A short helpful guide for filmmakers. 5 tips on how to apply to film festivals. You will learn about what type of film festivals there are, how to get your film into festivals and what film festivals to submit to.Read More
5 Easy and Simple ways to find Actors for your student and independent films. Learn how to cast and audition actors effectively. When starting out in your filmmaking career it is unlikely you will have the money to pay actors. Beginner and student actors are on the look out for film projects to work on.Read More
In this post we will be looking at how film distribution works in the 21st century. You will learn about the traditional process of Hollywood movies and how independent filmmakers can get their films distributed and exhibited.Read More
7 actionable steps for the one man film crew. 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.Read More
Location scouting for film , tips on how to find locations for your films and what to keep in mind whilst sourcing them. This post also comes with a free location scouting checklist which you can download below.
I am guilty of limiting myself whilst writing film scripts, deliberately downplaying a scene as I write to make them easier to film later on. In many ways this is good practice for student productions, as tempting as it is to go full out, why not make it easier for yourself, shooting on location (especially exteriors) can be very hard. Location changes take up a lot of time, In my last short film one location change took 3hrs out of the shooting day, Which is why you should ideally shoot one location per day. It takes a lot of time to move people around, it takes time to re-set up equipment, even a short drive from A-B can easily cut hours out of your filming day.
Whether you choose to keep things simple, or be more daring there are still guidelines you should follow when location scouting for film. These guidelines are not there to stifle creativity but to help you make the most out of you pre-production time to make it easier to film later on.
You can download a helpful checklist below with ideas to keep in mind during the location scouting of your next production -
How to find your location
1. Needs vS Wishes
When searching for a location keep in mind your scenes needs. It is unlikely you will find the ‘ideal’ location you have in your minds eye (that is to say don’t shun a location just because the wall is painted the wrong colour you imagined it to be). Consider what is vital for the location to have for the scene to be carried out. Filmmaking especially when the budget is not there to build sets from scratch is about compromise.
2. Where to look
Your local film office might have advice and help for scouring locations, they may also have a list of locations you can use. Google maps is also a simple tool that makes things easier – you can check out your location with a 360 degree view straight from your home. I usually find a few locations online them check them out in person. I found these sites which could also be helpful Creative England Locations , Locations Hub
3. Permission for locations
It can be very expensive to acquire locations. High budgeted productions pay thousands to use locations (as these films are being made for guaranteed profit). For private property a fee may be agreed upon between the producer and owner. For low budgets sets we are lucky to even pay our crew let alone pay for locations. Public land such as streets, beaches, some parks are classed as public property and you will be able to film here for free. With persistence you may get permission - on one of my student short films I had access to the underground train stations in Liverpool – Thanks to my brilliant producer.
3.5 Shooting without permission
If you don’t get permission you will be shooting guerilla style, in which it is best to keep crew minimal. You may be asked to move even on public land (usually by the police, security or busy bodies) – at this point explain that the film is non profit, that no one is getting paid. Saying you are student can also help, claiming the film is a student production or personal project stresses the low budget nature of the film. Be friendly with anyone who challenges your right to film at your location, likely they are just curious. Filmmaking is more accepted in the world these days, people are not as intimidated by a camera as they once where. Its is good to have a friendly, chatty producer or AD with you to explain the situation.
4. Location Recce
The act of going to a location to see of it is suitable for filming is called a Location recce. The first recce may be done alone by the location manager, The next by the director and DOP. A group recce may also be done with all heads of department so that every dept can foresee any problems that may come up during filming. This will save you time, money and surprises during production.
5. Public Liability Insurance
'Public liability insurance protects you if clients or members of the public suffer personal injury or property damage because of your business. It can pay for the costs of subsequent legal expenses or compensation claims and is an integral cover for businesses that interact regularly with customers.' - I copied that straight from Google, having PLI can also give you peace of mind and it need not cost a lot of money for an business or individual. For the UK I recommend BECTU PLI
DURING YOUR RECCE
During Location scouting for film there are questions to keep in mind during recce -
Is there power - Do you need power for your equipment and lights. Are there enough plug sockets for indoor locations will you need to hire out a generator.
