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 (purocasting.com). 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). https://sequesteredfest.com/
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 https://twitter.com/misshelenwrites
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.