So you’re an aspiring film maker? Good on you. However, as we’re sure you know there’s a huge difference between making a few fun home or short movies and a fully fledged film. When you’re trying to break-through into the world of film and make your first movie, it can at times feel like a daunting task, and that’s not understatement. Knowing where to begin is almost impossible. Although it sounds obvious, your career in film will always start with a great story and script, that’s a given, but how do you best turn that narrative into an enticing, exciting, money-spinning movie?
Without the large cash reserves behind you that most Hollywood directors have access to, turning the visions confined to your mind’s eye into eye candy for a global audience is tough, make no mistake. To put you on the the red-carpeted path to becoming an A-list director, together with Get Film, specialists in film production in Newcastle, we give you the IDEAL tips in how to make your magnum opus on minimum budget.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FOCUSING ON THE SCRIPT
Special effects may look great on the big screen, but it takes serious money to manipulate them into something real and tangible.
Stellar performances from aspiring or indeed famous actors can only lift a bad storyline so far.
Be honest with yourself, the building blocks for any great film is the story and the script. It’s also the least expensive element of the package to nail. Think about it, if your story within the film is lacklustre, then does anyone really care about how much was spent making it? Your narrative is going to need poise, twists, turns and tension if the story is going to translate into a masterpiece of the silver screen.
Ideally, you should spend as much time on writing your story and script as you would during filming and post-production, if not more.
THE FOUR ELEMENTS OF A GREAT STORY
Every great story and script contains four elements, combined and delivered to great effect. The first is characters, each with a specific hyperthetic goal, and whatever this goal is, ultimately, they should have achieved it by the end of your picture. If they haven’t, or the plot should clearly steer them off their path deliberately. Everything should happen to your characters for a reason.
Secondly, setting is the vital foundation for a successful story. It doesn’t matter if it’s gritty, real and recognisable of fantastical and completely foreign to the viewer. What does matter is that it relates to the narrative in some way, or even better is part of the narrative (see Baltimore in David Simon’s The Wire for a masterclass). Equally, the setting should cultivate a certain mood and atmosphere within which to influence, and be a frame to, the character’s emotions.
Next, striking the right balance between action and dialogue is essential. Too much action and the impact of more bombastic scenes is lost in the melee of constant explosions, car chases and fisticuffs. Excessive conversation and the audience’s attention wanders – and wonders why this wasn’t a radio drama if only listening is required.
Finally, the ability to weave all of these elements together without making them clumsy and too deliberate, without exposing anomalies in your plot, and without over-thinking it, is a good starting step to production.
STICK TO ONE LOCATION
Location and image capture are traditionally the two most expensive aspects of film-making. Regardless of your budget, the transitioning and safe delivery of both equipment and crew is going to set you back pretty significantly. By reducing the time in transit and distance of travel you’re bound to reduce your budget. Limited location filming can work to your advantage, creating a real sense of place and claustrophobic tension.
Hey, some of the best modern-day directors used sparse locations in some of their most critically acclaimed films. Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1993) and The Hateful Eight (2015) were filmed in limited location format – the former in an abandoned safe house and the latter in a lodge. True, dialogue needs to be strong and snappy, but putting pen to paper has got to be cheaper than peddle to the metal, right?
As you’re probably painfully aware of, camera equipment is very expensive indeed. If trying to keep on top of your budget (and hey, we know you are, that’s why you came to us) all you need is a camera, a tripod, a microphone and appropriate editing software for during post-production.
Don’t overextend yourself in terms of equipment when starting out. Gradually invest in newer, more complex equipment as your grasp of more basic techniques increases. There is a large second-hand market when it comes to camera equipment, and when you’re not using other forms of equipment regularly (such as lighting rigs), rental is definitely advisable.
DON’T RELY ON OTHER PEOPLE’S MUSIC
Great soundtracks can lift even a dud film, truly brilliant ones can lift equally brilliant films into the stratosphere. However, when you’re starting out, don’t use your playlist of favourite songs as the soundtrack to your film, as legally royalties will need to be met, and that’s a costly business we doubt you’ll have budgeted for. Musician’s unions are much stronger than actor, writer and film unions, which means you shouldn’t play with fire where copyright is concerned.
Do you have a friend or family member who is musically talented? Ask them if they would like to be involved in your production and write some music for it. Or if you’re a musically talented, try writing the soundtrack yourself. You can even try to get an unsigned band to write the score – they’d be thankful for the exposure if your film generates interest.
It sounds obvious, but make sure you and the actors you are working with are organised and understand what they’re doing. This will make filming run smoother, and will ultimately save you time and money in the long run. By ensuring you’re prepared before you start filming, you may surprise yourself and make a great film on a low budget!