How is the ambient sound – Especially if there is dialogue in your scene, is there any distracting noises to be heard such as traffic. It is best to have a quiet location and place background sounds in later than have unclean dialogue.
Is there a nearby bathroom – where will the cast and crew go to the bathroom. Is there a nearby, pub, hotel, restaurant, inform the owners - ask nicely if your crew can use the restrooms for the day. Return the favor by ordering food from them, or come up with a deal.
How is the lighting – consider how the light changes throughout the day. Weather can be unpredictable, shadows can change throughout the day, check to see which way the sun is going down.
Is there a car park – you need a space for the cars and vans to be parked, can you park close to set, do you need to pay for car parking
Is there space for a Green room – Is there a quiet area for actors to wait and for costume and makeup to be carried out
Safety – is the location a safe place to film within and what can be done to ensure that cast and crew are safe during the filming
During the location recce take many photographs to remind yourself of the location later. Also consider taking video footage of the scene.
Resources - How to become a Location Scout
You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms
Tips for beginner filmmakers , what is the best camera to start filmmaking with? When I first started making films I used a handycam with DV tapes to record on, the slightest knock to the camera body and you would get interference on the screen. Digital grey squares would appear in and out of frames, internal sound recording meant you heard a constant mechanical hum throughout the footage.
It doesn’t matter what camera you use when you first start out. It really doesn’t, use whatever you can get your hands on. Most Mobile cell phones now have high quality cameras, technology is improving every year, HD is not hard to obtain. I have made a list of filmmaking equipment below to guide you if you wish to start spending money on filmmaking equipment.
This is a beginners guide! I am referring to high quality products and brands that do the job well but don’t cost a fortune. I am not techy minded, I figure there are other filmmakers out there which lack a technical care like I do, so I made this guide easy to understand. Feel free to add your own thoughts or reviews of products you have bought in the comments section below.
What is the best camera to start filmmaking with ? From the lowest price and easiest to get hold of a DSLR camera with video will give you a great start. The camera quality is high and you get full control of your focus (allowing you to make those blurry background shots).
Tips for beginner filmmakers Natural light can go a long way, remember you can use the lights you already have in the room to create atmosphere. Lamps, torches, the light glow from a TV can all be used as a cheap alternative to paid for lighting.
Accessories and packages
For your camera you will also need a tripod, the best company for this is Manfrotto which do a whole range of tripods, ideally you want one will a fluid head allowing you to move freely.
Filmmaker Package ONE - £500 / $640
Canon 550D, (comes with a 18-55mm lens), SD Cards X2 , Magnus tripod , Zoom recorder, light reflector,
Filmmaker Package TWO – £1000 / $1275
Canon 750D (comes with a 18-55mm lens), SD Cards X2, Magnus tripod, zoom h4n & lav microphone,
Filmmaker Package THREE - £1500 / $1900
Of course you could always do what I do and borrow equipment from others (all universities and colleges will likely have equipment you can borrow).
You don’t need to splash out money to make your first films, you can very much learn the basics for free, and create high quality content for a low cost.
You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms
This August I had the month off work and decided to make a short film. However as it turns out trying to shoot a short film in a month was not realistic.
I only finished writing the script at the end of july. I have had other things to sort out this past month and although making a film in a month was possible in my student years – trying to film something now (of quality and with my high expectations) will take time.
I am happy so long as this film gets finished this year. I have atleast got most of pre production down.
Pre production film in 10 steps
I went straight to storyboarding my film after writing the 1st draft. It has been useful to show other people what I have in mind for the visuals. There are also some interesting transitions in the film and planning these out on paper made me realise just how tricky these might be to achieve.
My lead is an actress I have worked with in the past. There is one role I am currently looking for and I have chosen Starnow to advertise from. I have had a lot of people apply for the role so it has been very useful for finding local actors. In the past I have found cast from college drama clubs.
For myself this has not been too difficult. I know a lot of people (or at least my bf does who can help out). Mostly I need extra hands for lifting and setting things up during the shoot. Although now I am thinking perhaps I could get a production coordinator 1st AD on board to help me out with the shoot so I that can focus on the acting. I have had luck finding crew before by advertising on Mandy.
