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Making a Cheap & Cheerful SHORT FILM

Film making is an extremely technical discipline involving a variety of skills, that said the entry barriers are greatly reduced thanks to technology.

Today’s smartphone and simple to download editing software permits anyone keen to become a filmmaker.  All you need is a compelling story turned into a simple script, add decent actors, beautiful locations and there is your first film.

But hold your horses…before break out and begin and start filming, take a minute to grasp the essential steps of film making; Pre-Production, Production, Post- Production and Distribution.

What must you think about?

Here are some steps to follow when creating a short film.

  • The Story; one sentence referred to as a logline, that clearly describes the concept, plot and characters.
  • The Synopsis; one pager with complete film idea; concept, major plot points, and main character arcs.
  • The script; The rules are write-and-rewrite a million times over.  You can make a bad film out of a good script, but can’t make a good film out of a bad script. Mind the characters, motivators, visuals, dialogue and pace.
  • The Storyboard; this resembles a comic (and you do not need to be an artist I use stick drawings) and defines the drift of the film and the order of its scenes. This is a simple way of figuring out the flow of a film while filming.  Here is an idea of sketches from James Njeru he never disappoints!

Once a script is secured, one can make a storyboard, that is, a panel-by-panel outline of each shot. A storyboard resembles a comic book and determines the flow of the film and the sequence of its scenes. Much of the work in making a film is in setting up a storyboard, especially given that it saves a lot of time and organization work in the long run.

  • Duration –If you are a first timer, restrict yourself to 3 to 7 minutes, film making can be a daunting task.  Television commercials range between 30 to 90 seconds and make captivating short films that sell products/services.
  • Actors – With this being a short film, keep the onscreen talent to a minimum. Do have read throughs just like theater rehearsals.  It will save you precious filming time.
  • Scouting for filming locations – Where does your film take place? Indoors or outdoors, this will determine the aesthetics of your film.
  • Crew – short films are easily a one man/woman show!  To add to the fun and stress, filming is a collaborative process so make sure to hire a small team that shares your passion.
  • Camera – a professional camera like the DSLR would be preferable, but your smartphone camera could work too! (Let us leave the android and iPhone conversation for another day!)
  • Editing – Decide if you want to edit on a Mac or your phone as they all will give you good editing software.  Best tip is to find someone who already knows how to stitch pictures and sound together and voila!

What are the stages of film making?

  • DEVELOPMENT & PRE – PRODUCTION; You would not start baking a cake before checking that you have all the ingredients! Pre-production is your planning and strategy phase every shilling and every minute spent on pre-production will save your THREE in editing!
  • PRODUCTION – This is the phase where we get our hands dirty.  Anything that could possibly go wrong or right happens in this phase.   Camera, sound, lighting and ACTION!
  • POST PRODUCTION – This is where the magic comes together. Arranging all the pictures in scenes and in order befitting the edit.  Splash on some colour grading, mood pads, music, end credits and there you have your film!
  • DISTRIBUTION – Where will you screen the film? Grab popcorn and enjoy! (By the way, as a producer, this is the most difficult part of any production….watching your own film)

Never give up manipulate your story to create emotional impact!

#AfricanStories #StoryTelling