A Simple  Guide to Making Your Film

This brief guide will show you the basics of film-making.

Step 1: Brainstorming

Spend some time coming up with ideas in your group. Be generous and co-operative. Hear everyone’s ideas out and be clear with how you communicate your own. Think about the purpose of your story and the limitations that you have to work with (time, equipment, etc)

Step 2: Planning

Once you have a rough idea of the theme of your story, take some time to explore how you want to say it. Think about the genre. Is it a documentary, drama, horror, action, sci fi? Perhaps its something more creative and visually expressive that doesn’t clearly fir into a genre.

Who else needs to be in your film? Do you need other participants and how old are they? If they are under 16 years old, then you will need to have permission from their adult parent or guardian to allow them to take part in your film.

What is your budget and schedule? Do you have equipment? Time? People’s time? Places? Will you need permissions for non-public locations?

Step 3: The Story

Now you can begin to piece together your story.

You will need to form a script. You might want a tight script where actors speak word-for-word or you may wish to have the characters improvise, giving them a stimulus.

If you are making a documentary, now is the time to research the people you want to interview and come up with appropriate questions to ask. If you are interviewing a young person, you may wish to ask them how they feel about their job or education prospects. If you interview a council official, you may wish to ask about the facts on why the education and jobs policies are failing young people and give you exact figures of unemployment.

Step 4: People

Who are the characters in your story? Take some time to make a family tree of your characters and think about how they link together. Think about their backgrounds. Try and make them as real as possible: What will they wear, eat and drink? What is their family like? Why are they in the film and what are they saying to the audience? You may have some key words or phrases they will say.

If you are interviewing pupils or people under 16 years old then make sure you get written consent from their parent or guardian.

See the sample release form below:

A Sample Release Form

Name (of contributor) ___________________________ in (name of film) ______________________________

at _________________________________ (recording location) on ___ ___ / ___ ___ / 2013

I understand that this film is to be submitted to the Guardian newspaper landing page to be entered in the film competition entitled ‘Young, Gifted and Broke?’ run by the Intergenerational Foundation, a charitable organisation working for the intergenerational fairness for younger and future generations.

I hereby give my permission to be filmed in the said film without further consideration or compensation to the use (full or in part) of all footage taken of me and/or recordings made of my voice and/or written extraction, in whole or in part, of such recordings for the purposes of illustration, broadcast, or distribution in any manner. I have read and understand the terms and conditions and hereby give my consent.

Signed _____________________________________ Age (at time of filming) _______________________

If you are under 16 (sixteen) years old at time of filming, please ensure this release form is also signed by a parent or guardian, with their permission of your involvement.

I, the legal guardian, (print name) __________________________________ give permission for (name),

___________________________________________________ to take part in the said film above.

Signed: _________________________________ Date ___ ___ / ___ ___ / 2013

Step 5: Framing

The way that you shoot the film is an important part of getting the film right. Now is the time to experiment with basic camera angles.

Pictured here are some useful image frames and camera angles.

wallywood22panel1600

Here are some other examples that might be useful!

Step 6: Storyboards

Now you have an outline of a script, and an understanding of the various camera angles and shots you can use, you should begin to merge these to break your story into scenes to make a storyboard. A storyboard looks like a comic book, with pictures of scenes and a description of what is happening in the picture and/or some dialogue.

storyboard_artist_los_angel

A good storyboard help you to think of how to visualise each scene using which camera angles and shot sizes.

Click here to find out more on Storyboards.

And click here for some story board templates.

Step 7: Scheduling

This is probably the trickiest part of film-making.

Now you have your storyboard, you may find some of your scenes happen at different times in the story but in the same location. This means when you make a schedule of filming your scenes, that you do all of the different scenes in the same location on the same day. Be careful! You characters may need to be wearing the same clothes for different scenes on different days that in the film are the same day. This is called ‘continuity’.

Scene Location Props / Dress / Equipment Notes Costs
Scene 1 – Rosie in her bedroom crying Bedroom Rosie wears jeans and red top Film day one – need red top $3.50 packet of cookies, $5.50 sandwich
Scene 2 – Rosie watches news Living room Rosie wears jeans and red top Film day one – need TV, red top.
Scene 3 –Rosie asking for jobs in restaurants High Street Rosie wear jeans and red top Film day three – Need 2 cameras Red top. $10 lunch in cafe
Scene 4 – Rosie annoyed at still being unemployed Home Rosie wear jeans and green top Film day one – needs green & red top

Filming takes longer than you think! Try to film one scene from your storyboard and this will give you an idea of how long it will take to film the entire film.

Step 8: And ACTION!

Now comes the fun part: filming!

Try and film the same scenes from different angles so that when you edit, the audience will have different things to look at. If you only use one camera, film the same scene several times from different angles.

Time coding is also really helpful as you begin to edit your film. You should have a pen and paper ready to record the various takes of your scenes and record the time codes next to them (this is the time set on your video camera) so that when you come to edit, you know that, for example 19:13 (19 minutes 13 seconds) was your best take for scene 5. If you are using a phone or digital camera, you may find it best to simply delete the scenes as you go along so you only have the ones you felt worked. But be careful of deleting scenes too early! You may need some other angles and though the whole scene may not be how you wanted it, you could edit two not so perfect scenes to make the perfect final cut.

Step 9: Post-Production

Now comes the most time-consuming part: Editing or post-production.

You now have your script, storyboard, schedule and your time-coded notes on how all your scenes went. Using all your resources, you can begin to piece together your film. Open Source software is available, or check out Movie Maker with Windows or Apple iMovie. If you have a bigger budget, look at Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere.

Feedback: Once you are happy with your rough cut, review it to people who can give you an honest opinion. Use these comments to polish up your rough cut until you have your final cut, making sure you have all the information you wanted to convey in the film as well as continuity and that the final film is under three minutes long.

Good Luck!


This is adapted from a film making overview written by Melissa Jane Knight and available here.

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