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Tips on How to Make Short Films

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 6/2/2011

Take a look at these tips if you are curious as to how to make a short film on a very limited budget or none at all.

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    Let’s make it clear at the outset that film here does not mean celluloid. In this article, film here will refer to video also known as digital film. Film should be broadly interpreted as a medium that captures moving images, whether on celluloid or video.

    Anyway, as a beginner you would want to work with video in the name of affordability and ease of use during production and post production.

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    What You’ll Need

    Chances are, if you’re a beginner, you would not be able to interest a producer in financing your short film. So, you’ll consider producing your own short film, preferably for almost no budget.

    To get started, you would need a good idea and the necessary equipment. A good idea isn’t going to cost you anything, but equipment will, but you can make do with equipment you already have depending on the nature of your project, all as will be explained below.

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    Develop a Good Idea

    This is the most important aspect of making a short film. It’s more important than having top-end equipment. An audience would likely forgive you for using inferior equipment but not if you waste its time with a story idea that doesn’t excite or strike a chord.

    If you’re just starting out, forget Hollywood as a model and start looking at what angers, saddens or tickles you. Take out a notebook and list down objects, situations or people that create an emotional response in you. For example if litterbugs anger you, you may want to make a movie about a litterbug who learns an unexpected lesson. In short, look around you or inside you.

    Alternatively, you can make a short film about a subject you’re passionate about. For example, if you’re passionate about trains, you may want to make a movie about a train journey in which something dramatic happens.

    You can begin developing your idea by writing a synopsis of your story. Then you can go on to explore characters, situations, conflict, theme and plot in greater detail.

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    If you’ve completed your script, you’re not ready to go out and shoot your short film yet. To save you time when shooting and help your crew understand your movie better, you would want to prepare a storyboard. You don’t have to be a good artist to storyboard your movie. You can use stick figures to map out your scenes.

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    Cast and Crew

    Once you’ve finalized your story in the form of script and storyboard, you’re ready to look for cast and crew that would help make your movie come alive on the screen. Chances are you won’t have the budget to hire professional actors. If so, you can source among family and friends for potential actors. Otherwise, you can try your local theater group or a college dramatic association for potential candidates.

    Finding your crew, would be a much simpler job. All you have to do is get help from folks who would love to work in a filmmaking environment.

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    When you’ve briefed your crew on your script and vision, you’ll be ready to shoot.

    You don’t need sophisticated equipment to begin with. Don’t be disappointed if can’t get hold of a high definition camera for your project. Even an entry-level mini-DV camera would be fine for starters. You can borrow one from a friend who doesn’t really use it. As has been mentioned earlier, a great story and good acting is more important than the equipment you use.

    If you’re making a short film for fun to be shared with friends and rest of the world over YouTube, even a Flip Camera would help you get started.

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    Editing Your Film

    Done with shooting, you’ll need a computer to edit. Unless you have a computer which is more than ten years old, you can get started with the system you have. Even laptop computers are fast enough for video editing these days.

    As for video editing software, you can use Windows Movie Maker or iMovie if you’re on Mac. Otherwise you can use other free video editing software which you can find over the web .

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    If you don’t have commercial intent for your short film, you can upload it to video file sharing sites to get valuable feedback from viewers worldwide.

    If you wish to sell your film, you can check out the options available at a useful resource like Createspace.