How to Make a Movie in 5 Easy Steps

May 21, 2014

Intro to Video Production students are currently working on their final projects that will be screened at the Gould Academy Film Festival on Wednesday, June 4. So far this trimester the students have created music videos, commercials, and talking head interviews, but their final project is wide open. The only criteria is that it has to be “green-lit” by me. To keep students on track, they have to create storyboards and production schedules, as well as movie trailers and posters that promote the festival.

A lot goes into the final project, so to get the ball rolling, we created a practice movie trailer as a class. To make the previews we’re using the trailer creator in iMovie. Here are five lessons I hoped they would take away form the exercise.

1. Pre-production planning goes a long way.

The final project is undefined, so it can be difficult to know where to start. Storyboarding ideas helped us set up shots, pick out locations, and think about camera placement and movement.

2. Scheduling saves time.

We jumped around to several locations on campus, so rather than shoot linearly, we planned out all of our interior shots first, then adventured outside for establishing shots, landscapes, and action shots.

3. Be resourceful!

The students wanted to add some tracking (moving) shots to the trailer. Since we don’t have professional movie production gear, we had to get creative. We borrowed a hand truck from Mrs. Hayward in the School Store to get the dolly shot of the feet walking, and used a “rolly” chair from Mr. Shifrin’s classroom to get the push-in on the victim of our kidnapping. Use what you have!

4. Don’t be afraid to write terrible dialogue.

Writing voice-over copy and dialogue can be one of the most daunting parts of making a movie. Improvising dialogue almost never comes out the way you want it to, so we took the time to brainstorm the dialogue and title copy. I chose the suspenseful action film genre for this trailer so that students would be less inhibited in offering up cheesy lines. (Shout out to Jasper for his brilliant voice-over skills. We recorded it into the voice memo app on my iPhone.)

5. Get lots of takes!

You never know how your scenes are going to play out once you sit down to edit. In one variation of the cell phone scene, someone thought it would be funny for Cullen to be talking into his shoe. We shot a hilarious take, but in the end, it just didn’t fit in with the rest of the project, so we scrapped it. Luckily, we got more than one take.

Cullen show

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Just going through this process is a useful tool for idea generation. The students came up with great ideas on the fly, and were fully invested in the project. If only we had time to make the real movie. Now that you know all the work that goes into it, check out the trailer for Hanscom Ransom. Enjoy!

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