How to make a short film with practically no budget!

Making a short film with the availability of today’s technology has become a relatively simple endeavor for most people. Assuming that you own a respectable computer, a video camera, and some kind of editing software, you are basically ready to go. If you want to know how to make a short film, sometimes the best answer is to dive right in.

Don’t want to shell out for a fancy camera? As anyone on Tik Tok can tell you, your phone is all you need to start making a short film. Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh used multiple iPhones to shoot Unsane. If it’s good enough for the maker of films that have earned more than two billion dollars, you can certainly give it a shot too.

Tips For Making a Short Film

As with any film, planning now will save you time in the future. Here are a few things to think about when making a short film:

  • Script
  • Gear
  • Pre-Production
  • Cast and Crew
  • Shooting Schedule
  • Post-Production

Write a Script

As obvious as this sounds, you need a screenplay before you can make a short film. You probably have no shortage of good scripts for short film ideas running around your head, so jot a few down that you’re really interested in. Then choose one to follow, adhering to standard screenplay formats.

One screenplay page is roughly equal to one minute of film. So if you’ve written 100 pages, you’re no longer writing a short movie. Also, if this is your first attempt at creating a short film, consider a comedy or spoof on a topic that isn’t too serious. It’s wise to leave the more sobering ideas to those that can spend millions of dollars telling their story.

How to Make a Short Film With Little Gear

As we said before, all you really need is a smartphone to start shooting, but it doesn’t end there. When it comes time to edit your short film, you’ll want to make sure your computer has enough power, memory, speed, and storage space to handle your movie, even if it’s only five minutes long.

Other items, such as lighting equipment, boom mics, and tripods will give your film a more finished look and feel. Renting this equipment will save you money in the short term, but you can consider buying the gear if you plan on making several short films.

Pre-Production for Making a Short Film

There’s no doubt about it: Spending time planning how to make your short film will save you a bucket full of headaches down the line. Even if you’re planning a guerilla style of filmmaking, you’ll still want to write out a shot list, scout filming locations, and plan for the time of day you’ll be shooting.

Storyboarding is a great way to visualize your short script as you can see each scene laid out in front of you. Even if you just use stick figures, this technique helps you group shots (if necessary) and plan the order of filming. In many cases, the shot schedule won’t match the order of the film in an effort to maximize daylight or locations.

You’ll also gather your cast and crew to discuss your short film. You’ll need to find someone to hold the lights, boom mic, help with transportation (your friend with the van), and more. Lining up schedules to ensure availability is crucial. You can’t predict a change in the weather or when “life” happens, but you can prepare for it.

You might have friends that are really good actors and you have no idea. Ask around; see who is up for the excitement involved in making even a short film. Then work around what you have when writing the final draft of your script. Don’t forget that although you might only have a few characters in your story, there will be background actors required, set dressers (to create realism), and production assistants to help organize things during the day of filming.

Filming Begins

Once all of the pre-production is completed, now you are ready to start filming. Make sure your camera battery is fully charged and that you have more than enough space (or tape if you’re going old school) required for filming your short film. Don’t worry about filming in sequence. You might have to work around people’s schedules, so shoot out of order if necessary.

Remember to be careful not to cut the scene prematurely. Some of the best films were created during unscripted moments. Also, don’t forget to take close-ups and different angles of the same scene to have plenty of footage to use when editing. With digital filmmaking, you can have as many takes as you want.

How to Make a Short Film: Post-Production

After the last shot is in the can, it’s finally time for editing. Hook up the camera and import the video into your computer. Please note that these short films can take up a huge amount of space, so make sure you have enough space on your hard drive.

There are plenty of options for editing software, many of which are free or cost very little. Final Cut Pro is considered one of the best available but has a price tag to match. See if you can find a free version, demo, or trial version of the top software or cut your teeth on less expensive software.

In your editing software, begin placing scenes in order. You will notice, as you go along, that some scenes don’t work; that’s where editing comes in. Choose another clip from that same scene until you find one that works for you. Continue until the entire film is complete, adding visual or sound effects as needed.

Word to the wise: try making a short webisode or very short film (5-6 minutes) before attempting a longer film. You will discover that the experience you will gain even creating such a short piece will go a long way when shooting future projects.

Save your final product in different formats to help with distribution. Uploading your film to a YouTube channel may require a different format than what you submit to film festivals. You want to make it as easy as possible for your film to get seen by as wide of an audience as you can.

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