Creating an Award-Winning Short Film

So you want to make movies, and actually get recognized for your efforts? The best way to start off is to make a short film. Creating a short can show what you have to offer as a filmmaker in a nice, little package. Here are 10 steps to help guide you through in creating a short film, from concept, to submission.

1) Think of an idea for a story.

Write down instances of conflict, and the scenarios that follow. Don’t make it too complicated or epic. This is not a feature-length, Hollywood box-office hit. Think of broad, simple conflicts, then focus on the details.

Once you have a general idea of a story, write a treatment of the story (broad overview of the story from beginning to end). Then, after looking over for kinks in the story, write the script of the story. Celtx is a good, free screenwriting software. Make sure you write the script in the proper format. Once completed with the script, ask someone you know to read it over. Chances are, they will catch some errors that you did not catch, since they are not biased toward the script.

2) Create a schedule for the rest of Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production.

This will be your own personal guide to look to throughout the process of creating your film. In your schedule should include every little detail of what is happening when (when/where the actors need to be, what time is crew call, etc.). Having this information readily available will greatly help you when people will later ask questions about times and dates.

3) Find and finalize your location.

Depending on your script, find a location(s) that will be used to shoot the short on. Keep in mind of logistical questions that will come up when choosing a location (how long do have the location for, is there any electrical access to the location, will the crew be able to easily access the location, what permits if any are needed to use the location, etc.).

4) Find and build your crew.

Using the available mediums of information (craigslist, local Facebook groups, local filmmaking groups, colleges/universities), build a crew that will perform certain duties while on set. The basic positions include: Director (if you are not directing, which I highly recommend that you do Direct), Director of Photography, Sound Equipment Operators, Gaffer (lighting operator), Make-Up, Acting Coach, Clapper, and Production Assistants. Some of these jobs can be multi-tasked to one person, but if you have enough people to concentrate on their particular craft, the smoother it will be during production. Also, check to see if your crew members own/have access to the equipment needed for shooting. If they don’t, that’s something else you will have to figure out.

5) Find your actors

Using similar methods of finding your crew, find the actors needed according to your script. Use different channels to find your actors. Some include talent agencies, university/college theatre programs, craigslist, Facebook groups, etc. Have try-outs for the roles. This will give you some sort of idea of how much skill each actor has. Make sure to record every actor’s information (name, contact info). You might need them later.

6) Script-Reading Meeting

Once you have found some good options of actors to fill the roles in the script, have a script-reading with all the actors that will have any kind of speaking role. A script-reading is when all the actors read the script to see how the dialogue flows with the actors. You, along with anyone else that you deem vital to the production (Director, Producer, Writer, Acting Coach, etc.) should be present at the script-reading. Preferably have someone else read the narration of the script, so you can study the actors and how they interact with each other. Make plenty of notes of comments/possible changes. If you notice significant problems with an actor’s performance with dialogue, discuss the issue with the actors, so he/she can learn and fix the issue.

7) Editing the Script (Again)

After the script-reading, go back to your script with your notes from the script-reading, and make the necessary changes. Sometimes it is simply a matter of switching a few words around, and other times, it is changing some scenes around. This is done to make the script flow better and make production more efficient, and in the long run, make your film better overall. The more work you put into editing the script now, the less time you have to edit on the set during production.

8) Production

Going along with your schedule created earlier, begin the process of production. This is actually when the shooting of the film takes place. Be constantly aware of time restraints. During production, if you are unsure about something, ask one your specialists for advise. You have the grand vision of the film, but your crew makes the film a reality. Make sure to respect them, as well as your actors, and treat them well. If possible, provide at least water, if not food, for your crew and actors.

After each session of shooting, check your “dailies”, or shots of the day. Check for any errors or issues in the shots. This will determine if any reshoots are necessary. Plan in your schedule accordingly.

9) Post-Production

After production is completed, it is then time for post-production. This includes editing the film. Depending on your skill with editing, either have a specialist edit your film, or edit the film yourself. I highly advise to have someone with an editing background to be present with you during editing regardless, to serve as an advisor.

10) Finalizing and Submission

Once your film is edited and complete it is now ready for showing. If you hadn’t before, look around for film festivals and competitions. Often, your local community will have some sort of film festival that you could enter. Even if you win some award at a small, community film festival, you can then say that you are an award-winning filmmaker.

Other possibilities involve online channels. Upload your film to youtube, vimeo, online film festivals, etc. Spread the word of your short film by using online social networks and blogging websites. The more you spread the word, the more people will see your film.

If you took the necessary time and effort, you very well might have something of quality that you could use as a tool for future use. Having a quality, if not award-winning, short film under your belt will put you in a greater advantage for job and festival recognition.