This is an excerpt of The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film by Gini Graham Scott (Limelight Editions)
The Biggest Mistakes Filmmakers Make
Some of the biggest mistakes filmmakers make have already been alluded to in previous chapters. Here I want to highlight the ones I have noticed the most.
1. Writing too much detail in the action or narrative section, or discussing what the characters are thinking or feeling. Don’t treat the script like a novel. Only describe what will go on the screen and keep these descriptions short—just enough to set the scene, since the director will set up the script based on the chosen location and the available décor and props. Only include the mini- mal descriptions of a character’s feelings to indicate how an actor might show those emotions on screen; don’t go into detail about the character’s internal processes.
Guest Blogger: Gini Graham Scott, author of The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film
The nature of filming is that it involves frequent changes at all stages of the production, and you and others in various roles need to be ready to respond accordingly to successfully make your film. Normally, making these necessary changes is successful, because those making films in whatever capacity know to be flexible and responsive to changes in a project, or they won’t perform effectively or be invited to continue to participate in such shoots.
For example, in writing the script, I will typically ask for feedback at script readings and make changes if this seems warranted. In doing auditions with the actors, I may make changes in the script to incorporate their lines, and if it is not possible to cast an actor for a particular role, I may make changes in the script to eliminate that role or rewrite it for another actor. In looking for crew members, I will make changes in what people will do depending on who is available; and if someone is ill or can’t come on the day of a shoot, I will make changes that day in who does what and I may take on the role of missing crew members.
There may be other changes when it is difficult to get a particular item for a prop; for example the script may be changed or one prop may be substituted for another. Then, too, there can be changes when there are problems during the shoot, such as the sun moving so the lighting changes; a battery running down, so the number of scenes and takes has to be reduced; or a microphone placed in the wrong direction, so not all the sound is well-recorded, resulting in making changes in the editing process to use only the good footage that was actually shot.
In short, everyone has to adapt quickly when changes are necessary during pre-production and on the day of the shoot to have a successful shoot. And normally these changes are successful, and the finished film reflect the changes that have been made during all phases of pre-production, production, and post-production.
The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film
The Complete Guide to Writing, Producing, and Directing a Low-Budget Short Film is a comprehensive step-by-step overview of how to complete and promote a low-budget short film. It begins with how to write a short script, keeping in mind the goal of shooting it in one or at most two days.
It discusses how to finalize your script by getting feedback and then preparing it for production through doing a scene breakdown and possibly a storyboard. It describes how to direct the film yourself or work with a director, audition the actors and cast the short, plan for and participate in the shoot, and work with an editor to finish your film. Finally, it discusses how to get your film shown, including entering it in festivals, and concludes with an extensive list of resources and references, including books, articles, script and storyboard software, conferences, expos, festivals, and more. Available for purchase from Limelight Editions or booksellers nationwide.