You have finally finished your script and you want to produce it into a film. That is great. Congratulations are in order, as you have come a very long way.

Unless you have your own crew and are going to be your own camera operating person then you will need to hire someone that will shoot your film for you. As a filmmaker, you will have so many responsibilities that you should rather give that responsibility to an expert. In order to make the best of your movie and get off to a wonderful start, here are 5 tips that will help your shoot move smoothly.

1. Be A Storyteller

The filmmaker is first and foremost a storyteller. You must have a cohesive, compelling story to tell. This is not a difficult thing to do, as everyone has, at least, one real-life story to tell. Whether it’s a breakup, a family trauma, or a secret desire, you will find a good story if you look closely. You have to trust that no matter how painful the story is, or how embarrassed you are of that story, it has been experienced before by someone else. This is not a bad thing. It means that we are all connected in some way, and that these stories are indeed universal. We all have a unique story to tell that many people will relate to and identify with.

2. Have Your Shot List Ready

There are some filmmakers who will storyboard every single shot on their shot list. Alfred Hitchcock was notorious for this. (He was also notorious for giving his actors very little freedom in their movements and portrayal of their characters). ALWAYS finish your shot list before you get to your set. It will give you a roadmap of what you want, and how you will shoot your video. And because you are so well prepared, you can easily replace or remove a shot that you don’t need. Or you will be inspired to get another shot…one you didn’t think of before. And when this happens, it always feels great.

3. Have Your Location Locked off

I love shooting on location. The environment is real, as it is the world of the story. This is very helpful for your actors to believe the world they are in. Have it ready to show your producer, so that he/she can prepare adequately. Take them to the location, let them see what you have in mind. This will help your producer immensely as it will show them what types of shots will work from your list, and which ones won’t, etc.

4. Know What Equipment You Think You’ll Need

This usually will come to you when you are preparing your shot list. As the filmmaker, you should have an idea of how you want all your video shots to look. This usually means that you should have a basic working knowledge of the type of equipment you will need in order to get the shots. For example, your opening montage is a sweeping arc of the countryside that then leads into a house with two people eating dinner. You should know that this type of shot is going to require a crane, with the ability to swivel 180 degrees, and then also have it on wheels or some stable moving vehicle that this crane can be attached to. This will show the producer that you know what you want and it will be their job to try and get it for you. But if you walk into a meeting with your producer, and just hand them a list without any clue as how to get it, prepare for disappointment.

5. Learn Communication

In my experience of making short films, good communication is the single most important thing you can bring to any meeting with your crew. The ability to communicate to your team what you want and how you want to get it is crucial.  But communication is a two-way street. You cannot go into a meeting with demands and be inflexible. Be open and receptive to what your team members have to say and offer.

If you take the time to prepare for your shoot correctly, then when you actually get to the set, things will flow more smoothly.

Want to learn how to make your own short films? Auteur Film School offers a number of home-study courses in filmmaking. Email for more information: filmschool@auteurfilms.co.za


About the writer:

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 8.34.00 PM

John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A.  His most recent video, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 international film festivals.

Check out his short film – HUNGRY at No Title Production Films.



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