How to Make a Movie

Film Connection graduate Taylor Giddens

“I have an idea for a movie”
-every film student ever

There are so many variables involved with making a movie that it is impossible to share a blueprint for doing so. However, there are a few common ingredients that are required to make a movie.

  • An idea for the movie. Ideally, this idea is in screenplay form. If you don’t have a screenplay, or at least a detailed outline, you probably aren’t ready to shoot your movie.
  • Equipment. Lights, cameras, and all that jazz. One possibility to consider would be to use your smart phone (iPhone or Google Pixel). Not only has their picture quality improved greatly in recent years, they handle low light situations very well.
  • Crew. The equipment needs people to operate it. The less equipment you use, the fewer people you will need on your crew. You should plan on being one of the crew, along with all the other hats you wear. Make sure you feed them.
  • Actors. Something for the crew and equipment to shoot. There are plenty of starving actors out there. Usually, you can find decent talent who will work for free in exchange for a copy of your film to include in their sizzle reels. Make sure you feed them.
  • L, L&L. Locations, logistics and legalities. Where are you going to shoot and do you have the necessary permits? The easiest solution to deal with these issues is to make sure your screenplay doesn’t require exotic locations that require fees and permits to use.
  • The person in charge. On feature films, depending on the phase of production, there are producers, directors, editors, distribution who are in charge—on your first movie all of these positions will likely default to you.

There are also some common personality traits shared by those who successfully made their first movie.

  • Passion. There will be lots of ups and downs while you are making your movie. Passion is essential to making it through the process. In short, getting your movie made should be your number one priority 24/7.
  • Drive. Making a movie will require long days and nights, little sleep and lots of effort. Remember, you will likely be short-staffed for your first movie which means you will be doing the work of five to ten people.
  • Out of the Box Thinking. Robert Townsend’s first feature, Hollywood Shuffle was shot using discarded film tails and his credit cards. Since he had very limited lengths of film to shoot with the movie was designed with short scenes. The Coen brothers have used a wood plank, held on either side by crew members, with the camera mounted in the middle, to create dolly shots in several of their films. Drones make aerial shots affordable. Stock footage can realize an effective cost savings as well.
  • Leadership skills. Someone has to be in charge and makes sure things progress according to schedule. By default, this will be you. Leadership mixed in with some charisma means you can get the other people involved in making your movie to do what needs to be done.

The trick to making your first movie is to use your personality traits to obtain the required ingredients necessary to make your movie. You’ll need to talk a bunch of people into working or acting in your film for little or no money. You’ll need to be able to negotiate with equipment suppliers to see what you can finagle for reduced rates. You’ll need charm to talk to the owners of your desired locations into giving you access and permission to shoot on their premises.

There are a few things you should probably avoid if you want to complete your movie as they are very expensive.

  • Cast of thousands.
  • Extensive special effects.
  • Music that isn’t stock or from a music library.

And remember, making your movie is not the final step—distributing your movie in such a way as to make money is the final step of making your first movie. If you do this, you will have greatly increased the odds of being able to take the next step: making your second movie.


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