How to Film a Movie

If you want to know how to film a movie, the following information should serve as a gateway to the wonderful world of Hollywood. Whether you’re an aspiring director, actor, or simply a fan of cinema, this article includes a number of tips for completing a film and getting your name mentioned in the same breath as James Cameron and Steven Spielberg.

Film School – Attending a quality film school is a great way to learn the nuts and bolts of the business. If this isn’t an option, be sure to watch lots of movies and study their shot composition closely. Here’s a list of film schools to get you started.

Find a Script – You’ll need to find a script to shoot from, preferably one that has lots of dialogue and a limited number of locations. This will keep your budget low. Never use a permission without the permission of the writer.

Hire Actors – While members of the Screen Actor’s Guild can be hired, you’ll have to pay them a minimum amount of money per day. Amateur actors, on the other hand, may work for free (although you may get what you pay for). Posting an ad on Craigslist is a good way to find low-budget talent. Always make sure to have actors sign release forms.

Keep a Schedule – It’s important to know which scenes are going to be filmed each day and what performers will be needed.

Check About Permits – Does your town or city require a permit for filming? Find out before you begin, or you might be facing a fine.

Hire the Crew – Many of the crew may be willing to work for meals and credit on the film, and you can find cheap alternatives by checking local colleges and placing ads on Craigslist. If you can find crewmembers with their own equipment, that’s even better. Various crew positions can be found later in their article.

Rent Your Equipment – You’ll need a lighting kit, regardless of your budget (unless you want to deal with natural lighting). You’ll also need a camera (digital or film), tripod, boom microphone. And equipment for recording audio. Make sure that your camera has at least three chips (3CCD).

Shoot Your Movie – Now it’s time to shoot your movie. Make sure shoot every scene from multiple angles and cover all actors during dialogue. Stay on schedule and stick to the film’s budget.

Edit the Movie – After you’ve wrapped shooting, you’ll need to edit the film and sound. You’ll also need to add music. All of this can be accomplished with various editing software available for the Mac or PC.

Buying Film

You may decide to shoot digitally to keep the costs down. A digital movie camera can be purchased for less than what it costs to rent a film camera for a week (minus the film, of course). If not, you’ll need to purchase film for your camera. This brings up a number of questions, such as where to store the film, where to get it developed, whether to use 35mm or 16mm, and what kind of speed stock to purchase.

Film can drain your budget quicker than anything else, and having it developed only adds to the cost of doing business. There is a bright side, though. In some cases, the film companies may give you a special discount if you’re a student or low-budget filmmaker. This isn’t always the case, however, so don’t get your hopes up.

That’s why I recommend digital for the low-budget filmmaker. It’s slowly become an accepted medium within the industry, and you’ll be able to take the money you saved and set it aside in case of emergency.

Camera Shots

Experimenting with the different type of shots is important when learning how to film a movie. Each shot can change the look and feel of the movie, and utilizing the proper selection can elevate a pedestrian work of art into something truly majestic.

  • Long Shot – Also known as a Full Shot or an Establishing Shot, this shot generally shows an entire object or human figure in relation to its surroundings.
  • Medium Shot – Shows a figure from the chest up.
  • American Shot – Also known as a ¾ shot, it shows a figure from the knees up. Often used in Westerns in order to include the holsters of a gunfighter.
  • Close-up – Shows a figure from the neck up.
  • Extreme Close-up – Only a certain part of an individuals face or body is visible. Also known as an “Italian Shot,” where only the character’s eyes are shown.
  • Two Shot – Two figures are included in the shot.
  • Low-Angle Shot – The subject of the shot is seen from a low angle.
  • Point of View Shot – The camera serves as the eyes of a character.
  • Over the Shoulder Shot – The camera peeks over the shoulder of one character, usually while they speak to another character. Most often used during conversations between characters.
  • Crane Shot – Shows the characters from above, often moving up and away from them. The films Touch of Evil and High Noon both feature legendary examples of crane shots.

The Film Crew

It’s not enough to learn how to film a movie. As the process moves forward, you’ll soon find that you need to depend on many others to see your vision appropriately translated to the big screen. The following list includes a number of the film crew positions found in films with an average budget. While they can make your life easier, not all of them are required. This means someone working on a low-budget can cut many of them out and still get the job done.

  • Director – Oversees the creative aspects of the film. In control of the cast and crew during filming. Some directors may also serve as producers.
  • Production Coordinator – Assists with booking talent, renting equipment, and hiring the crew. If something needs to be organized, there’s a good chance that the production coordinator is responsible for it.
  • First Assistant Director – Oversees the day-to-day management of the set, cast, crew, equipment, script, and schedule.
  • Second Assistant Director – The chief assistant of the First Assistant Director.
  • Stunt Coordinator – Hires stunt performers and coordinates any stunts.
  • Production Assistant – Perform general tasks for the production office and assist the 1st AD with set operations. Known as a PA.
  • Script Supervisor – Keeps track of what scenes have been filmed and how they differed from the script.
  • Production Designer – In charge of makeup, props, costumes, and settings.
  • Art Director – Oversees people such as the set decorator and set designer.
  • Set Designer – Helps draw up the plans used to construct the set.
  • Set Decorator – In charge of decorating a film set.
  • Set Dresser – Applies and removes “dressing” to the set, such as drapes, furniture, and carpet.
  • Buyer – Buys the items and material that the Set Dresser will be responsible for.
  • Props Master – In charge of all props that appear in a film.
  • Props Builder – In charge of building all the props that appear in a film.
  • Armourer – Deals with any firearms that might be used on the set.
  • Construction Coordinator – Oversees the construction of all sets.
  • Make-up Artist – Apply make-up to the actors to alter their appearance. This can be as simple as applying rouge or as complicated as making the performer appear to be a monster.
  • Director of Photography – The head of the lighting and camera crew, the DP works with the director to achieve a specific look for the film, often by using various filters, lenses, and lighting.
  • Camera Operator – Operates the camera on behalf of the Director of Photography.
  • Boom Operator – Uses a boom pole to position the boom mic above or below the actors, just out of frame.
  • Gaffer – Head of the electrical department.
  • Film Editor – Takes the film and assembles it into a story. They usually work with the director to accomplish this.
  • Visual Effects Supervisor – In charge of the visual effects department.
  • Composer – Writes the score for a film.
  • Foley Artist – Creates and records the sound effects for a motion picture.

There’s a lot more to learn about how to film a movie, but hopefully this post has pointed you in the right direction. Making movies is the ultimate team effort, requiring the best from dozens or possibly hundreds of individuals. When it all comes together, however, the finished product is a sight to behold. Now get out there and make some magic of your own!

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