Filmmaking is a business that requires a lot of hard work and dedication. One of the most important skills you should have if you want to be a filmmaker is organization. There are a lot of moving pieces and little details you cannot overlook when creating films, so being organized and timely is going to help you take your story idea and turn it into something real.
There are many essential steps you should follow as well when creating your first film. Here we will look at and break down five of the main steps that aspiring filmmakers need to follow in their journey.
Create Your Idea & Write Your Screenplay
Films have to start with a great idea. Brainstorm some topics that you’d like to create stories about and start writing down everything. When something sparks your interest and you can easily see the beginning, middle, and end – you can then write out your screenplay.
If you take the documentary approach to film it’s a great way to learn more about a specific topic, where you can search to find answers to your questions. Fictional films have more underlying themes and feelings that you build from.
Whatever your topic and theme, be sure to adhere to the tone that the movie should follow, and the details involved. Ask yourself some questions such as: do you want voice overs for narration? Should it have more up-close footage or panoramic shots?
Map Out Your Plan of Action
The next step to creating your movie should be developing your master list of shots. Once the screenplay is set, and don’t worry – you can make tweaks and adjustments as you go, nothing is set in stone. The shot list is something that can also change as you start filming if you decide a shot would be better done a different way.
Storyboards are really helpful here. You can set up your pictures and it helps with your vision and planning of each scene for what specific camera angles and shots need to take place. It allows you to see how everything fits together.
Setting Your Budget
This is one of the hardest tasks, especially for new filmmakers, but it is an extremely important one. You should always implement a budget for your movie. This involves first making a list of all of the equipment, hired hands, set pieces/props, and so on that you need. It helps to develop spreadsheets to track your spending as well as knowing how much to invest in the production.
It is always a good idea to overestimate how much things will cost as well so that you don’t get yourself stuck. Too many films have been cut short due to not having enough money to finish, and you don’t want this to happen to you.
It is very tough if you don’t have a lot of money to start with. There are plenty of ways that you can cut corners and work with what you have. Don’t have a fancy camera? A newer iPhone works well. If you don’t own one, see if you can borrow a friend’s for a period of time. If you want to invest in a camera, search local marketplace ads for a decent one that you can get cheaply.
Finding the Right Equipment
You don’t have to have the best quality equipment to make a good film. Going back to the budgeting step, you can work with what you have or find things cheaper that will help you achieve your desired looks, sounds, etc. without spending a lot.
A great tip here is to just reach out and ask for help from friends and maybe even utilize them within the film itself. Do you have a friend that has a great camera and knows how to use it? Maybe you have a family member in a band who’s got decent sound equipment. Anyone you know that has their own podcast? They probably have good microphones.
The next part for finding the right equipment is the software you will be using. You’ll have to edit the film somehow, and having a decent program (or programs) to help you do that is necessary. Keep in mind that this part of filmmaking is very time-consuming. You could do everything on a phone app, however, it will take ages and might not be as user-friendly as a Mac or a PC.
Most PCs come with Windows Movie Maker, and Macs come with iMovie, so you could start with those. If you want to upgrade and invest in some better editing software you can go for more professional programs like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro. There is some editing software that is free online as well you can get – Open Shot or DaVinci Resolve. Check out reviews on all of these and decide which will work best for you.
Sound is also something you may need software for. Some of the best filmmakers take to finding other agencies to help with licensing music for films & video, because it’s a great way to get customized music that fits your movie without having to pay royalties. You also have completely original music to work with so you can be creative with your storytelling and truly draw your audience in with a great sound design that is original to the movie itself. You won’t find the music or sounds anywhere else!
Hire Good Help
Even though it can be great to use friends and family within your movie, you may not want to cast them all. It takes a lot of people to make a film, so be sure to reach out to people you trust and who are willing to help. You will need people to help with aspects including set design, camera shooting, directing (if you don’t do it yourself), and even hair/makeup and costumes for your actors. If you can’t pay them or have a set budget for each role, be clear about that upfront so as not to mislead anyone, either. Establish yourself as the leader since this is your idea and your story so that you don’t run into too much conflict either.
That being said, be open to new ideas and mistakes. Sometimes you might not see something the same way the actor in the scene interprets it, and maybe their perception is better than what you had in mind. Be open to changes that can occur, whether in camera shots, locations, or other variables, and embrace some of the mistakes because they could turn out to improve your film’s message or overall theme.
With all of these steps in mind, you can be well on your way to creating your first breakthrough movie as a filmmaker. Research and plan as much as possible so that you are prepared before jumping into your project so that you can be sure to see it through from beginning to end.
Once your film is complete, you can look back and be proud of your accomplishment making your very own movie as an amateur filmmaker. And remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t stop at just one – keep going, create more screenplays and develop more ideas so that you can improve upon your skills even more and grow to be an expert in your craft.