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Making an Independent Short Film

When starting your career as a writer/director, it is likley that you will have to make a number of independent short films in order for your work to get noticed. Short films, short documentaries, and music videos are all great ways to start practicing your creative skills, but as they are not supported by a studio, the heavy lifting is left for the creatives to do themselves.

This article will list a few important steps one must take in the DIY process that is making an independent short film, and as long as this advice is taken into account the process will become much more manageable and before you know it you’ll be filling your portfolio with quality work.

1. Keep Independent Short Film Simple

When making an independent short film, it is important to know your limits. Most of the budget will be taken from your own pocket, and the more ambitious you are with your project, the more it will cost. This means that when thinking of the story you want to tell, make sure you are realistic when thinking about locations, cast size, and props. It is easy to let your imagination run wild when writing a script, but it is important to always be writing partially in the mindset of a producer.

Making an Independent Short Film - Keep it simple

One of the easiest ways to do this is to write single location stories. One location stories let everyone involved with the process hone their skills into one setting, which is likely to produce the best results possible. It lets the writer focus on the story, rather than intricate set pieces and sequences. It lets theproducer focus on finding one location, meaning they will find multiple options that are more likely to be close to your vision. It lets production designers put all their energy into decorating one set, and finding all the right props for a location with one set atmosphere.

Overall, using one locations keeps your production from becoming a complicated scattering of talent, and reduces the chance of problems occurring on set. But this does not mean you should abandon your ambitious ideas, just save them for later in your career when you have the means to execute them.

2. Form a Strong Team, and Form it Early

Without a studio ready to hire a talented group of filmmakers to work on your independent short film, the task of finding a crew falls largely on you. Forming a team may mean searching online for people looking for work, or talking to fellow film students if you are lucky enough to be enrolled in film school, but either way independent filmmakers can be found in multiple different ways, and a good amount of them are willing to work on a film solely for the experience.

The first member of your team that you are going to want to find is a producer, because a large part of their job is to help find everyone else for your crew. Another core member of your crew is going to be Making an independent short film - forming a team the cinematographer, and for an independent film it is important that the cinematographer has a quality camera that they own personally.

When looking for a crew you must be looking for skilled individuals who are passionate about their work, and have some kind of access to the gear that they are familiar with. These people will form you a crew that is efficiant and will help with lowering the cost of production, as any personally owned gear will take away from rental costs.

It is also crucial that you start this process of forming a team as soon as possible, a few months in advanced is ideal. As this is an independent short film production, it is likely that there is no money in the budget to pay your crew, and they will be working off the desire to test their skills.

This means that most crew members would be less inclined to move around their schedule last minute for something they aren’t being payed for, so it is important to become a part of their schedules as early as possible. Here is a link to an article talking about where people are looking for work in the film industry.

3. ALWAYS Location Scout

Like on all sets, time is money, but on an independent short film set money is scarce so time is everything. This means that you must do everything in your power to prevent the wasting of time when your shoot dates roll around. One of the easiest ways to do this is cutting time out for location scouting.

Becoming familiar with your location is essential for having an efficiant shoot. When on your scout bring a camera, a notebook, and as many members of your crew as possible. This way you can take note of the layout of the location with a notebook, practice framing a few of your important shots, andMaking an independent short film - location scouting have a majority of your crew be familiar with the layout.

Location scouting will help you find any problems with your location before the critical hours of your shoot. It gives you time to inform any neighbors that may be unaware of the shoot so they know what to expect, and you may catch small issues that may have been overlooked like something making a lot of ambient noise.

Overall a location scout is always a good idea, because without it time is almost guaranteed to be wasted. Here is a great article describing all things that should be considered on a location scout.

4. Keep Morale High

Having good energy on a set is essential, and for an independent short film set this is even more of a reality. A director and their team must do anything within their power and budget to keep the crew happy and healthy, especially when their enthusiasm is not being propped up by the promise of a wage. This means that extra work must be done to fill this gap, because although the passion for filmmaking is strong, there are limits to everything.

Keeping morale high is pretty simple and most of the decisions come from basic logic, like keeping the hours reasonable, because an 18 hour shoot may be common on a professional set, but will most making an independent short film - maintaining morale likely be met with a lot of pushback on an independent one. This also means that you must set reasonably long breaks for meals and provide the crew with plenty of food, and do not skimp on the quality and variety of the food, because pizza can get old quick.

Another easy way to keep morale high is to build a relationship with your set outside of working towards the shoot. If the crew members aren’t already your friends you should make an effort to change that, because friendly environments make for a positive and efficient workspace.

This means you should host a few get-togethers where everyone can get to know each each-other, and where that initial communication barrier can be broken before the shoot dates. This could be anything from a chill movie night to a larger backyard kick-back, whatever works to get your crew together will help immensely.

5. Promote!

When making an independent short film, it is important to build an audience around it while it is still being filmed. This way you will have a group of people ready to support your film in multiple ways. This group is likely to be there to watch your film when it releases, whether it be a premiere or an online release, and they are likely to share it with their friends and family. This can also be important if you are considering crowdfunding for your film, as people like to know the context of the film they are helping to fund.

There are many ways to promote your film, but the most common medium used is social media. This could be Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, or whatever platform you have the strongest following in. making an independent short film - promotion Once you’ve chosen your platform, be creative and post! These posts could be anything you choose.

You can share some stills, and begin to show off the cinematography of your film. You could make some profiles for the core members of your crew, giving your audience a sense of the faces behind your film.

You could also share some behind the scenes moments so the audience gets a sense of the work that has gone into the film. Overall anything that builds excitement for the release of your film will help immensely, and it will help build a community that will always be there for this film and the ones that follow.