We continue the series with the skinny on producing short films…
Unlike feature films and large scale stage productions, the short film format offers a cheaper alternative for telling story. The best short films have a small cast and a limited number of settings. There is normally one main theme and production is designed in such a way so as not to be demanding in terms of time and money constraints. Consequently, it is not uncommon for the script to have been edited to within an inch of its life with all unnecessary scenes, props and dialogue removed.
In this, it is important to note that short films can and do lose the audience’s interest quickly if they carry superfluous content causing it to run longer than the viewer anticipated. After all, they are watching it because it’s short – not long! They also expect to be entertained so make it compelling with a clear theme, great storyline, diverse characters and satisfying conclusion.
There are many things to take into account when producing a short film so best buy a book on the dos and don’ts of filmmaking rather than risk it going wrong. Here are a few of the things to consider:
- have all actors’ contracts ready beforehand and get them to read and sign them before any rehearsal or filmmaking takes place.
- as an attending writer, be prepared to act as a producer (or dogsbody) bringing snacks, umbrellas, ladders, scripts, flasks of tea (and coffee), props, sandwiches,etc.
- before filming your short, check all props to ensure they do not breach copyright and render your film redundant or bring about prosecution if used.
- if thinking your film will be entered in a competition later on, you should get permits or written permission for locations used as you may be asked for them
- plan to record extra audio (dialogue and sounds) in case original audio accompanying the film is poor quality and needs replacing with similar background noise, etc
- make sure all editing (flame artist and otherwise) occurs before sending it on to the colourist.
- take a course or buy a book that helps you learn how to direct TV drama and gives you an insight into using a camera, blocking actors, coverage, types of shot etc.
Pros and Cons of Producing
- More chance of seeing your work produced.
- Opportunity to enter your short film into competitions/festivals .
- The short can be shot to budget on everything from an iPhone through videocam to a DSLR camera.
- The film may serve as a forerunner that can be used to promote a larger project idea you’d like to develop.
- A short film can be sent out to producers or used in crowd-funding promotions.
- If seeking an agent, what they might not be prepared to read, they may be willing to click and watch.
- Chance for professional reviews by submitting it to competitions
- Something tangible on your creative CV as you move from writer into filmmaker and/or production.
- Can be rehearsed as a table read beforehand to ascertain viability as a production.
- Time and money spent in learning about your camera and how to get the most out of it
- if not firecting yourself, the cost of attending a TV/Film directing course (I recently attended one with Film Oxford)
- Learning the format by watching lots of short films.
- Time spent making your filming mistakes on other projeccts and not your prize script
- Cost of buying in production skills you don’t have – e.g.) audio, lighting, make-up artist, costumier, etc
- Cost of post production: flame artist, colourist, sound etc, music composer, titles
…the most important thing to remember
Great short films make for great entertainment. So, before embarking on production, make sure the script itself is perfect. (And not a case of ‘It will do!’)