My producing partner Mike Knowlan and I recently finished a short film called KNOCK KNOCK. It is a suspense/thriller about a woman who, after attending an out of town Christmas party, travels down a lonely highway road… One known for mysterious disappearances. We shot the film in one day (mostly in a friend’s garage), with a cast and crew of five. And the cool thing about it is that we produced the film for free!
There are a lot of excuses filmmakers use as reasons to not make a film: we don’t have enough money, we don’t have the latest and greatest equipment, we can’t get the locations we want, etc. Mike and I are guilty of this as well. Before KNOCK KNOCK, we had a number of other short film projects that we were hoping would be our next projects, but we couldn’t come up with the funding to make them happen.
We decided to change our approach. Instead of asking what type of film we wanted to make next, we asked ourselves what type of film can we make next. Inspired by an article I read here on Filmmaking Stuff “Stop Making Excuses And Make Your Movie” we made a list of all of the resources that we had access to (and knew we could use for free) and created a story around those elements. This was the key for us getting KNOCK KNOCK made.
Use The Resources You Have
The first thing we looked at was equipment. We had a camera (a GH5), and a few lights (2 LED’s and one old 1K Mole Richardson), in our possession so we were good there. Next was locations. Finding and securing locations was usually a thorn in our side but not this time. Thinking about where we had access to shoot for free narrowed our choices down to just a few places.
Our friend Jose offered his garage as a shooting space and we also had Mike’s apartment and my car as options. The idea of setting a short film in a car was intriguing to us so we went with that. Almost immediately images of a woman driving down a lonely road at night popped into our heads and we used that as the jumping off point for our story. So we were good on equipment and now we had our location figured out and a basic idea on which to write a script.
Next we needed an actor. Fortunately for us, Mike’s girlfriend, Anne Arreguin is an actor. who we have wanted to work with for a while and this was the perfect opportunity to finally make that happen. So with our actor, our location, and all of the equipment we would need in place we began working on the script. We used the jumping off point of a woman traveling down a lonely road at night to create a suspense-thriller that involved the woman hearing knocking sounds after she had pulled over to take a nap.
Making Your Next Short Film
We shot the driving scenes using the “poor man’s process” in our friend’s garage and because we consciously set the film at night we didn’t have to show much which allowed us to create all the ambient sounds in post. It would be eerie, creepy and more importantly, it would be something that we could do without resources.
As I mentioned before, KNOCK KNOCK was made by a crew of five. In order to accomplish this we all had to wear multiple hats. I was the director, camera operator, editor and colorist. Mike took on the duties of DP, sound, and sound design. Anne, in addition to being the star of the film, also was in charge the slate.
Jose not only helped set up the lighting he did the score for the film as well. Our final crew member Brian played the police officer at the beginning of the film, also helped with lighting and created our poster. In the end, nobody cared that they weren’t getting paid, they just wanted to be part of a cool film.
If you’re thinking about making your next short film, you don’t need spend a lot of money to make a quality story. Use the resources that you have access to and build your story around that. It works. If you don’t believe me, click the link below and check out our film and see the results for yourself!
Kevin Dale Brunkhardt, is a director, producer, and writer who began learning the craft of filmmaking while attending Fresno City College where he wrote and directed four short films. Subsequently, Kevin attended the New York Film Academy’s (LA Branch) one-year Directing for Film program. During that program, Kevin wrote and directed numerous short films and worked on a variety of his classmates’ projects in various roles. After graduating from the New York Film Academy Kevin worked in post production for Arnold Shapiro Productions on two documentary series, MTV’s If You Really Knew Me and A&E’s Beyond Scared Straight. In addition to promoting his latest short film KNOCK KNOCK, Kevin is deep into post production on his feature length directorial debut AND I FEEL FINE.