Making a Short Film: Part 2

making a short film part 2

Hello Everyone!

I know it’s been a long time since my last post in this series, but life has caught up to me and slowed me down this summer. I’ve been experiencing a horrific bout of writer’s block, so tomorrow I’m planning on doing a mini-writing retreat to get me back in the game (more on that tomorrow). Anyways, this is the second part of my short film series and today I’ll be focusing mostly on preproduction. Hopefully, the hardest part of preproduction, actually writing and editing your script, will be over for you and you’ll be able to move on to preparing to film.

Cast and Crew

If this is your first short film, you’ll probably be relying on family and friends to help you bring your script to life. Luckily on the crew side of things, you don’t need professionals for your first couple of films. There are a few major positions that I do recommend filling, though. The roles of director, cinematographer, producer, boom operator, and editor. I usually take on the roles of director and cinematographer, depending on who I’m working with, but since it’s a small film shoot, your crew members can take on more than one job to help get things done. Your actors, however, should be a little more experienced. You could have a beautifully filmed, produced, and edited piece, but bad acting will sink it in the first few minutes. If you’re still in school, try recruiting people from the drama club. Most actors love to get more experience (it’s something they can put on a resume) and won’t mind working for a couple slices of pizza. You can also subscribe to performing arts news to reach a wider audience who might be interested in helping you. I know that in the Cleveland area, Neohiopal is a great resource. It’s a free, subscription email service that allows anyone to post and receive news in the area.



For me, storyboarding is ultimately one of the most time-consuming things in the pre-production process. If you don’t know what storyboarding is, it’s a comic-like way for a filmmaker to visualize their film shot-by-shot that serves as a roadmap throughout the filming process. This allows you to see what your film will look like edited and every time I finish this step, I fall back in love with my piece (which is crucial for any writer in any medium). This not only allows you to see your film, but it also allows you to communicate your vision with your crew and cast members and allows the filming process to become more efficient because you know exactly what shots you need. A lot of times, people get frustrated with this step because they do not consider themselves visual artists. Trust me, you only need to be able to draw stick figures to get this done. I’m horrendous at drawing (I dropped out of art class to prove it) and I still finished my storyboards, and believe me, you forget about how bad your drawing ability is once you’re able to get a sneak-peek of what your finished film will look like.


Script Breakdowns

I know that there’s several different programs and templates for script breakdowns on the internet, but I prefer a couple of multicolored highlighters and a Microsoft Word document. The first thing I’ll do is make a key on the cover, for example, pink equals actors, green equals locations, yellow equals props, then I go through my script and highlight everything accordingly. Once I’ve finished that, I make a list for each scene, which might look something like this:

Scene 1.


  • Josephine
  • Percy
  • Louise


  • Rock
  • Calendar
  • Alarm clock
  • Twilight Kingdom sign
  • Books
  • Notebooks
  • Crumpled paper
  • Red candles
  • Pancakes with red frosting
  • Handwritten “Birthday of but a single pang”


  • Pajamas


  • The woods
  • Josephine’s bedroom
  • Old stone gate
  • Treehouse


  • Three bikes

Special Makeup

  • Sweat


  • Rock tapping


From there, you can create a props list by compiling all the props needed in the script. My props list, for example:


  • Rock
  • Calendar
  • Alarm clock
  • Twilight Kingdom sign
  • Books
  • Notebooks
  • Crumpled paper
  • Red candles
  • Pancakes in red frosting
  • Handwritten “Birthday of but a single pang”
  • books
  • open notebook
  • picture of Words, Words, Words
  • rock
  • colorful lights
  • Percy’s note
  • Watch
  • Books, treehouse dressing stuff
  • Candle
  • Lighter
  • Alarm clock



This is one of the most important parts of any film. Without one, you’ll be blindly shooting scenes way slower then you should be. The number one thing to remember is that you don’t need to film in chronological order. In fact, doing so sometimes slows you down. Organize your schedule by your locations so you don’t have to be driving back and forth between locations, wasting both time and gas money. Also, pay attention to when your scenes take place. You don’t want to schedule to shoot in the morning only to remember that the scene takes place at night. I had two scenes to be shot at night, so I scheduled everything else around those two scenes. I also try to budget extra time for each scene I’m shooting so I don’t run out of time. Filming takes forever because the weather could act up, an actor might not know his lines, there could be technical difficulties, and on top of all that, you need multiple takes of each shot. You don’t want to get behind schedule and have to spend another day filming, so I suggest putting extra time into your budget to help cover any unexpected problems.

Also: Check me out on Tumblr! The Meandering Manuscript on Tumblr!