My very first original short film.
Directed, produced, and edited by me.
This is the story of how I did it and what I learned.
This thing is my child.
Honestly, of all the things I’ve done in my life, this has got to be one of my proudest moments, even though it might not seem like it would have taken much work.
But it did.
This short little film took me four weeks to make across planning, pre-production, production, and post-production. I made storyboards, scripts, and made detailed plans with my actors, who made this entire thing happen and who I’m entirely grateful for. Four weeks of work into 2 minutes. Kinda seems amazing when I think about it now.
Honestly, I really don’t know how this thing even exists cause it shouldn’t. I made this to submit to my school’s news and video production group, BBN, Baron Broadcast News. Now what they wanted was something more on the lines of a “Creative PSA”, but I just told myself I was going to do what I wanted to do and whatever happens, happens. All I started with was a general idea of the video: a boy getting up and ready to see his girlfriend, who then is revealed to have died. I had nothing, no camera, no actors, and definitely no way to edit it. It seemed like a challenge that I could not overcome, to turn my idea into a reality.
The first week was me getting ready. I created storyboards and wrote a script and a general layout for how I wanted the scenes to go and how the video to be shot. I bought my props and made a custom wooden cross. I scouted places to shoot. I found an old camcorder in my families house, and borrowed a tripod from one of my actors, John, the boy in the video. Speaking of John, it was that first week that I got my actors, John and Celine, on board for the video after explaining to them what I wanted to do. I then got Adobe Premier CS6, an editing software, and after a little instruction by my cousin Soy, I pretty much just taught myself the basics of editing. The picture in my mind was coming into shape, I could now see how I could do it.
However, I was ill prepared for the hell that followed me for the next three weeks, which were an amalgamation of filming and editing. Things started off rough, my initial filming was sloppy and not well though out, so I trashed our early film and tried again, but this second time our idea took too long to develop, so I trashed that one too. My main downfall was that I was trying to stick exclusively to my storyboards and script, and so I realized I needed to be pragmatic and just wing it, and let myself adapt to the problems I was facing. Without storyboards or a script weighing me down, I just my instincts and knowledge dictate the shots and edits. I adjusted the story as we went, and carefully thought out my next move while leaving space for change.
After that, things were better, but definitely not smooth, but that was my favorite part of this whole experience, how challenging it was. Every step of the journey was unbelievably tough, finding a female actor took 3 days, my camera sometimes didn’t work the way I wanted to or have enough battery, or maybe weather conditions weren’t right for our shoot that day. I had to adapt and figure out solutions, making me think outside the box. Hell, the day I turned in my submission, the voice-over audio got corrupted so I literally had to drive out to my female actor’s house and do an audio session in my car and re-edit the video.
I remember the feeling I had when we finished filming and I gave both my actors a huge hug and thanked them for their help. It literally felt like a huge burden had lifted itself from my soul (though it came back when I realized I needed to edit it all).
I learned a lot from this process, and grew as a filmmaker and as an editor especially. One of the most important things that I found out right away is the importance of coverage. Coverage is basically how much you film, sorta. When I filmed initially, I was just shooting a scene and moving on, but when I went to edit, I realized that these takes were bad and without more coverage, I was limited in the editing room. The more coverage you have, the more takes you have, the more creative and artistic you can be. My video is only 2 minutes, but I have probably 3 hours of filming, as I wanted to get as much coverage as possible so I could dictate the film in the editing room and not just be limited to the takes I have.
I also learned the value of planning things. I know that I said that threw out my storyboards and script, but what I really should have done is spend much more time in planning. I feel like making multiple drafts of my storyboards and scripts and factoring in the challenges to come would have helped make this a smoother process. But on the flip side, don’t be afraid to wing it. Most my shots were done on the spot and just came from my instincts. If you have an idea that wasn’t in the original plan, then just shoot both and see how it looks in post, which goes back to good coverage.
For a film perspective, I really learned that the devil is in the details always. I didn’t want to shoot this thing in simple wide angle, eye level shots, that’s boring. I really tried to show some artistry and creativity, by juxtaposing foreground objects with background movement. For this film, I took a very David Fincher-esque approach: tripod the camera, show the action, and limit movement. Fincher essentially wanted to provide as clear a picture as possible, as did I. I tried to vary up my angles, shooting from all over the place, up and down and diagonal, and kept the camera stationary, except for the shot where my female actor leaves the screen to show her passing, as the movement of the camera is thematically appropriate as her character passes away. For the most part, my filming is very objective as in : here is literally what is happening. But my filming near the end gets subjective, as really when the boy hands the girl the flowers, in reality he placed them on her grave and giving her the flowers is just symbolic of this action. I did this in order to set up her reveal that she in fact dead and the boy is visiting a grave.
As an editor, the most important thing I learned was flow. The cuts have to come together and without proper flow things get awkward really fast. My first edit was too long and the flow was interrupted by these long drawn out scenes so I removed them, added music, and cut with the flow of the music to give rhythm, as well as thematic purposes. I also learned editing logic, and how I needed to make sure that each scene made scene in relation to the previous one and how it would set up the next one. Audio mixing was a problem as I had to use part of a song and then cut out a solo I didn’t like, and if you listen carefully, you can find where I cut the audio as I haven’t perfected that yet. Cuts in general I learned had to be dictated by the scenes, like my fade transitions are meant to show a change from the regular timeline or location, and used regular cuts to just show linear progression.
But if I had to take all of what I learned and condense it, it would be this: everything in a film must be thematically appropriate for what it is. My film is very somber and serious in tone, meaning my filming style, editing, song choice, and font choices are all serious. But if I was making a comedy, I’d use more zany transitions and pick some more uplifting songs, or if I was making an action short I’d speed up my cuts as well as film much more handheld style for that aggressive feel. In film, everything must be done for a purpose, no matter what it is.
Nontheless, I made a bunch of mistakes in this film, I could write a whole post on those alone. But I hope you enjoyed it and thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope I’ll be able to make more films in the future.