So you’ve got a script for a film project and you are EAGER to get it made. You know THIS is the story you want to tell. The piece you’re ready to pour your heart and soul and time into. But how do you make it?
What are the steps you need to take to get from zero to set? What do you do first? Second?
Your Budget is the Money You Have
The first step for your film project is to create a budget. You can spend $60 or $10,000. What you want to DO with the project will depend the amount you spend.
If you’re looking for a film project as a learning experience, acting reel footage, testing the water, I HIGHLY recommend spending LESS. You will learn plenty of lessons and no-no’s on your first project, so why not spend $50 instead of $50,000?
If you’re looking to make a calling card/festival piece, spend more. Crowdfund or use personal savings if you can, pay for good locations and crew. The breakdown of your basic budget should look like this:
Rates, roles, and number of days will change, but you can use this as a basic guide.
Your Film Project Crew
The second thing you’ll need to do for your film project ( which can be done while you’re building out your budget) is hire crew. Start with your most important roles first, like Director and Director of Photography. On tiny shoots these can be the same person! Often a director will want to have input or pick their DP, the DP likes to weigh in on their gaffer and First AC and on down the line. So hire from the top down.
The best place to find crew is ON SET so get out and PA, do student films, or attend filmmaker events as an alternative. You only need to hire ONE person at a time. Often, if you hire one person and they love the project, they’ll make suggestions of other great crew members to bring on board!
Knowing what rate you can offer people from your budget is KEY when hiring. Be upfront if it’s a low or no paying gig. Honesty will get you a lot of places. Your crew can be as small as one person or as large as fifteen, but smaller is better for indie projects. The less people you have on set means less money spent on crafty and lunch. No matter what your budget there needs to be food, water, and coffee on set!
Location, Location, Location.
The third thing you’ll need for your film project is to find a place to film. Hopefully you’ve had this in mind when writing your script and won’t need to find a space station or a castle or something difficult to rent on a budget.
Book and confirm with the space owners the date and hours needed. Some people don’t realize that a film day can be as long as twelve and a half hours! (Do NOT go overtime if it can be avoided). So make sure your mom’s old college roommate is ok with you being in her kitchen from 6am and 6:30pm.
Gather Your Gear
The fourth thing to tackle is renting equipment. On really tiny projects you may using the DP’s camera and practical lights (like lamps from your room). If you’re spending a little money, put it towards good lenses, camera, and lights.
You don’t need to know much about equipment to rent it. Ask for a detailed list from your crew and copy/paste it into sites like ShareGrid and KitSplit. Or forward the email to a rental house for a quote. Confirm the amount you are able to spend and ask your crew to revise the list if it’s too expensive.
Mark Your Calendar!
Finally, pick a day to film! When it comes to your film project, there are TWO ways to pick a filming day in my experience. One is by picking the DATE and one is by picking the CREW. If you pick the date, say May 20th, then every time you hire crew or look at a location, make sure it’s available May 20th.
If you know you want to work with a certain crew member or actor or location, ask when they are available and choose based on that. Everyone might not be available May 20th, so ask for a few options. If everyone’s schedule lines up on May 31st, THAT’S your day.
All of these stages can overlap and intermingle, but make sure ALL get completed before you start filming. Once they are, it’s time to get on set and CALL ACTION! Have more questions about short filmmaking? Answers here!
Allison Powell’s motto is “Make it Happen.” Since moving to Los Angeles from North Carolina, Allison has been involved in projects as an actor, writer, director, producer, and resident tea drinker. Her short film “Black Widow: Origins” got rave reviews from Movie Pilot News and toured the country with Geek Film Fest. In February, 2018 she completed her first feature, “Banging Lanie”, as executive producer/director/lead. She has produced over a dozen short films and loves sharing what she knows to inspire others to create their own works. Allison is an avid trail runner and just completed her first 50 mile race. Keep up with her here!