There are four locations in my film. One is on a beach and another a forest luckily i have found these two locations close to each other so these scenes can be taken care of in one day shoot. Another location is a bedroom which needs a lot of set design, I have chosen to use the spare room in the my house so that I can have full control over how it will look.
I feel that props have always been the greatest expense in my low budget short films. I have spent at least £100 so far on props and paint but will be spending £200 altogether on props for my film. I want to make everything look just right, I care very much about the visual style of the film. With my genre floating between fantasy/surrealism I need to take care of my colours, visuals are important.
I only have 2 actors in my film. I have bought some costumes for the lead actress. I may need more than one of the same costume incase it stains, falls apart, gets lost so I bought from a chain shop and kept hold of the receipt. Costume is an easy part of this film, actually I am now having second thoughts on what I bought (maybe it should be a brighter colour…)
7. Set Design
One of the main locations in my film is a bedroom. I have chosen my spare room so that I can decorate it as I wish too (wish means bright pink paint). I find many low budget films to be lazy with set design. Often you see rooms with white walls with no design around the character. I have tried to make my sets look real. I have dedicated a colour to every scene and character.
I have easy access to a canon 5d and lenses but it looks like we might be filming on something a bit better. We also have access to a steadicam and basic lights. Mostly however natural light will do fine – although now I am thinking wouldn’t it be nice to shine a big light through the trees in the forest scene. I have basic access to equipment I have to remember I am low budget but it is tempting to go super cinematic.
9. Special Effects
The hardest part of making my film, this is what I am stuck on. I have 4 unusual transitions in my film and I need to build props/sets to help make these flow together. I need to build a tunnel, stairs and train a rabbit to do tricks. I need help with this , I need some arty people to help me out. I also want to do all effects in camera (no computer after effects help) as I believe it will look more authentic and special. I am making things hard on myself but I very much want this short film to be good.
The final step is to find the days and times when everyone is free to film. With no money to pay people everyone has jobs to go to. I can see this film being shot in stages, I don’t mind so long as it gets done by new year.
It does seem to be taking me a long time to place everything together. But I am doing a lot of this by myself and the lack of money makes everything slow down. I am sure I will be chipping away at this film for the next few months.
How to storyboard a short film.
I have started to storyboard my short film. I need to get a move on, I hope to start filming in as a little as a month. The more prep I do the easier the shoot with be, the more smoothly it will go and the less chance I have of messing up.
Storyboards are used in filmmaking, animations and theatre to help visualise a scene taking place. Storyboards are like the comic book version of the film, using them can help you see any problems that may occur during filming.
Storyboards show various camera angles that would be used on screen – close ups, mid shots, establishing shots etc. A white arrow is used to show a camera movement – zoom, pan, dolly etc. A black arrow is used to show an on screen movement such as a character walking off screen.
White arrows – camera movement
Black arrows – on screen/character movement
A lot of new filmmakers worry about their drawing skills.
It can look impressive to have well drawn storyboards (if only to show off with) but for practical purposes it doesn’t matter how good your drawings look. Stickmen still do the job.
When I made student films I storyboarded every single shot in the film. I was not great with communicating what I wanted with the cast and crew so I relied on storyboards. In the past I was mostly a one man crew, I felt a lack of experimentation during filming, I was afraid to mess up since I only had one chance.
These days I still have one chance but I am more confident. I am going to try and step away from storyboarding, be more relaxed, open to changes and spend more time with my actors.
I am only storyboarding special effects and complex transitions for my short film. I have also done a few location and character sketches since I will likely be art designer too. You don’t have to storyboard every scene in your film.
Some directors choose not to storyboard at all, they believe it stifles creativity during filming. Werner Herzog and David Cronenberg refuse to storyboard. Directors such as the Coen brothers and Ben wheatley storyboard all of their films by the shot.
Not every film is storyboarded
Special effects and stunts are more likely to be storyboarded
I have made a video explaining how to storyboard a short film that can be watched on Vimeo. L
How to storyboard a short film video
I also created the E-book ‘Find Work In Film’ which explains step-by-step how to find and apply to film industry jobs.
It took some time to create the short film storyboard templates. So I have made them downloadable so you can use them too. Next time you are storyboarding you can download the templates here –