Yes You Can! How to Make a Movie as a Kid

Yes You Can! How to Make a Movie as a Kid

Film Connection student Nate Crockett & mentor Geno DiMaria framing shot for “Hindsight”

Okay, so you’re a kid. Whether you’re 12 or 17, you’re still living at home and your parents are still in charge of most of your schedule, where you go, and who you hang out with. Nevertheless, if you’re creative and are willing to put those brain cells through some work, you can make a movie as a kid. In fact, your kid status just might be a great attention-getter and give you a bit more leverage than those older “grown” folks.

Chances are, you don’t have a RED camera sitting in the garage. No worries. The best way to make your first movie as a kid without pockets of cash, is to use your smartphone since it’s pretty likely you already have one. Let’s assume you know what you want your movie to be about and that you’ve got some classmates lined up who are willing to be the talent. That may not seem like much but it’s nearly all you need plus one more important thing…

A great story.

Writing a compelling screenplay or treatment is essential for your first film. The same rules that apply to seasoned screenplay writers apply to you as well. Since your choice of locations is likely limited to places like your school, the park, various public areas, your home, your friends’ homes, make your story one that can be told in such an environment, then make the most of what you’ve got. Check out our tips on effective screenplay writing here. Don’t feel alone either. Many great movies have been shot in limited locations. The fact that you’re ready and eager to start making your movie as a kid can also win you quite a few points with the adults around you, so don’t be afraid to ask Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones if you can shoot in their cafe or ice cream shop after hours. Worst case scenario, they say no. Rejection is just par for the course in even the most successful film careers, so even hearing no just adds to your experience.

When it comes to shooting your movie and editing it, the step-by-step process will go something like this.

Shooting Your Movie on a Smartphone

Make Sure you Shoot your Footage Horizontally.

This is easy to do—just turn the smartphone on its side.

Use a Tripod Where Applicable.

There are adaptors that will mate your smartphone with a tripod. Use them. Because smartphones are so small, the slightest movement will be apparent if you don’t. So get that tripod. If necessary, you can buy one on Amazon for less than $20.

Stay away from using the digital zoom feature.

Unlike zoom lenses on video cameras which zoom optically, the zoom feature on a smartphone zooms digitally. This results in pixelated images which, if viewed on larger devices will look like crap. If you need a close-up get closer to your subject.

Use external light sources.

The “flash” feature on smartphones is great because it is part of the phone but results in a harsh, spotlight appearance. If you are making a horror movie, this might work great but for most purposes the end results will not be good. Daylight, of course, negates the need for external lights, but you may want to use a shiny board or reflector to provide some fill light. The good thing is that smartphones do a good job of making great use of available light.

Learn to adjust the exposure and focus.

Film Connection graduate Rachel Svatos builds camera
With parental consent, Film Connection graduate Rachel Svatos started Film Connection at 17

Your phone likely has a feature which enables you to tap and focus as well as lock the exposure when shooting with your phone’s camera. To learn the ins-and-outs of shooting with your particular phone, go to YouTube and search “how to film with” and the brand and model number of your phone. Chances are, you’ll have to search through a few tutorials until you find someone who’s done a pretty good job of clearly explaining how to film with your particular smartphone. Watch it and bookmark it too, so that you can revisit it again if you need to.

Don’t Forget Sound Quality

If you haven’t heard it before, you’re hearing it now: Bad sound will sink a film. Less-than-perfect cinematography is forgivable but bad sound will lose your audience. Getting good film can be problematic with a smartphone, especially if the scene you’re shooting requires you to be at a distance from a speaking actor. One trick to improve your film quality would be for each actor to have their own smartphone concealed somewhere on their person and record their speaking part for you to sync up with your visual shots in post.

Editing Your Movie on a Smartphone

Yup. You can edit that film right on a smartphone! There are numerous apps for both Android and iPhone devices, so take a look to see what’s out there. While they might not have all the features of professional desktop editing software like Adobe Premiere, they can do some amazing things. Besides enabling you to do basic cuts between scenes, many of them now include more sophisticated transitions including dissolves, wipes, and slides.

The best smartphone editing apps will provide you with filters which can provide effects like sepia, black and white, vivid color, muted color, etc. They can also allow you to add and edit film tracks and produce animated text overlays. Some even provide templates so you just have to select the clips you want to use and they do all the work.

One big advantage of editing in your smartphone is that it greatly simplifies the task of uploading your finished video to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media. Hope this article has been helpful to you in your search. Write a great story, do the groundwork, and get to shooting and editing that movie of yours. Show the skeptics how undaunted you are by naysayers and having to work within certain restrictions. Do well and they’ll come to see making a movie as a “kid” an impressive and inspiring feat, that’s capable of shining a light on your unique perspective and the lives of today’s younger people.


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