Before you make a feature, you should create a whole bunch of short movies. This advice is nothing new for the up-and-coming filmmaker. But what is new are the many options for distribution.
Past Filmmakers. . .
Most short films lived and died at film festivals. But these days, shooting on the Canon EOS 7D, combined with quick Internet uploads have changed filmmaking forever!
Sites like YouTube.com and Metacafe.com allow filmmakers to find a global audience at the push of a button. In no previous time in history has it been so easy and inexpensive for filmmakers to get noticed. So before you embark on your feature, make shorts.
If you’ve never made a short film, don’t worry. The process is actually pretty simple and fun.
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.
When you plan your movie, focus on a story you can tell in three minutes or less. In my opinion, comedy works best.
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. I even know one guy who made his friend simulate humping a statue in a park while wearing a gimp mask. (Don’t ask.)
But seriously. . . Make Your Movie Now!
If you think you have something like that and you just HAVE to get it out…By all means, do so. But 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.
All you need to get started is a camera, some friends and the ability to edit the footage on your computer.
Then just write out a list of funny story ideas. Once you have a list, pick one that interests you the most. When you have it, call up some friends. Enlist them as actors and get to work.
If you’re in a small town, you’ll find most friends will love having something to do outside of the norm. If you find most of your friends are preoccupied with marriage, a family and pregnancy, that’s cool too. Just start making movies—starring you.
After a couple of these types of films, you may find yourself getting bored. This is actually a good sign, because it shows you’re growing. When this happens, begin to create write more complex stories and then write a well crafted screenplay.
If you’ve been doing shorts with your friends, you now know who works well and who doesn’t. Invite the best of your actor friends to your next movie. 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.
Here are your action steps:
- Get a cheap camera, a computer with video editing software and an Internet connection.
- Make funny videos with friends.
- Upload your videos to the Internet.
- Gauge audience response. Read the viewer feedback.
- Take feedback and improve your work. Repeat the process.
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.
This experience 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.
Then later, when the feature filmmaker in you is ready, the feature will reveal itself.