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Lessons Learned from first short film

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  • Lessons Learned from first short film

    Hello. I’m new to the Filmmaker Forums and I thought I would share some of my recent experiences making a short film. A group of my friends and I recently released our first short film called Heads or Tails, and this was the first real exposure to filmmaking for many of us on the team; see the final cut of Heads or Tails on Youtube at the link below. I met my friends while working at a movie theatre and we talked for years about making films, and we finally decided to start talking about making films and start doing it, so we tried our hand at making a short. Heads or Tails was made with no budget, all the cast and crew were friends and volunteered their time, and thankfully we were able to complete the film and release it. We have learned many valuable lessons as first time independent filmmakers that we would like to share with other filmmakers to think about before making your film, so hopefully you won’t repeat our mistakes.



    1. If this is your first film making project, keep it simple! Heads or Tails was definitely a bigger undertaking than any of us had envisioned, and probably wasn’t the best first project, but hey, we learned a lot. So we recommend definitely keeping your first project focused and simple, using minimal number of actors and locations, and keeping it less than 5 minutes. By having a few short films under your belt before moving on to longer short films, hopefully you will have found a groove that will allow your team to be successful.

    2. If there are problems between anyone on your team, cast vs actor, cast vs cast, make sure you address them immediately and move on. Don’t let fights or creative issues fester and then become a much bigger problem later!

    3. Make sure you believe in your script. Heads or Tails was the combination of several stories from the crew, and we all worked to try to make those stories into a short film for us to shoot, we were all itching to make our first short film. Script development took a lot of time, and there came a point that we all just said lets shoot based on the script that we had even though we knew the script had problems. More time definitely could have been spent honing and polishing the script or thinking of a better idea.

    4. The pre-production time is so valuable, so use it wisely. Our team did everything we could to plan for production, but there are so many things to think about when shooting that we never addressed during pre-production. A few examples were planning for wardrobe, hair, makeup, and continuity. These are just a few things to be aware of when you are planning stages for production as they definitely affect the look and quality of the final product.

    5. Try to story board your shots. There were many little things that our script called out that we actually missed and never shot, and we didn’t have time to re-shoot much due to our hectic production schedule, so we never got the footage we needed. Also having story boards for your shots will allow you to visually tell your story better instead of just picking all of your shots while on set.

    6. During pre-production, experiment with sound and lighting before you start shooting. For Heads or Tails, we didn’t have any money to devote to good sound equipment, or any lighting equipment whatsoever, but at least try to shoot a few example shots in the lighting that you expect on shooting day, that way you can preview the look and adjust as necessary, that way you won’t be surprised in post-production as to what the scene looks like with the lighting and can’t do much to fix it.

    7. Make sure your shooting schedule is achievable. We shot the majority of Heads or Tails on 3 Saturdays in June, and usually those Saturdays were jam packed from morning to late evening with shooting at multiple locations. We were able to accomplish all the scenes that we wanted to shoot and stuck pretty well to our schedule, but towards the later part of the day, we were all tired and the quality of those scenes suffered. Just make sure you don’t jam pack your shooting schedule too much that it will affect the quality of your end product.

    8. Have rehearsals before shooting. We wanted to do rehearsals, but we ran out of time. Looking at our final film I think having rehearsals would have let the actors find their roles more and work out at kinks in the delivery of their lines, get feedback from the director and feel comfortable with the role. Having this kind of information before shooting will also save you time while on set, so that actors hopefully don’t have to do multiple takes to get their lines right.

    I hope other filmmakers are able to learn from some of our lessons learned on Heads or Tails, I know my team is eager to fix these faults in future productions. I know some of these issues may seem obvious, but when you're in the thick of making your film, it gets easy to overlook the basics when you are focused on all the details. If you have any questions involving the production of Heads or Tails, the problems we encountered, or any of the lessons learned listed above, please don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks and good luck with your film making projects!

  • #2
    Marked to read later tonight - excited to check out your experience!
    Distribber - Keep 100% of your film's revenue

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    • #3
      thanks for the advice man ill def keep all this mind have you short bookmarked, cant watch it right now but i deffently will later on tonight

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      • #4
        I'll be honest, I printed this up and put it in my notebook. Many of them are things that, I think, it doesn't hurt to remind ones self of.
        Find me on Twitter: [at]Shadoe_Fox

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        • #5
          Good notes, all. I went the film school route a million years ago--and each production was an adventure--and a learning experience. A lot of it was fun and productive--some of it was hard work--and exhausting.

          Same thing in my pro work....but at least I got paid for it.

          Good of you to pass this along.




          Kurt Hathaway
          -------------------
          VikingDream7 Productions
          Video Production & Editing

          khathawayart[at]gmail.com

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          • #6
            Excellent recommendation s.

            I tried to Like it, but hit a system issue????
            Nick???
            Screenwriter and script consultant: www.maralesemann.com

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