How to make a short film: filming to editing

Lights, cameras, action: production

You have all your props, you’ve built your set, and your cast and crew are in place. It’s the big day! Grab yourself a coffee and get ready to watch your vision come alive. Here is some helpful advice for your shoot:

How to make a short film

(Image credit: Pexels / Karolina Grabowska)

Shooting – Now that everything is in place, it’s time to shoot your film! Ensure your crew has lots of time to get set up. You’ll want a stand-in to be on set, so your cinematographer can find their frame and practice their movements. Your sound recordist may need creativity to stay out of cinematography’s way. Your gaffer will also use this opportunity to light the scene. 

While all this is happening, ensure your cast is in makeup so they’re ready to go when you are. Once you walk them through the scene (this is called blocking), so they have it down pat, it’s time to roll. Be sure to grab multiple takes, even if the first one was perfect. Things can go wrong, and it’s always good to have at least two options for a specific take. Finally, ensure you have more footage than you think you need. In the edit, you may need to cut away from an actor for several reasons, and you’ll want the footage to fill that gap.

Directing – As the director, you’re trying to evoke an emotional response from your audience. This will dictate your choices in framing, camera movement, set decoration, lighting, and how you ask the actors to deliver their roles. Be sure to know what shorts are of absolute importance versus shots you merely want. 

If you are on schedule, grab them all, but if you’re running behind, you may need to make sacrifices. Let your collaborators be the experts in their field. If your sound recordist says they picked up a flying airplane, you should heed them, whether you heard it or not. Your people will want to give their best, so listen to them. Be open to others’ ideas, thoughts, and concerns. The cast and crew will match your tone on set, so strive for hard-working, professional, courteous, and approachable.

How to make a short film

(Image credit: Pexels / Kyle Loftus)

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Lauren Scott
Freelance contributor/former Managing Editor

Lauren is a writer, reviewer, and photographer with ten years of experience in the camera industry. She's the former Managing Editor of Digital Camera World, and previously served as Editor of Digital Photographer magazine, Technique editor for PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine, and Deputy Editor of our sister publication, Digital Camera Magazine. An experienced journalist and freelance photographer, Lauren also has bylines at Tech Radar, Space.com, Canon Europe, PCGamesN, T3, Stuff, and British Airways' in-flight magazine (among others). When she's not testing gear for DCW, she's probably in the kitchen testing yet another new curry recipe or walking in the Cotswolds with her Flat-coated Retriever.