short films it’d give practice as you mention, and it looks like the potential is better for it going somewhere, or getting funding, etc. Am I correct in that assumption, or completely off base?

  2. Frank James Bailey says

    I’m a voice actor and screen writer. I just recently got back into screen writing since I was concentrating so hard on building my voice over business i the past few years. Anyway…I make short videos on my Youtube channel. They are “tips” for other voice actors. I use a Kodak Zi8. Do you think I can make a short film WITH ACTORS using a camera like that?

  3. Rodwell says

    Thanks Jason.I never make a short flm before becoz I didn’t have a camera so I got a cannon 600d last week and I wanted to know if this can be the best camera to use and which are the best len to use on this camera

    I like your tips and right now I’m planning to shoot my first short film this coming saturday.

    Please can you also give me any advice on where to put my short films in festivals
    I would appreciate if you reply me

    Thanks for reading

    Rodwell

  4. quentin robinson says

    Hi Jason you should have your own TV show you kept the information short and sweet and straight to the point, it was well worth having a look, well done

  5. says

    Hi Jason,
    I thank you for the information on/in your site and emails, which will be applied IF I CAN JUST FIND THE 2 PERSONS TO PLAY THE ROLE OF NEWS-PERSONS TO “INTERVIEW” MY WIFE AND I AS THE MEANS TO TELL OUR Doc STORY…. 95% of the story/20 yr. nightmare and contact info is outlined on the scdtspotlight.com site, and the last 5% was given to us on Nov-14-2011! If you personally know of possible person(s) or where we might find such; could you please advise?
    Kind regards,
    Patrick. (Norco Ca.)

  6. says

    Hi Jason, I am a new comer to the art of filmmaking. I wish to shoot a moving image of a silhouette. Details: Duration for about 5 minutes. Ideally dark or black background side portait of a singer singer singing a song that period. The person should also be a silhoutte i. e. dark or back – the image identifiable through a narrow beam of light focused on the subject. Can you please suggest as to how I can shoot this scene?! Many thanks in advance – Dipak

  7. says

    It really depends on your objective. YouTube is sufficient for many things, like inexpensively streaming your video and then allowing you to embed the video on your own site. And the social networking component of the site is valuable for gauging word of mouth (or lack of it.) And depending on your content, by being the second largest search engine on earth, YouTube also allows you to potentially reach people who otherwise did not know of your work.

    But again, it really depends on what you hope to accomplish.

  8. says

    Mike: The whole goal is to test your concept and build an audience of people who know you and know your work. When you write your metadata, you should include a link back to your landing page, similar to this — http://www.FreeFilmmakingBook.com

    You should also include a title card on your video, advertising the same URL.

    This way, people can find you and opt into your list.

  9. says

    Hey J, I’m new to this filmmaking game but ready to play at the highest level.

    My goal is to turn my relationship books into documentaries.

    How long is a short film and what’s your advice on trying to get into the Sundance film festival?

    Thanks and best regards,
    Xanthin

  10. Kwashirai Chigodora says

    Yuo are awesome! Thanks Mr Bru! Valuable to a poor African dad with nothing but a small camcorder and a couple of ideas in a nervous mind! :-)

  11. Vinayak Waghe says

    Sir,

    Thank you very much for this lession.

    Regards
    Vinayak Waghe
    Screenwriter / Director / Editor

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