So you’re a filmmaker? Good. We keep repeating that there’s never been a better time to make films, and that’s because we truly believe it. However, just an iPhone, an idea and passion are not enough. You need to be prepared, and you need tools to be prepared and tools to make your production look extravagant.
When Martin Scorsese showed one of his earlier features (“Who’s That Knocking On My Door”) at the New York Film Festival, someone said to him: “You’re living aesthetically beyond your means.” And that’s perhaps the best compliment you could pay to an indie filmmaker, right? People realise you had no budget, and you’re living the adventurous life, and yet your film looks amazing. We put together the Short Film Toolkit to help you along the filmmaking process, and this gear guide will give you concrete tools to work with.
It’s very underrated in this day and age, yet it might be one of the best tools to put ideas on paper, see them, and take time to think about them. You can’t do that on the Notes app when your phone is buzzing with Twitter notifications. (We know you’re a master of social media by now.)
Once it’s time to get to the actual writing (and re-writing, and re-re-writing), you’ll need a good software. The two best-known are Celtx and Final Draft. The former is entry-level, extremely convenient, and it is free on your computer, and quite cheap to download on your phone or tablet. Final Draft is the real deal, though: easy to use, intuitive and, once again, professional. You can also put it on your phone and tablet.
There’s a lot to be said about planning, and a great deal more to be done. However, we’d suggest you use apps to plan your setups, and help you with the paperwork. There are loads of apps you can use.
Let’s start at the beginning. You’ll need a camera. If you don’t have a camera, you can use your phone.
You can use DSLR. There are different ranges of DSLR cameras, which you can use depending on your aesthetic and/or budgetary constraints. Nikon for instance have several:
- For entry level, the D3300 is terrific: is comfortable to carry and incredibly simple to operate, with Guide Mode offering step-by-step assistance. Fine details are sharply captured, and 11-point AF and superior low-light performance (up to ISO 12800) free you to shoot crisp and smooth movies even in darker locations.
- A mid-range device is the D5500: it’s lightweight and from fast movement to challenging low-light situations, the 24.78-megapixel resolution gives exceptional performance. Includes flat Picture Control, making post-shoot adjustments easier, enabling rich tonality of both brightness and colour tones.
- A high-end camera is the D750: with extremely sensitive AF performance, a burst rate of up to 6.5 fps, flat Picture Control, Full HD movie recording at 1080/60p and a tilt-screen monitor, you have full freedom of expression in exceptionally smooth movies.
So you’ve got plenty of opportunities with these, and many more.
A crane is a must to give production value and movement to your film. This nifty piece of equipment will not only make your film look professional, but it will also make you look somewhat professional while you use it. It’s not a necessity with every film of course, however it is good practice in terms of expanding your cinematic technique and artistry. You can pick up a ProAM DVC crane for £30 – £100 depending on the size of the extension you go for and whether you go for a used or a brand new one. Alternatively you could again, BUILD YOUR OWN!
A dolly is a must as well. The dolly and track system is used to provide smooth, controlled movement with the camera. Many films use the track and dolly to push instead of zoom and to track across with mobile subjects instead of panning to follow them. These simple movements will allow you to achieve shots that might otherwise be unfilmmable and give a higher production value to your movie.
A steadycam is one of the most useful things ever for an indie filmmaker. Let’s not go into all the ways you can use it, because all you really need to know is that you can get one cheap.
There are several kinds of light. Tungsten light, fluorescent, HMI, LED. They’re all very specific and you can use them to achieve specific purposes depending on the mood you want to give your film. We’re going into the details here.
If you’re using your iPhone: iMovie is the way to go. Smart, intuitive and very fast: it’s the go-to software. Sony have the Vegas Pro software. An open source alternative is Avidemux. And if you want to use the software that’s now used by the likes of David Fincher and Francis Ford Coppola, the must is Final Cut Pro.
Now you’ve got a rather comprehensive list of what you need in order to make your film look extravagant and “aesthetically beyond your means”. So get to your idea, and happy filmmaking!