Filmmaking is an art and in this digital age, everyone has the potential to make films – whether this means recording Snapchat videos or making full-on feature-length films. Filmmaking is a great way to express yourself in a creative form and we have so many opportunities to take advantage of. From a very young age, I was always curious about making films and how it was done. This lead to me taking many courses and eventually taking up a degree to specialise in film production. Making films is something that I am very passionate about and I feel is something that everyone can do in their lives. For that reason, I am going to Peru to teach underprivileged children how to make films. However, that is another blog post but feel free to donate if you are feeling very generous. Anyway, I have compiled some tips to help you think more about the films that you make and give you little ways to improve.
- Bad visuals are arguably more forgiving than bad audio. If your audio is gripping and creates an atmosphere then your audience will watch until the end, however, if your audio is bad then it will be much more noticeable and your audience are more likely to think that the visuals look bad. Before you go on a shoot, think about how you are going to record your audio and choose a microphone based on the type of shot. Another tip is to always use a camera microphone as well as whichever microphone you choose to use as this will make it easier to sync up in the edit.
- Organisation will save you so much time and your film will be so much better. Before you go out on a shoot, have a meeting with your crew and create lots of lists. Make sure you have a list of your cast and crew and they know when they are needed and for how long they are needed. Also, make sure you have got costumes and props ready. Another thing to remember is equipment essentials. I wrote a previous post about filming essentials so check that out. Having good organisation is a skill that is required in filmmaking and you’re not going to get anywhere otherwise. Buy a folder and print out everything you could ever need to keep with you so you can easily get access to all of the information that you need.
- Think about the lens you use to make sure that you get the shots that you need. The standard focal length is around 50mm as it looks quite natural and good for mid shots. A wide angle lens is necessary as you typically use them to film master shots and the focal length is usually 24-40mm. A telephoto or portrait lens is very good for close-ups as they are the shortest lenses and the focal length is typically 85-100mm. They allow you to get a shallow depth of field which is perfect for close-ups. You will need to think about the ISO (indicates the sensitivity to light). The lower the number, the more sensitive to light. Another thing to remember is F-stop or T-stop, depending on the camera. F-stop is measured by the opening at the front of the lens and T-stop is pretty similar. All of these things are super easy once you get the hang of them but if you are struggling to remember, then don’t worry and just take you time. Patience is key in filmmaking.
- Rule of thirds is very important. Having nice, tight shots will make your film look a lot more professional. Think about what you want in the foreground and what you want in the background. Typically, you don’t want to frame things right in the middle of the shot, you usually having things to the left or right of the shot as it is more pleasing to watch and adds a bit of depth to the film. You can place things in the middle of the shot, as long as you have a good reason for it. Planning your shots will save you a lot of time and will give you more time to see what works and what doesn’t.
- Lighting is also very important. Natural lighting is obviously the cheapest source of lighting; however, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best source of lighting. You can be creative with this and think of new ways to use lighting in your films. The most common way of lighting is to use a soft diffuse light source from the front and a stronger, more directional light from the back. Don’t worry too much about colouring as this can be done in post-production but it’s good practice to plan your lighting before you shoot.
- Think carefully about mise-en-scène. Mise-en-scène basically covers everything that is in shot. We’ve all heard that story about a promotion photo of the cast of Downton Abbey where is water bottle is seen in the background. Make sure you plan exactly what you want on set and in your shots for which scenes. Creating a story board will help you as it will make you think what you need in each shot. Make sure you think about costume, props and set design and make sure that it fits in with your story.
- Learn from your peers. There will be areas that you aren’t as knowledgeable about but you should never be afraid to ask for help. Chances are, if you don’t know it then someone else will and they will be able to help you out. There will also be areas that you are stronger in and will be able to help someone else. You can’t know everything so don’t worry if there is something that you get stuck with as that’s only human nature.
- Get out of your comfort zone and do projects that you are not used to. Doing projects that you are not used to are great ways for you to improve your skills as it means that you will be more versatile and have experience in a variety of areas. For example, if you are used to making fiction films, try making a documentary as you will become aware of the differences involved in producing each. The same goes for production roles. If you are used to directing, try recording sound or being a camera operator as this will enhance your knowledge and give you a wider understanding of how you can achieve different looks for your films.
- Filming will always take longer than you first expect. Always plan to film for longer than you originally think. If you are filming for longer periods of time, account for breaks and read-throughs as they can take out a lot of your time. You will also want to plan for re-shoots in case everything doesn’t go according to plan. You will need to take lots of things into account, such as weather, location availability, cast and crew availability etc. If you are organised as I have previously said, then you will be fine.
- Don’t leave everything until the last minute. As I have said a lot in this post, plan, plan and plan again. Do not leave anything until the last minute and you can’t start planning too early. Make sure that you are able to use the locations you need, find actors, get props and costume. Give yourself plenty of time before you start filming so that you are able to get everything that you need and everyone is on the same page. This will
prevent conflicts and will stop the filming process from being so stressful. Trust me, I know this from experience and there is nothing worse than leaving it all until the last minute.
Filming is supposed to be a fun process so enjoy yourself and don’t stress too much. As long as you have tried your best then that’s all that matters.
In other news, if you are a fan of video gaming then please answer my survey for my Creative Enterprise module. I will be eternally grateful.