Thank the heavens there is flexibility in the art of Filmmaking!
Becoming a good film director is made easy nowadays thanks to the internet and the availability of so many cameras.
You can simply grab on to a camera and even without going to film school, come up with great content. That’s all it takes.
Yes, you can produce an awesome short film even without millions of dollars in your budget and years of film school debt but if you don’t have a step by step process to follow you will end up with a mess.
With that being said, if you want to be a filmmaker, or are simply looking to put that camera in your phone to good use, we prepared this post with 4 easy steps that will kick-start your filmmaking career in no time.
1.Start with the story you want to tell
It goes without saying that the key to any good film is the story behind it. After all, a good script with a well thought out story makes it easy to not only edit your footage in post production but also promote the film later on. Basically, as long as you have a good story, people will stick to the screen even when you shot the entire film on a low budget entry level camera.
However, you don’t have to be perfect with your first script. Since it’s your first attempt, allow yourself to make enough mistakes that you can learn from and improve.
Keep making stuff
Shane meadows, a self taught filmmaker and the creator of deep rooted dramas such as the ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ and ‘This is England’, among other films is quoted in a post on telegraph saying that
“The key, especially early on, is not worrying about trying to make something perfect. Just experiment, keep making stuff and get your mistakes out of the way”
The script is everything
So while you learn more about coming up with a script for film production don’t get stuck trying to be perfect even though the script is king. As Alfred Hitchcock (a renowned filmmaker with over 50 feature films in a six decade career in the 1970 and 80s) puts it, you only need three things to come up with a great film “the script, the script and the script”
Now we have gathered that the script is important, so how do you come up with one? Well, a screenplay has four main elements that you should master. First, your story needs to have characters who have measured goals to achieve.
The second step to establishing your script is to describe the setting for your story. The third and final stage of your script will be to learn how to develop dialogue and weave all the elements of storytelling that you want to use for your film.
Although these are the main landmarks of a good script, you will have to take some time plus some trials and errors along the way so as to master the craft of storytelling.
Generally, you will find that most Hollywood blockbusters follow a story structure that is most common in every movie. Seemingly, every film has a timeline of events that fit into a 90 to a 120-page script to make about 2 hours of a movie.
You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Use this same story structure with your script even if it’s for a short film.
You will also need to come up with the first three acts to your script with about two plot points that change the overall direction of your story depending on what the story is about. Learn how to incorporate an inciting incident as well other key elements of creating an intriguing story. Create some suspense and come to a conclusive climax at the end of your story.
2.Master film production techniques
Now that you have your script ready, you can get to the production bit of filmmaking.
Production is an important element of filmmaking as you will start to appreciate the complexity of producing a film and with that comes better efficiency in your script writing. The production technique you use will determine to a great extent your budget and time spent on your project.
If you are on a low budget, don’t spend all your money purchasing a camera. Keep in mind that apart from the camera you will also need good lighting and sound to have the best footage for your film.
Choose location wisely
As a new filmmaker, the location you choose to shoot from will make or break your plan. Be sure to reduce the frequency of location moves to save on time and reduce the costs of transporting your crew and actors in the long run.
Choosing your camera
Nowadays, choosing a camera for your film project is made way easy. It is no longer a surprise that more and more filmmakers are shooting award winning films on their Smartphone. Don’t underestimate that portable device in your pocket; it could be the fundamental tool you need to build your career in filmmaking.
What you need to know is that the most critical aspects to consider, whether you are shooting with your smart phone or with a DSLR, is that the lenses and compression of the cameras you settle for greatly determine the output you want to achieve.
Essentially, all digital cameras produce a seemingly similar signal; the major differences in image quality are usually influenced by the lens used and the number of pixels per frame.
Great footage is nothing if the sound is not up to par. In fact, professional filmmakers consider creating amazing sound more important that shooting great quality footage. Besides, our brains are designed to listen more that watch and it’s not the picture of skin on skin that makes it so appealing to watch but the sound that gets us to experience an immersive entertainment experience.
If you look at most home made movies made by amateur filmmakers, you will be hard pressed not to see murky lighting or no lighting at all. You don’t need expensive gear to light up your scenes. You can plan your shoot such that you are able to take advantage of natural sun light to achieve the best lighting for your scenes. If you have lighting gear learn how to use the main light, the fill light as well as the backlight to bring out depth of field in your scenes and tell your story in the best way possible.
