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How to Make an Award Winning Short Film in Five Simple Steps

By Rizwan Ahmad - 24 July 2013 No Comments
Fancy yourself as the next Christopher Nolan? His award winning first feature, Following, was based on a short he made in film school – and used inexpensive locations, friends and fellow students. Keep these five Oscar-worthy tips in mind when you pick up your camera, and you could be walking down the red carpet too.

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How to Make an Award Winning Short Film in Five Simple Steps
Image Credit: Flavio

Tell a story
Keep it simple, keep it focused and make it interesting. All great short films, like short stories, have something to say. The quicker you say it the more impact your film will have. Don’t try to say too much: most short films are 10 minutes long max, and many are much shorter. Think of a situation that compels your viewer from the outset. The short that Following was based on was about a writer deciding to follow people at random and unwittingly uncovering a burglary – have you got an idea as good as that?

Rely on natural lighting
If you use natural light, you don’t have to pay for expensive lighting rigs. Deciding to use natural lighting will also dictate your choice of locations – as many outside shots as possible, or shots in bright cafes and houses with big windows, which might help you write the story too. If you’re setting your film exclusively outside, you need a story that makes sense being outside. That’s helpful if you have too many ideas and don’t know where to start.

Beg and borrow
The less equipment you have to pay for, the better. Borrow cameras and equipment from friends, from your college or university – from anywhere you can. Ask people you know to be in your movie, too. Sam Raimi, who made the Spiderman trilogy (and the Evil Dead films) started out making horror movies starring his friends, and Steven Spielberg began by getting his boyhood chums to act in short films he wrote and directed,.

Don’t rely on the camera screen
The view screen on the back of a digital camera doesn’t show what’s really hitting the image sensor. Either look through the viewfinder (if your camera has one) or take some practice footage to get yourself used to the discrepancy between what you think the camera is seeing, and what it actually does.

Be creative
Doing things on a budget doesn’t mean forgoing the chance to get creative. If your script calls for an adventurous effect, try to work out ways of doing it that work within the visual language of your film. A low budget horror short, for instance, can get away with using ketchup for blood, because the whole look and feel of the movie is suited to lurid effects. Don’t be afraid of hiring a studio to do some FX work, either. If you’ve been saving money throughout by using friends, family members and favours, using a green screen like the one at Meadows Farm Studios can be a wise use of your remaining budget.

You can do the post production yourself – Gareth Edwards did all the FX for his hit Monsters in his bedroom!
 Guest Author
About the Author:

The Author has been writing technology blogs, both for his own blog network and as a guest writer on internationally-read sites, since 2004. He started by writing equipment reviews for amateur film makers, and is now published on more than 150 sites – some of which have  a daily reach of more than 500,000 unique visits.

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