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 (mainly 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 many excuses filmmakers use not to make a film: we don’t have enough money to make a movie, 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 several other short film projects that we hoped would be our following 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. I was inspired by an article on Filmmaking Stuff that told me to “Stop Making Excuses And Make Your Movie.”
We made a list of all the resources we had access to (and knew we could use for free) and created a story around those elements. This was the key to 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 LEDs and one old 1K Mole Richardson) in our possession, so we were good there. Next was locations. Finding and securing spots were usually a thorn in our side but not this time. We were thinking about where we had access to shoot for free and 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. Setting a short film in a car intrigued 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 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 make that happen finally.
So with our actor, our location, and all of the equipment we would need, 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.
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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, allowing us to create all the ambient sounds in post. It would be eerie and creepy, and more importantly, it would be something we could do without resources.
As I mentioned, KNOCK KNOCK was made by a crew of five. 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. In addition to being the film star, Anne was also in charge of the slate.
Jose not only helped set up the lighting, but he also did the film score. Our final crew member Brian played the police officer at the film’s beginning, 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 an excellent film.
If you’re thinking about making your next short film, you don’t need to spend much money to make a quality story. Use the resources you have access to and build your account around that. It works. If you don’t believe me, click the link below, 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 various of his classmates’ projects in different 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 Knew A&E’s Beyond Scared Straight and Me. 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.