How to make a movie at home
Chances are you won’t be making Avatar 3 anytime soon. That doesn’t mean you don’t have everything you need to shoot a movie of your very own. The technical abilities of smartphones, laptops, and movie making software have made it possible for anyone to become the next Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, or James Cameron.
However, it’s important to note that any film, no matter how long or short, needs to have a plan. There needs to be a script in place, actors hired, and crews assembled. Once all of that is in place, it’s time to start breaking down the script and then building it back up. Get ready – there’s a lot of work to do before Lights, Camera, Action! (That’s not actually what’s said on-set, btw.)
You’ve decided to make a movie. There’s a screenplay in place, willing friends to help, and locations scouted. Depending on the scope of your film, you’ll need to set a budget for yourself. Not just financially. You also need to know how much time you’ll need to make your movie.
Figure out why you’re making a movie, then budget accordingly. Will you be submitting it to a festival for consideration? If so, you may want to upgrade your sound equipment or hire a professional crew. Are you going to be able to pay for that?
On the other hand, if you’re just trying your hand at movie-making, there are just a few things you should invest in. A Gimbal stabilizer for your camera and video editing software are two items that can be had relatively cheaply and can greatly improve the end product. So we recommend you make that nominal investment.
The Timeline for Your Film
There’s a scene in the television series Parks & Rec where one of the characters finds themselves without a job. They start making a claymation movie, painstakingly moving his little clay actor and taking a single shot with each movement. He shows the movie to a friend. It lasts barely more than a second.
He’s crestfallen: He’d been working on those two seconds for weeks. It’s important that you don’t find yourself in the same time-suck. Stanley Kubrick once took 127 shots of a single scene in The Shining. You won’t have that kind of time – so plan accordingly.
Budgeting and planning go hand in hand. Even on the largest summer blockbusters, nothing happens until a budget is established and a shooting schedule is produced. With so many moving parts, actors working multiple projects, and time to edit live-action with CGI, without rock-solid pre-production it can all get out of hand pretty quickly.
Chances are, you’re not preparing to shoot Infinity War. But even smaller films can unravel without a proper amount of planning. This is helpful on two fronts. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, having a strict schedule actually gives you a little bit of flexibility and can buy you some time when something needs to be fixed or adjusted while shooting (an inevitability in film). Careful planning also makes sure a scene doesn’t slip through the cracks.
If today’s shot requires good lighting a sunny day provides and it’s overcast or rainy, you can consult the plan and see if you can shoot an interior shot instead. A well-planned movie will make switching gears on the fly easier. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to consult the weather reports the night before, too.
A careful plan and shooting schedule also forces you to stay focused. You can stay on schedule and get the best material in the can by planning a few different angles for each shot and moving on. This is also considerate of the people you’re working with, both in front of the camera and behind it.
Using a storyboard can be very helpful when it comes to planning a shooting schedule. If there is a particular location that’s used a lot, color code those scenes and group them together. You may be able to take care of two or three scenes in a single day.
Just make sure you plan for any differences in the scenes. Is one of the characters clean-shaven at the start of the movie but grows a goatee in the middle? The wrong facial hair will ruin the continuity of your film.
Here’s where all of the planning and budgeting pay off: Shooting the film! As smartphone technology has improved over the past few years, almost everybody has a little film crew in the palm of their hand. Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh even shot a full-length feature film on three iPhones.
Now stick to the plan. Need an overhead shot? Don’t forget a ladder or a drone. Need specialty equipment? Make sure you’ve scheduled those rentals well in advance. Consult the shooting schedule to remember what angles you need and how many takes are warranted.
Chances are you don’t have a lot of time or money to go back and reshoot scenes, so make the most of your time. Sure, there’s always time for ad-libbing or taking an unscheduled road trip for b-roll material. But you don’t want to be three days behind schedule after a week of filming.
Bring It All Together
As we said before, video editing software is relatively inexpensive to come by nowadays. iMovie is usually included when buying a Mac. There are several free programs for PC. Microsoft used to include Movie Maker with their systems, but it was discontinued in 2017. Their video editor is now part of the Photos app. We also recommend the Adobe Creative Suite if you have the means.
It’s time to bring all of those stills, videos, and scenes together to edit the movie. Adding music, performing color corrections, or cutting frames here and there will give your movie a finished look. You’ll have the advantage of being the director and the editor, so your vision will remain consistent.
Learn from The Pros
Film Connection gives you the unique opportunity to learn about filmmaking from the people who are currently working in the industry. From working with screenwriters, directors, and camera crews, the one-on-one mentoring you receive remotely or inside a production company enables you to achieve a solid understanding of how the industry operates, if you really apply yourself, are proactive about your real-world film education, and delve in.
A lot of people want to make movies. Film Connection can pair you with an industry professional who can take you under their wing, show you how it’s done and actually have conversations with you, and answer your questions in a commonsense and thorough manner.
Our curriculum-backed Cinematography and Film Production & Editing Programs are designed to make the most of your experience learning the industry from the inside of the industry. Want to learn how to make movies? Make Film Connection your first step.