Keeping it Reel

Aspiring Filmmakers: 5 Things to do BEFORE You Start Shooting

You have a brilliant idea for a short film. You’ve written a rough outline of the script, you’ve gotten a few friends interested in participating, and you know exactly how you want to shoot it. But for some reason, you still haven’t started shooting. You think if you just start the process, things will fall into place.

Unfortunately, if you go forward with the filming process from here, you will be creating one of the biggest mistakes you can. You will be shooting without properly planning.

You think you aren’t getting anywhere because you haven’t committed to starting yet, but the real reason is that you haven’t completed the tasks necessary to begin. What do you need to do to change this and get your project up and running? Follow the tips below, and you’ll be on your way.



1. Write a Complete Script

When you are first starting out as a filmmaker, it can be incredibly tempting to start shooting armed with no more than an idea. But you have to resist this temptation if you want to create a complete piece. When shooting a short film in your backyard, it is unlikely that you will be working with experienced actors. You can’t just describe your vision and expect the actors to nail the scene.

You need to have a full script written from beginning and end, and you need to give your actors time to look over it and memorize their lines. Don’t fill things in as you go, don’t write “improvise” eighteen times, give your cast something to work with.


2. Create a Storyboard and Shot list

After you have your script finished, it’s time to develop your vision for the film by creating a storyboard.  A storyboard is a series of drawings that represent the different shots you are planning on obtaining during the filming process. You want to make this as detailed as possible, including every single shot you wish to get to make planning as easy as possible. It is a good idea to include dialogue with each image you draw to keep track of where you are in the script.

Along with your storyboard, you will want to create a shot list, which is basically a written representation of your storyboard. It should include every shot you want to get, along with additional details such as where you when you’ll be shooting. It also isn’t a bad idea to include who and what will be needed for each shot (cast and crew/equipment).


3. Do an Equipment Check

Once you have your storyboard and shot list complete, you should run through it and make sure you have all of the necessary equipment to film each scene how you want. If you have a “POV” shot listed on your shot list, you need to have a Snorricam (or something like it) to film with it. Likewise, if you have a follow shot on your list, you will need to have a Steadicam on hand.

Note: It isn’t just about the camera! Make sure you have the proper lighting and audio equipment as well!


4. Scope Out Your Locations

You may have already done this while creating your shot list, but if you haven’t, now is the time to lock in your shooting locations. Think of your ideal places and start searching. Once you have a few ideas for all of the different locations you need, scout them out.

During the scouting process you should take into account the following:


  • Background noise
  • Lighting
  • Legality (are you allowed to film there?)
  • Accommodations (is there a power source nearby? Bathroom?)

A bad location can completely destroy a day of shooting, so make sure to take care in examining each area. You may need to sacrifice the perfect location for one that is more practical.


5. Gather Your Cast and Crew

Now that you have your project all planned out, you can reach out to potential cast and crew members. You may want to mention your project to potential candidates earlier in the process, but when asking someone to participate in your project, it is always better to have a full plan. That way, those you ask know exactly what they are signing up for, and you know that you are asking the right people to take part.

Before choosing your final cast and crew, make sure you are aware of each individual’s skill set. When you are starting out as a filmmaker, you may not think you have a lot of options, but there are bound to be plenty of people as interested in film as you are, you just have to seek them out.

Now, you are just beginning your journey as a Filmmaker, but someday you want to be a pro. Click below to download our Film Career Guide and see what careers might be in store for you!

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