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Filmmaking Tips for Aspiring Filmmakers

by | Last updated Jan 31, 2024

What are the best filmmaking tips?

Filmmaking sounds like a glamorous job but this profession demands complete dedication and hard work. Making a film is not just about shooting actors in a scene and piecing together all the shots to create movie magic. Apart from working with different creatives and spending long hours shooting dozens scenes, you’ll have to take care of the technical and non-technical aspects of making a movie.

Mistakes are inevitable if you are making a film for the first time. That’s why it pays to do your research first before diving into filmmaking. Remember, every mistake leads to unnecessary delays and you don’t want to spend more than you should on a movie, especially your first one!

If you are new to filmmaking and you are on your way to making your first movie, we’ve outlined some useful filmmaking tips to ensure that your vision is executed clearly into movie reality:

1. A Solid Screenplay

All movies start with a good idea. A good story is the foundation of the film; it drives viewers to watch the movie from the start to the end. Without a good idea, the movie will fail to catch the attention of its target audience. The fact is, most viewers will overlook technical imperfections or budget constraints as long as the movie is compelling. The situation on the set may be chaotic but as long as you have a solid screenplay, you will still end up with a great movie.

Regardless if you are shooting a full-length film or a short movie, develop a compelling storyline. If you are shooting a short film, the idea should be precise, the themes should be limited to one or two to put the focus on the story you want to tell.  

2. Preparing for Every Scene

When you are making a movie in a limited schedule, every single aspect of filmmaking has to be painstakingly planned so you can finish shooting on time. Preparation is key to avoiding delays especially in a chaotic movie set.

Creating a shot list is great but it’s best to prepare for every scene. Isolate the beats and turns of every scene when breaking the script down, know the feelings that every scene should convey, have a basic understanding of what a scene needs to get the shot right in one take instead of twenty. By preparing for every scene, filming could start and conclude without wasting precious time and resources.

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3. Be Flexible

If you have no time to spend setting up a complicated setup or no budget for fancy gears that requires advanced technical know-how to operate, work with what you have. If you cannot pull off the filming approach or aesthetic that you have because of time constraints or budget issues, adjust your project accordingly otherwise, you are only compromising the quality of your work.

Filming puts you in a chaotic working environment and you have to pour your attention to getting every scene right at the time you can afford. That’s why it’s best to design your filming approach in such a way that it gives your cast and crew the freedom and flexibility to do their own thing. Do not waste your time on unnecessary, overly complicated technical camera moves if you do not have the time for it otherwise the quality of the movie could suffer.

4. Work with the Gears You Have

Unless you have a huge budget set aside for the movie, maximize the gears that you have at your disposal. High-end cameras and recording equipment are expensive and not all aspiring filmmakers have the budget for Hollywood-worthy gears. There is absolutely no need to buy expensive gears for filming, just work with what you have.

Thanks to technology, it is now possible to shoot a great film without breaking the bank. You can make short films using a camera phone or a basic recording device. Unleash your creativity and find ways to shoot great scenes using natural light or makeshift gears if you have to. Reduce the dialogues if you do not have fancy sound recording equipment. A good tripod is all you need to keep the camera steady (unless you are going after the shaky-cam effect). You might be making a movie on a shoestring budget but the final result doesn’t have to look like one!

5. Familiar Locations

When it comes to looking for places to film a movie, we highly suggest using your connections to find the perfect spots for filming. Location fees could cost thousands of dollars and if you are working with a limited budget, choose a reasonably priced location that won’t hurt your creative process. A place that you’ve been in before is a great start.

Generally, shooting on location will require careful planning and advanced scheduling so take care of your schedule first. If you are filming indoors, get to know the space thoroughly so you don’t miss out on interesting corners to shoot. If you are filming outdoors, do it in a place that you are familiar with. This way, you can handle the challenges that this space might present during filming. For instance, if you are filming a marketplace, better plan ahead to deal with the noise or the crowd.

filmmaking tips
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6. Great Lighting

Great lighting is one of the most critical aspects to consider when shooting a scene. Make sure your lighting kit has at least 3 lights in it. A basic lighting setup should include a key light, a fill light, and a backlight. The key light is set closest to the camera. The fill light is set at the other side of the camera and aimed at the subject. The backlight is set behind the subject to make the actor stand out from the background.

If you’d like to brighten up the background, try placing a blue or amber light on another light. Then aim the light at the background. When filming in shady areas, use a reflector to enhance the lighting.

Not all lights are created equally, some appear cooler or warmer on camera. To get the shot right, choose your color temperature carefully. Try not to mix lights with different color temperatures or the footage will look unnatural.

Glare on glasses is a common issue when working with lights so set the lights higher on their stands. Raising the lights prevents the light from hitting the glass lens. If that does not work, move your key and fill lights farther out.

7. Editing

Contrary to popular notion, the actual shooting of a film isn’t the most action-packed phase of filmmaking, it’s the editing. You can use a variety of editing software to piece together all the scenes that you have shot during filming and apply the visual effects as needed. You can also hire a professional editor to stylize the film for you. If you are editing the film yourself, make sure to learn all the different montage techniques for clean, precise and professional-looking results.

Over to you!

There you have it. Now you know what the best filmmaking tips are.

Next, let us know:

What’s your #1 filmmaking question?

Leave  your comment here below. 

Jasmine Katatikarn Headshot

About Jasmine Katatikarn

Jasmine Katatikarn is the founder of Academy of Animated Art. She has 20+ years of experience in Feature Animation and VFX. Jasmine’s lighting credits include movies like Ice Age, Ferdinand, Peanuts, and Rio. Read more here.

Jasmine Katatikarn Headshot

About Jasmine Katatikarn

Jasmine Katatikarn is the founder of Academy of Animated Art. She has 20+ years of experience in Feature Animation and VFX. Jasmine’s lighting credits include movies like Ice Age, Ferdinand, Peanuts, and Rio. Read more here.

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