Directing a film is hard! Lighting, costumes, locations, permits, budgets, audio, actors, editing… how can you do everything well? We’re here to help you figure out how to make the best film possible. Follow these 20 filmmaking tricks and tips to make your short film or feature film a success.
1. Don’t rush your script
Don’t start shooting until your script is absolutely ready! If the story doesn’t make sense, all the camera and sound tricks in the world won’t help.
2. Learn about composition
New to directing? Learn about composition and find out where you should position your camera and subject so that your shot looks cinematic.
3. Be deliberate with your costume choices
Don’t let costumes be a last-minute, thrown-together decision. Think about how costumes can convey information about your character!
4. Shoot indoors
You’ll have a lot more control over audio with indoor scenes. Humid environments can also making filming a pain.
5. Limit your number of locations
Make things easy on yourself! It’s easier to stay on schedule (and spend less money) if you limit your locations. This will ideally limit the number of surprises and new problems that come up as you move from place to place.
6. Choose the right locations
There’s also a lot to remember when you choose locations – check out our post about location scouting for more about what to look for and what paperwork you need.
7. Choose the right crew members
EVERYTHING comes down to your crew! Use FilmUp to find crew members and talent.
8. Get creative with tripods
Learn how to stabilize your camera with different tripod tricks!
9. Use rocks or sand to stabilize your camera
In a windy situation, you can use a nylon bag of rocks, sand, rice or beans to keep your tripod steady.
10. Play with space
If you have to shoot in a small interior and don’t want the scene to feel claustrophobic, you can use over-the-shoulder shots from each character’s perspective but move the characters to the edges of the room so that the spaces feel bigger.
11. Consider black or simple backgrounds
If two characters are talking, you generally want to get coverage of both sides of the conversation. But if you’ve got the same background on both sides, you can just move your actors instead of moving all your gear.
12. Reverse a shot in post
If you’re doing a shot of a moving object, it might be easier to start where you want the object to END in the scene, then just reverse the sequence in post-production. This can also be helpful if you’re doing something dangerous – like an object coming very close to your actor or the camera.
13. Be flexible about locations
Can’t get a permit? Save time and money by trying a new location. Think of the locations in your script as a jumping-off point, not a requirement.
14. Get creative with dolly shots
Want to get a dolly shot without expensive gear? One of the cheaper filmmaking tricks is to consider using a kid’s wagon or a portable shopping cart to create your own. Just make sure you’re pulling your contraption slowly along a smooth surface to avoid shakiness or bumps.
15. Be deliberate with your camera movements
You can convey information with more than just dialogue or moving characters – the camera’s movement in itself can be one of your most powerful filmmaking tricks.
16. Be deliberate with sounds
You might not need to see every detail of a character’s movement if you can hear him or her doing things instead. Think about how you can use dialogue and sound effects combined with simpler visuals.
17. Use free music (or create your own)
Music will instantly make your film sound more professional – but you’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle if you avoid using music you don’t have the rights to.
18. Get some gaffer’s tape
Gaffer’s tape is useful for marking spots, such as where your actor will stand, where props should be, and where you need to put your tripod if you want to match up the perspective you had in your last shot. You can also use gaffer’s tape to alter your light.
19. Build a social media following ahead of time
If you start using social media after you’ve already created your film, you may have trouble getting traction. Start now with organic content to make connections. Think of it as getting yourself out there, not just getting your film out there.
20. Choose the right gear