10+ Important Tips For First Time Filmmakers – Short Film Advice

Tips for first time filmmakers – Shooting a short film isn’t as hard as many believe it should be. Many factors come into play to complete a short film. 

But to be successful, a filmmaker needs to understand what these factors are before shooting and how to use them to benefit the film. 

If you are thinking about shooting a short film for the first time, you need to understand what it takes to make a successful film as a first time short filmmaker.

What do I know about being a first time filmmaker? Let’s just say that over the past five years, I have made many mistakes making short films. What were these filmmaking mistakes that I have made over the past few years? 

Read on to find out which factors of short filmmaking I messed up on, and how first time filmmakers can learn from these mistakes to become amazing filmmakers.

Here are my 10+ tips for first time filmmakers that I hope will help a filmmaker become a success.

10+ Important Tips For First Time Filmmakers - Short Film Advice
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Tips for first time filmmakers –The first piece of advice that I can give to any first time filmmaker is don’t shoot for the stars on your first attempt.

What do I mean by that? A first-time filmmaker needs to understand that with a first film, anything can happen.

Actors and crew could not show up on the set for the first day of shooting, the location you were going to use ends up getting bulldozed the night before…the list can go on and on.

The key to shooting a short film for the first time is to take a ‘less is more‘ approach to filmmaking.

What do I mean by this? If you were learning to fly which plane, in the picture below, would you like to learn from? The left or the right?

10+ Important Tips For First Time Filmmakers - Short Film Advice

If you are learning to fly for the first time, you would typically lean toward choosing the plane with the least amount of stuff to worry about. 

In flying, you need to understand the basics of flying with the least amount of controls to worry about before jumping into a jumbo jet and flying with a crew and passengers.

When it comes to making a short film, even the most simple films are oftentimes the most complicated.

That’s why as a first time filmmaker you need to understand the ‘less is more‘ approach to filmmaking.

Related Article: Best Online Filmmaking Resources To Be A Better Filmmaker -2021

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Elements Of Film Production

Tips for first time filmmakers – I have known from the experience of being a 1st AD, second unit director, assistant director, producer, and director that when it comes to making short filmseven the most simple films were still complicated to make.

Regardless of the length of the short film, there are several key elements below to making a film that every filmmaker must get right to be successful.

  • Story and Script
  • Pre-Production Planning 
  • Finding Locations
  • Casting The Right Actors
  • Directing Actors 
  • Managing Crew
  • Directing the Photography
  • Camera Operation
  • Lighting
  • Sound Recording
  • Editing
  • Sound Design
  • Music

With each of the tasks above, you need enough experience to get it right. Especially when it comes to sound, camera, and editing.

If you don’t have the experience in any of these tasks and tried to make a short film right now, it would be like flying a passenger airplane on your first try.

The key thing to the list above is to control the controllable’s and bring a qualified crew to fill in the rest of the roles. This way you can focus on what you have experience with, and rely on the rest of the crew to help you get the job done right.

Related Article: 8 Important Low Budget Filmmaking Tips For Beginners

The Fundamentals Of Filmmaking

Tips for first time filmmakers – To create a successful film, regardless of the length, there are four fundamentals to filmmaking that a filmmaker needs to understand before shooting a film.

  1. Story
  2. Camera
  3. Editing
  4. Sound

Story

For a film to be considered a masterpiece, it needs to have a great story. The story is just one of the many things that make up films, and every single one of those things needs to be great.

Camera

Camera movement, following the action, adds a sense of forwarding momentum, adds pace & energy, and allows the viewer to participate in the action. 

Re-watch your favorite movie, and analyze it to see how camera motion adds impact to key scenes. The camera is telling the story visually.

Editing 

Editing is refining the pacing and structure of your story. Film/Video editing is important because it is the key to blending images and sounds to make us feel emotionally connected and sometimes truly there in the film we’re watching.

It’s safe to say that video editing is among the most important jobs in the film industry. Editing is refining the pacing and structure of your story. 

Sound 

Sound is storytelling with audio. Sound is important because it engages audiences. Sound evokes emotional responses, it emphasizes what’s on the screen and is used to indicate mood. 

Sound adds emotion and connects people to what they’re seeing.

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Understanding The Fundamentals Of Filmmaking

10+ Important Tips For First Time Filmmakers - Short Film Advice

Tips for first time filmmakers – If you are an aspiring filmmaker, you need to make sure that you gain as much experience in these four fundamentals as you can.

Sure, you may not direct a script you made, or you might have a crew dealing with sound and editing, but you should be comfortable with these roles enough to understand the process.

Think about the airplane analogy above. 

If you have no experience of flying an airplane, how are you going to fly it? Are you going to rely on the instructor or co-pilot to fly the plane? If so, then you really aren’t the captain then.

This is the same with filmmaking, if you don’t understand the basics, then you can’t properly captain the production.

So, my advice is, keep your short films simple, so if you make mistakes along the way, you can correct them and learn from them to become a better filmmaker.

Famous Directors That Began With Short Films

When you’re starting out as a filmmaker, whether in film school or making films on your own, even the great directors like Martin Scorcese and Steven Spielberg started out with short films.

There was a point of time in their life where they dreamed of making it big in the film industry, but they too knew that they had to start off small and prove to the world that they had the vision to succeed.

Here is some valuable advice from two film directors that have been incredibly successful all from starting with short films.

Related Article: 10 Important Tips for Directing Actors – How To Direct Actors

Want to Learn More About Filmmaking?

Become a better filmmaker with the MasterClass Annual Membership. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by film masters, including Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Spike Lee, Jodie Foster, and more.

Summary

I know that these tips for first time filmmakers for short films are all over the place, but I hope you get a better understanding of what it takes to make a successful film.

You need a lot of confidence and willpower for making a short film for the first time. You need to be committed and have a never quit attitude in making the short film for the first time.

If you are making a short film for the first time, don’t then try too many things all at once. Write a story around the locations and people you already have, and write a simple story that can bring out your inner innovative director side. 

If you are worried about your skills, volunteer on an independent film to gain experience, watch youtube videos to brush up on some skills, or take so online filmmaking courses to improve your skill if necessary.

All I can say to any first time filmmaker is, just grab a camera and start shooting. It’s the best way to learn.

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10+ Important Tips For First Time Filmmakers - Short Film Advice

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