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How to Make a Short Film in Three Easy Steps

Think of your favorite movie. I am almost positive that you do not think about the editing style, or the way a certain scene was shot. This is because the job of a filmmaker is to create a story and video that will captivate the audience. If you are thinking about the editing style or the way a shot was framed, chances are you are a film buff or the story wasn’t that good.

In three simple steps, I will teach how you can make a captivating short film and do exactly what the writers, directors, and editors of any great movie do. I personally have begun the process of making my own short film and have learned many helpful tips on how to make a truly entertaining final product. By the end of this article you will know three easy steps you can follow to make your own short film. The steps are finding your story, filming your story, and editing the video.

Let’s start with the first step in the filmmaking process.


 To begin the process, you need to choose a story. Either write your own, or find one you can use for practice. Finding a story will be the most important step in this process – with a good story you can capture the attention of your audience and keep it.

The New York Film Academy suggests that you find a script with a beginning, middle, and end. A good film always has these three sections because it is easy to follow and watch. A film with a beginning, middle, and end helps keep the audience focused.

After finding a good script or story you will want to make a storyboard. A storyboard is a map of drawn out scenes you had in mind while reading the script. This will help you keep track of what you are filming as well as save time during filming. If you have a storyboard you already have an idea of how a shot will look.

Once you have found your script and created a storyboard for it, you are ready to begin step two, the actual filming process.



First you will need to find a camera that can record video. Casey Neistat, a popular YouTuber who has had his own show on HBO, made a video titled, “Casey Neistat’s Guide to Filmmaking,” one of his main points in this video is that, “Gear doesn’t matter,” and it really doesn’t, sure it helps, but what really matters is the content. His HBO show was shot on an old camcorder. 

“Napoleon Dynamite,” had a budget of $400,000 and has since become a modern cult comedy classic. While, “Pan,” a $150 million film about the origins of Peter Pan only brought in 15.5 million on its opening week in North America.  These two films had dramatically different budgets. “Pan” had better gear, but failed to make an impact. Napoleon had a better story and was more relatable so it made an impact, proving that gear and budget does not predict the success of a film.

If you are a beginner and only have a phone, use that! You would be surprised at the power cameras on phones have. Maybe you have a small camera, use that, use whatever fits your budget.

After finding a camera you can begin to shoot, while shooting you must keep these basic rules of video in mind.

First is the rule of thirds: imagine an image divided in three equal parts vertically and horizontally. Your subject should never be in the dead center but in one of the upper quadrants.

Second is the 180-degree rule: while filming, there is an imaginary line in front of the camera. Never go on the opposite of this line because to the viewer the subject will have changed sides and it will look confusing. If your subject is on the right keep it on the right.

Third is you must try you best to capture stable video. Try not to shake, and if you have a tri-pod use the tri-pod. If the video is shaky the viewer will lose interest because it is hard to watch.



After filming the story/script you will need to edit, put together the footage to make the video you pictured in your mind while reading the script. 

There are several types of software you can use to edit your video. Among the most common are iMovie, Sony Vegas Pro, Adobe Premier Pro and Final Cut Pro. Whatever software you choose, it is important to make sure you follow the script and storyboard.

In this step, you have the freedom to manipulate the footage to your advantage, change the color to create emotions, add music, and cut out what you need.

Editing can be very tedious, be prepared to pay attention to small details in shots. There might be multiple takes of a scene, so view each one carefully to make sure you choose the best one. Anything is possible in post-production! This step can make or break your film. If you are inexperienced with editing, find someone who can help, or search for a tutorial. They are extremely helpful and there is one for every editing software out there. 


With these three steps, you can begin the process of creating your own short film. Find a story, film the story, and edit.

 As students in a growing employee pool you will want to stand out from others, creating a short film may help you win a job in the future. The more skills you can obtain the better you look. 

These are only three very basic steps, if you are interested in learning more there are plenty of video guides, and helpful articles available online that go more in depth. Good luck!

UTRGV Class of 2018  Mass Comm Major Mexican-American Studies Minor
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