I have always been a writer. In college, I made a few forays into the visual medium by force for class assignments. I was lucky to run with a group of broadcasting majors, so I had enough guidance and assistance that what I attempted usually turned out well enough to get me an A. On the couple of occasions that I had to direct something, it was both exhilarating and exhausting. It was never my forte; mine was behind the computer screen, waging war with words.
So, more than half a decade later, despite my prior experiences (or maybe because of them — who knows?) I’ve decided the time has come for me to make a short film. Maybe it was my sister’s and my silly Christmastime family feature, “Cat Destroys a Village,” that gave me the bug. Maybe this is just the proper evolution for an unproduced screenwriter. Either way, it’s happening. And that was the first decision I had to make.
The next decision was, “What can I plausibly film on my own with basically no budget?” The good thing about being both writer, director and producer is there’s no arguing over creative control. The buck begins and stops with me. So, I had to look at my resources. I determined they included:
- Friends I could coerce into being actors
- Friends I could coerce into being crew/extras
- A few potential sets, including my own home (definite), my own office (plausible), the homes and/or workplaces of any friends I could coerce into allowing/obtaining use of said homes/workplaces.
I also had to decide what I wanted to get out of the experience (see the link to Danny Stack’s post below). I wanted to have something I could be proud of, but I also knew I should walk before I tried running. So, while I’m not expecting an Oscar-calibre short by any stretch of the imagination, I am hoping I end up with something I can share with the world that says, “Hey, I can do more than make Christmas cat videos.” (Though, I will say that getting a cat to perform according to script is not the easiest skill to hone, thankyouverymuch.)
Based on my resources and expectations, I came up with a story idea to work within my means. I wrote it out and started scripting it. I also began looking at what I’d need to buy and/or bum off friends & family and tallying up a budget for those items:
- A video camera
- Video editing software
- A tripod
- Possibly supplemental lighting
- Food/caffeinated drinks to aid in coercion.
As I wrote the script, I had two particular friends in mind for the leads. As it so happened, I had a dinner scheduled with one of them, and she just happened to have a strong pull with the other (as she happens to be his wife). She liked my story idea, and she seemed eager to help (because she is a lovely human being), and she thought her husband would be in, too (because he is also a lovely human being). She also mentioned that if my office location fell through, she was pretty sure we’d be able to use her office.
I started researching cameras and video editing software, including a call to my twitter friends for advice. Many folks responded, and the supremely lovely Lara Greenway offered to give me some more detailed advice via e-mail. After more research, I finally came across a deal last week and made my purchase. I’ll save the camera and video editing software details for another post.
My next steps are to secure a location (sent that e-mail this morning), secure my actors and crew, and to storyboard and create a shot list based on my script. More on that in future posts as well.
In the meantime, here are some excellent blog posts that helped me make the decision to actually do this thing:
- Make a Short Film? from Danny Stack
- The Only Film Making Advice You Really Need from Matt Champagne’s Cinema Advanced
I’m also currently reading the following books, which have not only supplemented my overall filmmaking knowledge base but have also greatly increased my understanding of screenwriting itself.
- On the Technique of Acting
- Master Shots: 100 Advanced Camera Techniques to Get an Expensive Look on Your Low-Budget Movie
- The Film Director Prepares: A Practical Guide to Directing for Film and TV