Make A Film – Learn By Doing | Raindance Film School

I had been a community member of Raindance for a few years and during this time dreamed of making my own short films. As a mature aged actress, with a very independent and resourceful streak, I wanted to create. I am a compulsive learner and tried ‘teaching’ myself filmmaking and editing through YouTube, books,  etc. Though I pick up things easily, I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was floundering. WHY CAN’T I DO THIS?

COVID-19 struck. Lock-down. Sick of spring cleaning, I knew this downtime was THE opportunity to learn to self-tape properly and create films. 

First, I became a paid member of Raindance, taking advantage of their wonderful lockdown sessions. Also undertook the 99 min film school session (again) with Elliot Grove. Being budget-conscious I then scoured all the short Raindance courses. Member discounts was the carrot. 

Then I undertook a number of Raindance courses/sessions. (Refer below)  Also included are the self-taping workshops with The Acting Habit ( If it wasn’t for the actor, Jon Campling’s lockdown session, ‘So Ya Got a Self-tape to do – An Actor’s Thoughts’, I wouldn’t have known about these workshops for actors. So thank you Raindance. Next, I finally finished creating a portable make-shift studio at home. 2 LED soft lightboxes, mic, gorilla, and iPhone/DSLR stands and backdrop.

July:  The Acting Habit’s, ‘Self-Tape 5 Day Online Challenge’: Technical aspects of self-taping, including projects & daily feedback. Within 5 days, I went from ‘shying away from self-taping’ to ‘bring it on’

July – 5 weeks: Smart Phone Film-making Foundation Certificate Course. (Raindance, Toronto with Director and Producer, George D’Amato). I created my first two short films (1 min as a practice run and then my 4.30 min project). Yay! I made a film. 

July/Aug – 5 weeks:  Screenwriters’ Foundation Certificate Course. Raindance,  Toronto with Randall Willis

Am currently fine-tuning an outline for a full-length feature thriller as a result. 

July:  Live Ammunition! Pitch your Screenplay – Raindance, London with Elliot Grove. Living in Brisbane, Australia I woke up at 2 am (sleepy yawn) to listen and learn from the pitches. 

August: Directing Essentials, Raindance, London with Director, Simon Hunter.  Another early morning session (sleepy yawn). 

10 October: The Acting Habit’s, ‘21 Day Self Tape Call-back challenge’.  

December:  The Acting Habit’s, ‘Write Your Own Monologue’. Teacher, Richard Parry. Wrote a 1.30 min monologue related to my screenplay outline.                                                                                                          


January:  Mastering Genre Workshop Series: Raindance, Toronto with Randall Willis. 1. Thriller screenplay tools 2. Comedy screenplay tools. 

I have now made the following 3 short films. I am proud of myself. I learn from each film and try to ‘up the ante’ each time. No frills, no budget. No excuses. Though I have a DSLR camera, I shot and edited on my iPhone (under isolation conditions). I have used the iPhone’s inbuilt mic and camera, and also used the Filmic Pro app; editing using iMovie or PowerDirector. I am also  trying other editing programs. Always experimenting.  Undertaking all roles is very tedious  and time-consuming. But doable. And rewarding! 

My first ‘official’ short film:

  •    Monsieur L’Pook’s 2020 Lockdown Collection – Cat video created by me: 

An edited version (2.20 mins) of my 4.30 min project created for the smartphone cert course. 

My 2nd short film:

  •    Sliced Off!  2.30 mins. Initially created for The Sequestered: A Micro Short Online Film Festival’s weekly prompt Episode 36 ‘Slice’: (free non-competitive weekly online film festival).

Listed as a demo reel on my imDb profile.

Official Selection DMOFF (Direct Monthly Online Film Festival) January 2021

My 3rd film:

  • FRAMED Short Film 4.30 mins. Initially created for The Sequestered: A Micro Short Online Film Festival’s weekly prompt Episode 34 – frame: 

Listed as a demo reel on my imDb profile.

Official Selection at DMOFF (Direct Monthly Online Film Festival) Jan 2021

I stopped thinking I had to learn everything first before creating a film. I have made mistakes. So what!?  I have learned for next time. I’ve also watched countless1 -5 min shorts – studying the award-winning ones.  As an actor, I’ve always studied actors. Now, I also watch for the directing, cinematic, and editing styles. I have used weekly film prompts (see above) as inspiration, as they resonated with me. But stories are everywhere. 

Currently, working on another two shorts. And aim to enter a Raindance 1 min film competition in the near future. Plus of course, develop my outline into a feature-length screenplay. Lots to do.

Raindance gave me the fundamentals and now I learn as I create. I’m now a filmmaker. Now, I’m off to make my next film. 



Twitter:  @HelenMcKenzieR1  and

imDb: Helen McKenzie Ross




Article Author:

make a film

Helen McKenzie Ross, aka Helen Ross, is an Australian actor, writer, filmmaker.  Helen completed an Advanced Dip Stage/Screen acting at Australian Performing Arts Conservatory, Brisbane. Is addicted to creating.



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