Most likely you’re here because you’ve never made a film but are thinking about it, circling the idea, waiting for your moment. Or maybe you had a false start and the first time didn’t go so well. Don’t worry I am going to help you. The following is just a very basic exercise to get you started down your path of making an original video. The great news is all that time spent on your phone staring at the screen exercising you thumb eye coordination is about to pay off. And there is no bad news.
I imagine as a first-time filmmaker you will be way more comfortable shooting video on your phone rather than a DSLR camera. When it comes time to edit I think moving things around on your phone will be far less intimidating than sitting in front of your computers newly installed editing software with no idea what button to push to even launch it. For this exercise, it’s best to just stick with the phone.
Of course, there is the need for a script. Gasp. Just whip up something compelling, humorous, thought provoking and entertaining. I’m sure some of you can do that but most of us can’t. Not for a lack of desire and drive. Most of us need to be taught how to write and through hard work and dedication get good at it. But in the meantime, we need to just get started. Action begets action! Let’s not worry about writing an award winner, let’s concentrate on getting something on paper or more realistically in your phones note program, might as well. It’s like texting to imaginary friends about made up stuff. Almost like real life. I will say again the goal is to just make something, get the ball rolling. Let’s do this right now.
No use in avoiding it, get to work on the script. Keep it simple our goal is 2-3 mins of content. Think one location and two actors. First, we create a title and a log line. If you were sitting down to write a series or a movie you would not start like this, maybe you would but this will work well for what we are going to accomplish in this exercise. Having said that, here’s a quick example. This is the log line for Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jaws’: A land lubber sheriff tries to kill a giant shark to protect his family and seaside resort town.
Let’s do ours quickly, first thing that comes to mind. There are no wrong answers.
Once you got that let’s answer these questions and write a logline.
We’ll call him/her the Hero
What’s the Hero’s FUNCTION? eg. long distance runner, artist, father etc.
Does the Hero have a FLAW? What is it? eg. an arrogant, a lazy, a macho, an insecure etc.
What is the story’s first major event, the INCITING INCIDENT eg. falls in love, is fired etc.
What is the Hero’s visible GOAL? eg. to win the race, to catch the killer, etc.
What is the Hero’s NEED? eg. to connect, to stand up for herself etc.
Don’t overthink it, the goal is to make a film to get your dream career rolling. Action begets action, right? Keep in mind you have no budget so a pilot crash landing in the Himalayas is not going to work for this. Here is an example from this worksheet. Title: “ Poison The Tap Dancer Upstairs” Marge Mayhem an emo horror writer plots to poison her upstairs neighbor, an aspiring tap dancer Teddy so she can write in silence and finish her book. You get the idea. If you’re totally stuck remember the exercise is to just get out there and make something. If you want to be adventurous just use a random title generator & a logline generator . Using that method I just randomly generated “Helping McGee” A funny athlete and a gay robot builder travel through time. I’d watch that.
We are just gearing up to make a short with just the title and logline alone you should come up with 2 mins of dialogue. And if that too has you paralyzed with fear just make it with minimal dialogue, not a silent film where nobody talks have natural sounds and a few one liners. With both those examples , can imagine that. And I’d recommend that. For example in “ Poison The Tap Dancer” We see Marge typing, chunks of ceiling fall on her computer she looks up, she says,”humph” we cut to Ted tap dancing around the apartment in pure bliss. You get the idea. May seem silly but just enjoy the act creating something, don’t judge. Its an exercise in getting you started – today.
This next step is important, make sure your phone is charging while you are working on the script. You’ll need it for the next two crucial steps. Step one call a few friends and tell them they are coming over to be in your movie. Or maybe you are going to their house, apartment, roof, yard or basement because it is a better location. Explain to them it is just an exercise and that they will have fun and you are buying pizza. Also I’m sure you have funny, smart friends but just in case they can’t act all the more reason to keep the dialogue minimal. Next and most important is your phone’s camera that you will upgrade the recorder and the editing app you will add. Most camera phones actually shoot pretty decent video, terrible audio but the picture is great. All the more reason to consider a minimal dialogue approach. I think that’s three reasons if you’re counting.
When shooting your first short we can take a very simple but effective approach to make sure you capture all the video you need to tell your story. For each one of your scenes shoot the entire scene in a wide shot, repeat the scene again in a medium shot and finish with a close up or close ups on your main characters. Shoot all the way through to the end, if something minor goes wrong keep going. Some moments may be useful. Even if they are just listening and not speaking record the entire scene with the listening subject in close up. Last pick up inserts, fingers typing, feet walking or running a confused dog perhaps. From our friends at wikipedia. A Wide Shot, typically shows the entire object or human figure and is usually intended to place it in some relation to its surroundings. A Medium Shot, mid shot (MS), or waist shot is a camera angle shot from a medium distance. I’m sure a close up needs no explanation. The reason for that type of coverage is that it is safe. For the actors it allows them to redo lines and you can cut between their best moments from other takes. For the director it gives you many options to tell your story. A film is written three times. First when you write it, second when you shoot it and third when you edit it.
Once you have your footage you need to edit it and yes we will do that on your phone to. One great thing is you don’t have to worry about transferring your video to a computer just do it all on your phone. There are quite a few options, Magisto (iOS and Android) , Adobe Premiere Clip (iOS and Android) , Apple iMovie (iOS) & GoPro Splice (iOS) I’m sure there are others but these are the ones that appear most in searches on the topic. Read up and see which ones suit you and your phone. As I mentioned earlier you should beef up your camera app whether it’s Android or iPhone . I’m sure you will struggle a bit to get up and running but that’s part of the process.
Just keep Going. Upload your video to your social media get input from your friends and start planning your next project, I promise you with each one you will get better. Maybe you nailed it this time in which case with your next video you will get, more better. Finally as we both well know by now, action begets action.
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