Friday, November 25, 2011

Getting your short film ready for its close-up....

So you have a short script that tells a great story, won’t take ages to make and can be shot on a shoestring budget. What’s the next step? How do you go about getting it from page to screen?

It’s time to break the script down into shots. This step is often left up to the director - and with good reason. It’s the kind of task that makes me want to start napping. However, it is a good exercise as it really shows you what’s possible to shoot and what’s not. Plus, you’ll know your script inside out once you’ve prepped it!

Firstly, go through the script and try to picture it in terms of shots. Can you imagine each shot on screen? Will it be a close-up, a tracking shot, or a long shot?

Stepping back and seeing your film in individual shots makes the whole thing less overwhelming. Now you know what shooting it is going to entail!

Make a list of all the shots and if you can, draw each one out roughly. Stick figures are fine – draw a box, put the rough sketch in it and mark it as “John reacts, close-up” or whatever it is. Imagine that this is a comic book and that each box is an illustration.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the location for this shot?

  • How many actors are needed for it?

  • Props – are any needed and if so, which ones?

  • What type of shot will it be (close-up, establishing shot) etc?


Unless you’re also planning to direct, that may be as far as you need to go. You will now have a. something solid you can show to a potential director and b. a good idea of what will be needed in terms of locations, props, number of actors etc.

If you do plan to direct yourself, you’ll also have to get into things like shot angles, camera movements, lighting, special effects (if any) and the direction of the action. I’ll hold my hands up and tell you that I know nothing about this.

However, these are the people who do: Chris Jones and Genevieve Jolliffe, the intrepid creators of The Guerilla Filmmakers Handbook.  They’ve been there, done that and gotten the scars and police arrests to show for it. This book is ten years old but still well worth a read, if only to hear about some of the crazy stuff they’ve done in the name of no/low-budget guerrilla filmmaking. Like casting Harrison Ford’s brother Terence, nearly going bankrupt or posing for a movie poster with a huge gun (Genevieve).  

If you have a decent short script with something to say, don’t let anything stop you from getting it made. To quote Jones and Jolliffe, “Don’t be put off by ridicule, poverty or fear”.

Just to prove that that quote wasn’t just for fun, I’ll storyboard Tiger over the next few weeks and post a scan of the no-doubt amateur looking results (gulp!)...

No comments: