Making a short film? – proactive and productive (part 3)

January 22, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Above: Mood board used in finalist weekend for Enter the Pitch filmmaker’s competition: Kings of Urban

Okay, hot on the heels of last week’s post – which can be found here  – we consider the issues that come with producing a short film.

Now because most first-time filmmakers are usually making their first film on a tight budget, it should come as no surprise they are often obliged to wear several  hats. These may include ‘producer,’ ‘health and safety person’, ‘props’, ‘casting’ and even ‘director.’ (And can I say here that it you are putting time, effort and money into your own film and you feel you could direct it then do just that because at the end of the day, shorts tend to benefit those who direct them more than those who write them),

So how do you go about making a short film? Well,  you will need a…

Location –

…which means approaching friends and asking them if you can borrow their property because this is much cheaper then hiring a roof top in London. So, two choices – either

  1. rewrite the script and replace the expensive location with one that costs nothing  (or)
  2. approach Film London or whoever rents out rooftops in your area, aerodromes, old swimming pools, park area, etc

and pay money for the fab setting and shot.

Crew and actors – 

…are all around you when you’re a screenwriter. Sometimes it’s their day job or what they do on the side. So join a filmmakers group on FB or real world, attend networking events, hand out your cards and ask them for theirs in return. Do the same for actors, make friends and professional relationships. I met at actor at London Screenwriter Festival two years ago – I asked for her card and later invited her to audition for a role in my stage play which she was in last year. Moral of the story: don’t ask, don’t get!

Auditions –

Don’t be overwhelmed by the process. Find an acting friend to assist you as you audition in your living room or cafe or wherever. Remember, it’s your script so you’ll have a good idea from the auditions of who you see in each role.

Rehearsal Space –

Learn from my mistake – casting eight actors in my comedy farce meant most rehearsals required a large space which was costly to rent. My next play had 5 actors and could be rehearsed in the large back room of my friend’s house which cost us nothing while we were reading lines – that is, learning the script. Only after this, did we rent out a large area for physical rehearsals and fine tuning.

Insurance –

Really important if you don’t want a lawsuit hanging over you from an actor getting injured on-set. My insurance is with ‘Showtime’ but do search around and  consider joining a union like BECTU who can advise, provide training, etc.

Health and Safety

Nowadays, it is necessary to provide evidence that the location(s)/theatres has been visited and a health and safety form completed highlighting possible risks and danger areas. This may require training and/or bringing onto the team someone who can complete this task for you. Please find an assessment template form with some redacted H&S extracts by clicking here.

Costumes –

Self explanatory – think charity shops though actors may often have a large wardrobe at home that has the very garment you are thinking of.

Storyboards –

Long before you gather actors and crew together you should have written the film and mapped out the storyboard shots – see opening scenes of Cosplay here. If you are directing – and even if you aren’t – you need to plan the type of film shot you imagine. think of it like a map of the film as to what comes before what and so on. To not have this ready before filmming will delay the shoot on the day costing extra money if employing people on a daily rate.

…done! Phew! It’s a start. Now get writing and building an environment of creatives around you in readiness for your first film – woohoo!

Til then, keep it creative!


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