Keeping it Reel

6 Incredible Tips for Young Filmmakers

When I was in high school I remember trying to throw together backyard movies spur of the moment. It would be me and a bunch of friends (who had no idea how to act) basically improvising scene after scene, trying to put together something that wasn’t complete garbage. I never got very serious about writing a real script or taking the time to give actual direction to my friends because…well I didn’t think I had the resources to make anything good anyways. I had a crappy camera, low-tech editing software, no access to any kind of cool locations, and no money to really put anything together. So what could I do?

If you have ever felt defeated for lack of resources, don’t worry. There are still ways you can create. Here are a few quick tips for making a film you can be proud of.

Getting Good Equipment

Most young filmmakers don’t have access to much more than a decent camera, which means it is incredibly difficult to get the shots you want. There are a few things you can do to get some equipment that will help you create the way you want to without going through crazy amounts of effort.

  1. See what resources your school has available – Even if you aren’t taking and film related classes at school, you might be able to borrow a high quality camera, mics, and rigs or use your schools editing software. It is as simple as asking your teachers for access.
  2. Build it Yourself – There are plenty of online tutorials that can help you build camera and lighting rigs for super cheap. Just type in ” _______ DIY tutorial” on Youtube and a few videos will most likely show up.
  3. Ask Around – Your family, friends, classmates, aquaintences, etc. might have the gear you need. Get on social media and post a few statuses asking if anyone has something you could use. You’ll never know what someone might have until you ask.

Hiring Talented Actors

Most of the time the easiest thing to do is just talk your friends into starring in your film, but this most likely won’t give you the best results (unless you hang out with a bunch of actors). Ask your school’s theater or music teachers if they know anyone who might be interested in participating, put up fliers on your school’s bulletin board, create an event for a casting call on Facebook, or visit your local theaters and see if you can make any connections. Most young actors are willing to participate for the fun of it, so you shouldn’t have to worry about paying anyone, and you will get better talent than you would from dragging your friends on screen.

Finding the Right Location

Location can be a tricky thing to handle, especially when you are young. People assume that you are going to be unprofessional and don’t want to put up with the hassle of letting you use their space. The best thing to do location-wise is to (once again) ask around. See what connections your parents or friends have. The odds are you know someone or you know someone who knows someone who owns a space that will suit your needs.

If you can’t find anyone, start walking into businesses and asking if you can use their space for a few hours. Privately owned business will most likely yield the best results with this strategy, but it never hurts to ask anyone. The worst thing that can happen is you can receive a “no,” in which case you are exactly in the same spot you were before.

Working Within Your Budget

You are probably thinking “what budget,” but even if you only have $10 to your name, you still have some kind of budget, right? It can seem pointless to manage 10 bucks, but unless you are planning on starting a kickstarter or saving up, you have to work with what you got.

I have listed some of these things already, but a few ways you can make sure you are using your budget effectively are:

  • Borrowing – Ask around
  • DIY – Build it yourself
  • Thrifting – Check out your local thrift store (Salvation Army, Goodwill)
  • Repurposing – Use old items again or use the same item for multiple things

Let’s say you are working on costumes. Buying new clothes isn’t something you have the money for so you should ask around and see if anyone has the item you need. Then you should see if it something you can make yourself. After that, see if you can find it for cheap at a thrift store or online. And finally, see if you can use something you already have laying around or something that is being used in another scene (depending on well an old item matches what you are currently looking for, you should do this first).

Promoting Your Film

So you get everything you need and the filming process goes by without a hitch. You are going to want to share your film with the world, right? But how can you get the word out there?

  1. Post your video on youtube and spread the word
  2. Have your family and friends share your film through social media
  3. See if there are any film competitions you can enter your film into
  4. Ask your local movie theater about a potential viewing (I know it sounds intimidating, but it is more common than you think)
  5. Talk to your film and acting teachers about sharing your work in some of their classes

Get Creative

When doing all of these things, remember that you are going to have to be creative. As a filmmaker, you create reality. A model car or airplane might be able to serve as a stationary stand in of the actual thing. With some unique camera work you can change the direction of gravity. And with a little polish, shine, and ingenuity those football pads could be real armor. You just need to think outside the box!

Ready to start creating? At CCH there is no need to hunt down equipment, find a screening location or get your hands on some good editing software. If you are dedicated to being a filmmaker, download our application checklist and get started on your application today.

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This blog is a collaborative effort by CCH staff and administration who want to share their knowledge with the film school community and prospective students.