Making your first Atlanta short film is always tough to do. You don’t know where to start or how to spend your money. No one really knows what they’re doing their first time around so don’t feel bad. In this list, I’m going to show you the top 8 steps you can take to make your short film feel like a feature quality movie.
Importance Of Story
When it comes to film everything is slave to story. That means the number one thing you should be concerned with when making a film is the story. Now this might sound obvious, but a lot of people seem to forget this step. They think about how they’re going to film it and what equipment they’re going to use. Then, when everything is said and done, they get to the edit and it looks pretty but there’s no substance. Too many films have the potential to be great, but it’s clear they just focused on making it pretty. So this being said, focus on your story! Spend as much time as you need to create a compelling, original story before you even think about filming.
When it comes to cinematography, the best shots aren’t the most difficult ones to do. They are the perfectly executed simple shots. Film within your budget. If you have the means to do a 10 minute long take where you follow a character around a whole city then do that, but if you don’t have the crew or money for that then shoot it simply and make it look gorgeous. The hardest shot to do isn’t always the best, so shoot for what is possible within your budget.
Lighting Makes Movies
Lighting is absolutely an absolutely vital step that is often overlooked. So many people go all out with their camera and don’t even think about spending money on lights. Lighting adds that special touch that separates life from movies. It adds to the mood, draws your audience in, and makes it look professional. All of this just from lighting a scene well. One of the first things you should do when planning to shoot is invest in a good 3 point lighting kit. Do not rely on location lighting.
Focus On Lenses
Using good lenses is probably the best thing you can do to make your film stand out. The difference between a kit lense and a cinema lens is astounding. This paired with the lighting I mentioned earlier can make your short film look like a professional feature film. For example, I recently worked on a film where we were shooting on a panasonic GH5, which is a fantastic 4k camera, but it only had a kit lens. Now, it still looked pretty, but there was something missing. A friend of mine had brought his a7s and rokinon cinema lenses, and when we switched to that the difference was incredible. The lighting was the same, the frame was the same, but the lenses made all the difference.
Find Your Sound
The number one thing that will take an audience out of a film is bad audio. It’s a step that is unfortunately overlooked in every step of film making. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve worked on a film where we go to shoot and the location is perfection but the air conditioning is the loudest thing ever, or there is a fridge we can’t turn off that makes a ton of noise, or we’re filming near the airport and planes keep flying over. The list goes on and on. So, next time you’re planning to shoot, make sure the location is quiet and you get someone that knows what they’re doing to record sound.
Editing is where the films story is found. You can plan all you want but when you finally sit down with the footage and watch through everything, something different happens. You can almost see the narrative flowing through every clip. It’s almost something you feel rather than see. My biggest piece of advice when editing is don’t be afraid to change your original plans for your film. Of course plan everything out ahead of time and shoot what you planned, but don’t be afraid to cut things you originally thought would be amazing that didn’t turn out well, or vice versa. If you find out a scene works better than you thought it would don’t be afraid to keep it.
Cast someone who is good and willing to work hard over someone who is great but has an ego. Short films are usually shot on small budgets and tight schedules, so don’t let an actor with an ego slow down your shoot or make you go over budget because they don’t want to do something or they feel like they need special treatment. This goes for everyone on set. Hard work goes further than anything else.
Good props can make or break a film. I once watched a short film where the main prop was just a coffee machine with tape over it. I immediately checked out of the film. It was a zero effort prop. The effort that gets put into making a good prop goes a long way. A well made blaster can sell the audience on the sci fi world that you’ve created, or a real puppet make people terrified of the puppet that’s been hunting down your characters. If done well, it goes unnoticed, but if done poorly, it will be the only thing the audience talks about.
The Overall Film
The number one thing your Atlantashort film has to have is quality. Quality story, quality cinematography, quality sound, etc. Everything must be done to the best of your ability. So when it comes to making your first short film, don’t shoot for a Star Wars level story where there’s infinite amounts of stories to tell, do what is easily within your grasp but make it to the best of your ability. Quality over quantity.