Pre and post production
From the moment the word “action “ is yelled out loud to the end of the project when its finally a “wrap” and the work is left for the editor to fix it in post, you have to work by the plan and stay organized.
The last thing you want is to waste precious time on unnecessary issues.
An easy way to shoot your scenes is to start off with an establishing shot and an overview of your set before closing in on your characters and their dialogues. Also be sure to take some B-Roll footage (supplemental footage) to add more dimensions to your story, get more options while editing or even cover up footage with a zoom popping into the scene.
3.Learn to collaborate, network and distribute your work
Now that you have your film set up, the next step that will hopefully get you closer to being noticed as a filmmaker is networking and distribution of your finished work. Thanks to numerous social media platforms for video creators such as Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook and even snapshot, you can potentially reach out to millions of fans and create a following.
If you can’t create your own music, collaborate with anyone who can and work together.
Let’s face it, social media has changed the landscape and as Gary Vaynerchuk puts it, the current situation is practically a “land grab”.
First, start by registering your film name and opening up a facebook, snapchat, YouTube and tweeter profile for your project.
You can also attend industry events and film festivals, submit your work and stand a chance to compete for the top award with other filmmakers. Even if you don’t bag it, a film festival is a perfect place to network and connect with other filmmakers like you.
Also, work to build your relevance online by simply commenting on blog posts and articles related to the industry. This will help you build relationships and networks that will come in handy in your film career.
Another great way to promote your film is through music. Want to know how? Well, most film distribution and revenue mostly comes from soundtracks for the film. Basically, since music unions are more influential, you can use the royalties from your movies soundtracks to boost revenue and the soundtrack copyright can be an incredible distribution stream for your film.
However, this is assuming your film makes it to the cinema in the first place.
4.Rinse and Repeat and keep Rolling
It goes without saying that whether you go to film school or not, the only way to learn filmmaking is by getting your hands dirty and actually making films. After all, it is only through enormous amounts of hard work that you can get noticed in this highly competitive industry.
To put it simply, there is no such thing as luck or free lunch and your success will be determined by your passion and drive. Don’t just stop at learning your material or simply getting a degree in filmmaking; make sure you practice by writing dialogues and coming up with creative story ideas for short films.
Get a mentor
Also, consider getting mentorship. For anyone going to film school already, a perfect mentor is your professor. Who else can help you simplify and understand some of the complex aspects of filmmaking? Well, that is the best part about going to film school, you do not only get mentored, but you also get to connect with like-minded individuals.
However, if you haven’t been to film school, identifying a mentor who will help you understand some aspects of how the industry works is a great way to fast track growth in your new career. Frankly, it is the best route to follow especially if you have decided not to go to film school.
You can find a mentor on popular online forums for filmmakers or even on other social media platforms as there exist a good number of expert filmmakers with the knowledge and expertise that will help you grow as a new filmmaker. Sure, you might not get direct criticism to your work, but by following influential individuals in the industry you will learn a lot and advance your career.
With the ever-changing film landscape it is important to keep yourself updated with the current film and media news, following up on industry-related topics and events to further increase your knowledge about filmmaking. The worst mistake is to think you have arrived once you get some success at your craft.
In fact, most people get stuck procrastinating while pretending that they are still learning the craft. Do not make this mistake. Don’t just talk about great stories, tell your stories and keep shooting even when you don’t fill it. Remember that it is a competitive market but if you eventually get good at it, your work will be noticed. The world cant wait for good storytellers to emerge.
By constantly laboring towards your goals, you will eventually improve your craft as a filmmaker. Just remember to live your life and have fun along the way because it will show in your work. After all, you are filming because it’s something you love and enjoy doing.
You can easily draw some ideas and inspiration from your own life and use that to make your work stand out. Even if you think your life is boring and dull, you can still make soothing mundane and common placed look special and interesting to watch. Comedians do it all the time with creatively delivered jokes based on daily life happenings. You will eventually realize that sometimes, the most creative ideas for film will pop up when you are not actively thinking about filmmaking. So go out there and make it happen.