As a college student life on a budget is my middle name. As a film major no-budget is my last name. I’ve learned quite a bit about what works and what does not work when you have limited funds. I’m going to discuss the basic equipment needed as well as what happens in the different phases of production. If you have an interest in making movies or maybe you’ve just embarked on your journey to film school, here are a few basics to starting your filmmaking journey.
First, you need a camera and depending on if you’re looking to make films professionally or home videos, they can be pretty pricey. Red Epics and Black Magic cinema cameras are great finds, for a pretty penny that is. DSLRs are perfect for beginner filmmakers because they’re inexpensive compared to the thousands of dollars spent on cinema cameras. You should choose a camera that shoots in 1080pi at 24 frames per second. For a cheap find I recommend the Canon Rebel EOS T3i with a basic lens kit. A basic lens kit usually consists of an 18-55mm lens. After you’ve purchased your camera it’s time to invest in a 3 point light kit which consists of your key light, fill light, and back light. You will also need to purchase sound equipment such as a shotgun mic that you can mount on the hot shoe mount that is on most DSLRs. You may not think lighting and sound are important to a film, but they can make or break your film. Would you rather watch a movie with a good storyline but you can’t see the actors’ faces or actions and can’t hear what they’re saying? Or would you rather watch a movie that’s storyline isn’t the best but has adequate light and sound. You should be able to see the actors and their actions clearly and you should be able to hear footsteps if the actor is walking. When you are ready to write your script start with the treatment. The treatment will help conceptualize your idea from beginning to end. Once you have done that you can start your script.
There are three phases of production: pre-production, production, and post production. Pre-production is crucial to any film as it can fall apart without it. In pre-production actors are cast, locations are scouted and secured, costumes and sets are designed, and a shooting schedule is created. If a film is a period piece such as World War II, procuring locations and costumes are an essential part of the pre-production phase since it helps place a time frame on the film. Next comes production when the film is being shot. Director and director of photography of a film is hired during pre-production but more than likely if you are a film student or a hobbyist you will be directing and filming your own movies. After everything has been filmed it’s time for post-production where the film is edited into its final product. I recommend Final Cut Pro for Macs and Adobe Premiere Pro CC or the Adobe Creative Suite for editing.
If you’re college students you are probably relying on your college’s theatre department for actors looking for experience. Your crew members probably consist of friends or fellow film majors or enthusiasts. You may not be able to afford to pay your cast and crew, but make sure to provide them with craft services i.e. food and beverages to keep them happy. Something to look out for with your film, especially if your actors or crew members are not paid, is never trust talent. I can’t tell you how many times actors have not shown up on shooting days because they didn’t make the film a priority since it was essentially a volunteered service. You may have to remind your actors that what they are being paid with is more valuable than money: experience.