You wake up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea for a film! Congrats, you are a creative being full of promise. Your left brain starts running wild with all sorts of camera angles, experimental shooting styles and a cast of thousands. This is great and entirely essential for creating something truly unique that reaches an audience and really affects them. But before you start on your preproduction adventure trying to work out how you’re going to pull off your masterpiece, take a little reality check. Here are a few things you absolutely need to prioritise and put effort in to, before you go any further.
Its a million times easier to rework a script on paper, than it is in post-production. Spend as much time and energy on reworking, rewriting and working through script readings to get the story right before you even think about shooting.
2. Team Creative
Filmmaking is a team effort. Get your key creatives in super early in the process. Having 5 talented, inspired people around a dinner table hashing out each problem and sharing ideas will have everyone on board from the start. Be open and listen to input from your team.
Don’t scrimp on Production Design. You may not be able to afford a top notch experienced person, but do everything you can to find someone with a great eye to pull together a fantastic looking set. Michel Gondry makes cardboard boxes look like a million dollars, so apply all those creative juices to this part of the project.
Keep the number of locations in your script to an absolute minimum, it will be much more manageable for your team and you will have a better film as a result. Also try and keep your set choices super simple, consider ditching noisy, dark and public spaces and replace them with a simple location idea that can achieve the mood you are after, but still allow you to control things like noise, light and cost.
5. Cut your shot list in half
The temptation is to have epic coverage with grand sweeping tracking shots, monster cranes and rigging from the side of a building. This is only going to blow out your budget and timeframe. Emerging crews often fall in to the trap of trying to achieve to many different set ups in a day. Keep it super simple and have a back up plan if its not working.
If nothing else, make sure you get professional quality sound. This means getting a quality external recorder such as the ZOOM H4N with a boom microphone, and preferably someone who knows how to use both. You can fix a lot of camera problems in post-production, but the options for fixing rotten sound are very very limited. So get it right the first time.
Just keep cutting.
There a thousand small decisions that add up to a great short film, but these are three that set most award films apart from all the rest.