How to Make a Film Alone
Hey guys, today I wanted to attempt to really get you guys inspired to create something special, and I figured what better subject than talking about something that I’ve done quite often here with the channel, and that’s how to make a one-man short film
Creative sparks can hit us when we least expect it, and sometimes it’s in those moments where we come up with the most raw and inventive ideas. Sometimes you alone know exactly what it is that you want to portray in your short film, and you may make the best director and actor fit for the film.
Making a short film or any film for that matter completely by yourself is a challenge and has many limitations, but it’s not impossible. If you’ve been following this channel for a while, you’ll know that I’ve created several short films for the channel all by myself.
Writing the script (if there even was one) setting up the camera, lights and the shots, acting in the scene, and then of course editing the film after everything was shot. So here are my tips for setting out to make a short film all by yourself.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Just like with any film that you make independently; you’re going to need to take stock of the resources that you have available to you and plan your film idea around those resources. Locations, gear, and in this case, a one-man crew and cast (That’s you) taking note of your resources and planning for which of those you will need to use will help you craft your idea.
When you’re coming up with your idea, keep the story simple. You’re not going to have dialogue scenes between different characters, unless you double yourself (more on that later). You're most likely not going to be able to pull off really fancy camera movements, because the camera will be mostly static, aside from any movement you do in post, So, this eliminates elaborate action scenes, running scenes, and stuff like that.
Plan out your story and your scenes to be simple and beautiful. Think of your shots as still paintings, try to make them as perfectly framed as possible and interesting to look at on their own merit. Being that you are filming this yourself, you’re probably going to want to use as little gear as possible. One or two small lights at most, your camera, tripod and something to capture audio with. When you take all of these things into account, you can start to form a simple story based on the limitations that you have set for yourself.
PLAN EVERYTHING OUT
Once you have your story idea, you’re going to need to plan everything out. Since it’s just you, you may not need to write a script, perhaps you can just write a bullet list of shots that you need to get?
You can use storyboards and shot list to help organize your ideas and finding out the locations that you are going to use in the film will go a long way in planning out shots, framing ideas, and what equipment you will need for each shot.
The more planning you do, the less frustrated you will get when it’s time to film, and trust me, filming by yourself can be frustrating, but you’re not going to let that stop you!
The more you plan, the better chances you have of making a short film that you can be proud of.
STAYING IN FOCUS
One of the most difficult things about making a one-man film is making sure your shots are in focus and that your framing looks good, seeing as how you are actually going to be in the shots. Depending on what camera and gear you are using, this aspect could be really difficult or a breeze.
If you are lucky enough to have a wireless monitor or a camera that can stream wirelessly to your phone, making sure your shots are in focus and framed nicely should be easier. If you are shooting on your phone or don’t have access to those tools, you may need to get creative.
You can try using some sort of stand in to help you pull focus. In the past I’ve used a mask taped to a light stand placed in the spot I will be filming to help me set up my shots. Tape the floor where the stand in was placed and then you will have an easier time lining thing up. Anything that you can put into the frame that matches the height and depth of your subject will help you to achieve better focus and framing.
FOCUS ON GOOD AUDIO
Focus on good audio. Audio is always important in films and that’s no different here. Always record any dialogue on an external audio recorder if you can and set up a boom mic overhead to capture any lines you speak or use a lav mic out of sight from the camera if you have to. If you can’t use an external recorder and have to capture audio on your camera, try to use a high-quality mic like the Rode Video Mic Pro that mounts to the top of your camera, and if you are shooting with your phone, try to invest in something like the Rode Video Mic Go, purchase an adapter and plug this little guy straight into your phone for better audio.
I focus and rely heavily on music and sound effects in my films, and I usually replace all of my sound effects like footsteps, and stuff like that with sound from royalty free services like Epidemic Sound.
Add motion in post-production. Since you’re not going to have anyone manning the camera when you film, it may be a good idea to add some camera movements in post.
You can do simple things like tilts, zooms and pans very easily in your editing program by positioning the image.
You can also use some handheld camera presets that will give the effect that someone is holding the camera. Some of can These look really great, and very believable!
Adding motion like this in post will give the effect that you had a crew and help keep your film interesting, as it won't contain one static shot after static shot.
Kind of on that same note, if you have access to a drone, you can use that to add great landscape shots and establishing shots, and if your drone has a follow feature, you can even program it to follow you in a scene as well.
And my final tip is to get creative! Since you are making this film by yourself, you are going to have to get really creative to help it stand out from the crowd and be interesting. Focus on finding and using really interesting locations, rely on visual effects to help elevate your film.
You can lock down your camera and double yourself in the frame to play the roles of two separate characters. Just because your story and scope are simple, don’t let that detract you from coming up with really cool crazy ideas for aspects of your film.
I’d like to challenge you to create a film by yourself. Go outside of your comfort zone, push yourself and come up with something really special. If you come up with something, please post a link to your film in the comments below. I know that the rest of the community and myself included would love to see it!