7 Actionable steps for the one man film crew

 
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In this post we will be looking at how to make a film on your own without a film crew (or even without actors). This will all be explained in 7 actionable steps, including story concept ideas, what equipment to use and planning tips. By the end of this post you will have a stronger idea of how to shoot a film on your own as a one man video production.

You may be shooting a film on your own due to the specifications of a project or find it easier to be a one man film crew. Being a one man crew has its difficulties - filmmaking is a very cooperative art and working within a crew will only help get you ready for more professional work. However shooting on your own could save you the stress and complications that come with relying on people in low budget filmmaking.

The One man film crew:

STEP 1. The Script

In filmmaking one page of a screenplay equals to approx one minute of screen time. E.G For a 5 minute film you will need 5 pages of screenplay.

How long will your film be? 

You may wish to watch some short films for examples on YouTube or Vimeo that are the same length as your film.

Will your film be a Vlog or a Narrative film?

Some basic story writing advice is to focus on your chosen genre and consider the conventions of that typical genre. Will the genre be a Documentary, Horror or Rom-com?

Will you be using actors in your film or will you be a solo filmmaker? If you don't wish to use actors you could use a POV (Point of View) or Vlog style. Here are some examples of films all shot by one person.

1. POV style with Go Pro - Our2ndlife 

2. Solo Vlog Style - Casey Neistat.

3. Narrative FilmQuincy Kane Morris

Keep a journal or virtual document to jot down ideas when you have them. Consider what locations you have to use, what props and equipment you already have access too.

You might like my My blog post  (One person short film ideas) – Read Here - A List of Short Film Ideas

STEP 2. The Equipment

What equipment do you have access to?

On the cheapest side your mobile phone is good enough to record a film on to or a basic digital camera.

Most YouTubers use a DSLR such as the Canon 80D or a digital camera such as this Canon G7X

For audio a Rode Mic such as this one will fit on top of your DSLR and is perfect for interviews or close to camera audio.

For further away audio you may need a Lavalier Microphone and a recorder such as the  Zoom H4N.

For a handheld tripod you can use Gorilla tripods. For a good solid Tripod try the company Manfrotto 

Will you be using natural light?

For one man band filmmaking you could use a simple battery powered LCD light for on top of your camera . Box lights such as these Photography Lights are used on most online videos as they are cheap and can fill a room with clear white light.

STEP 3. Pre-Production

To start planning your film shoot complete a script break down. What locations do you need to find? What costumes or props do you need to get ready? Create a list of every scene and bullet point what you need. 

This is also a good time to storyboard your film. You don’t need to storyboard everything but a few sketches could help make you more confident on the film day.

You might like my post - How to storyboard a short film

How to Find actors?

I found the easiest way is to go to your local drama centre or college drama class and ask. The sites Star Now and Mandy allow you to put up online ads for actors.

For auditioning book out a room (I found that pubs / bars / community centres often have rooms you can hire out for free). Block off half an hour per actor to audition, discuss the project with them, perhaps have them read a scene from the script. 

Click to Tweet -  Recording your actors audition allows you to see how they look and behave on camera

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STEP 4. Shooting Schedule

It will take time to find a day when everyone is free to work on your film. One man band filmmaking is significantly easier to organise. 

If you do have actors in your film you may wish to create a Facebook Group page so everyone can chat together and find a time to shoot when everyone is free. 

When organising the shooting day leave additional time between travel - what may be a half an hour drive for one person could easily take an hour for others. Everything takes longer than it should in film, give additional spare time between travel and location changes.

Make sure your script breakdown is ready before your shoot. Double check you have props and costume ready. Remember to take in account the weather and sunrise / sunset times on the day you plan to film on. 

You don't need to shoot the film in chronological order. You may wish to create a Call Sheet for your shooting day - Read my post here on how to create a Call Sheet.

STEP 5. Production

During each shooting day take each scene at a time.

Click to Tweet - Take at least two takes of each shot so that you have options during the edit

No matter how organised you are problems can happen, the weather might change half way through a scene, equipment might fail, you might run out of time to get all of the shots.

This is normal things never run perfectly smooth in film. You may need to do pickups for your film on a later date even as a one man film crew.

STEP 6. Editing

For editing software you can use free software such as Windows Movie Maker or Apple's IMovie. 

Many filmmakers use the Adobe Creative Cloud (which includes Premier Pro, After Effects, Adobe Audition and Photoshop). You can pretty much do anything with the Creative Cloud, it comes at a price of £50/$65 a month (Discounts for Students) including all updates - see more details here

A editing software that allows you to do a little bit more than the free software is Pinnacle Studio which comes at a one time cost of £50 / $65 - see more details here

STEP 7. Promotion

How will people watch your video?

You may wish to try a film festival. If you are just starting out a local film festival is a good start. You are more likely to have your film shown at a festival if you live locally.

Find these festivals advertised on Google, at local cinemas or through a search on With out a box.

YouTube is an obvious choice but you will have to do a lot of self promotion to get lot of eyes on your work. 

Vimeo gives a higher quality upload than YouTube. It also offers a better community for filmmakers. There is a minimum fee of  £6 /$10 per month. Check out the Vimeo options here  

Resources - D4Darious - How to Shoot a Film Alone

Now I want to hear from you! Are you planning on making a short film on your own? Will you be shooting a narrative film with actors or something else entirely.