How To Make A Short Film

So you’re wondering how to make a short film? Well I’m here to tell you, it’s not as daunting of a task as you might think! All you have to do is go through these steps and once you’re done, you’ll have your very own movie to show off. Plus, you can use this very handy tool called FilmLocal for finding Cast, Crew, Gear, Locations, and even to Promote your project afterwards! Let’s get started.

 

Conception

To make a short film you have to have a script! And to write a script you need to have an idea. I can guarantee everyone who has been alive long enough to know what a movie is has had an idea for a movie. You just have to think of one that is feasible enough to actually create. I’d recommend not planning to make a mind mending, VFX filled Sci-Fi or something on par with a Fast and the Furious movie. Try to focus on your characters. Creating compelling characters and making their interactions fun and interesting to see on screen will be easier on your wallet (or your producers’) than having a ton of explosions on a different planet. Speaking of different planets, make sure your locations are within range of you. If you live in L.A. but are writing an epic tale of people climbing Mount Everest, you’re probably not going to have a good time. Having trouble? Watch your favourite movies while keeping your restrictions in mind. That has helped me in the past and I’m sure it can help you now. Once you have your concept, you’re on track to make a short film!

A man thinking on top of a mountain. Is this how you make a short film?

Is this how you get ideas?

Script

Now that you have an idea you need to break it down into scenes and create the whole overarching story. Here you have two options; hire someone to write it or do it yourself. If you want to hire someone to write your script for you, check out our full list of local Screenwriters. If you want to do it yourself, I’d highly suggest using a scriptwriting software like Celtx to help you with that process. Formatting screenplays properly can be very difficult if you’re using something like Word. Typically, a script to screen translation is 1 page = 1 minute. Since our goal is a short film, I’d suggest making your script about 40 pages long. Keep in mind that festivals consider anything below 40 minutes a short film so try to keep your movie in that range. This page count to screen time only works if you’re formatting your script properly, so again, you really should use proper software.

A close up on a typewriter.

Please don't write your script this way.

Funding

Next, you have to think about how you’re going to fund your project (remember how we limited the explosions and space fights?). If you’re doing it out of your own pocket, like many of us do, then that’s all well in good. If you know a producer, even better! However, the best way to fund your film is to try and get local grants. Almost every decent sized city will have grant money for filmmakers, you just have to find out what your city offers then you can look into applying to said grants. This is entirely different for each city so unfortunately I can’t list specific ones here. Just use Google! While you’re at it, try seeing if you can find any local film competitions going on that has funding as a prize, such as StoryHive!

A close up of multiple $100 bills.

How will you get this for your movie?

Pre Production

Great! You have a script and you have some money backing it. Now you just need to do everything else. Schedule, cast, crew, locations, wardrobe, the list goes on. No wonder those credits at the end of big Hollywood blockbusters are always so long. Good thing we’ve got you covered. We make this whole process much much simpler. If you need every one of these things all you have to do is go to various sections on this very site. Need Cast? Go to our Cast List. Need Crew? Head to our Crew List. Need gear? Film Rentals. Need to rent everything else from locations to puppies? Come on over. Anything you need for production, we have it! Once you have everyone and everything onboard you’ll then be able to finesse all of your plans with the people you now have helping you.

Film scheduling

This just might be the most important thing in the whole process.

Production

Now that you have all of these dedicated people helping you, there’s not much more we can help with. Shooting is different for everyone and problems arise that are specific to that shoot. Just use common sense and do everything by the rules (or laws) and everything should work out fine. Remember to feed your cast and crew well! Putting them through long days can be rough, but being hungry makes everything 100 times worse.

Making movies!

Post Production

What do you do with this mountain of footage? You spend hours cutting it into a masterpiece! Here you will definitely need some sort of editing software to help you such as FCPX or Adobe Premiere. It’s up to you on what you prefer. The best way to learn how to use each one respectively is from YouTube. There are thousands of tutorials on there that will turn you from a novice into a master. If you want to color your movie (which you should) try using DiVinci, it’s free and a very powerful tool. Again, YouTube will be your saving grace. If you don’t want to spend the time learning yet another program, you can always get some premade LUTs to quickly color correct your film.

Someone editing a movie in the dark on a computer.

You after the 50th hour of editing.

Final Product: Did You Learn How to Make a Short Film?

All done! You’ve made a short film, congratulations! Once you’re completely finished it’s always great to have a screening somewhere nearby for your Cast and Crew, then onto festivals! You can use sites like Film Freeway and Without a Box to find festivals relevant to your film. If you’re looking to promote, I’d suggest submitting an article about your film to our Local Films section! I hope this article was able to help you make a short film. Share your movies in the comments below!

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