Make it accessible, be extreme, but be realistic

THe Nikon Jury

I was deeply honoured to e asked to join Pep Bonet, Dirk Jasper and the incredible Asia Argento to join the jury of the Nikon European Film Festival. Last month, as part of my role as a judge I took part in a Google Hangout with fans to answer their questions about filmmaking.

During the session, which you can watch in full here, I revealed some of the stories behind setting up Raindance and my earliest ventures into filmmaking. Having been involved in the early careers of directors like Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Interstellar) and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) when they were beginning to learn their trade in London, I feel it’s only right to impart some of this knowledge to those aspiring to join the filmmaking scene.

I would say without any hesitation that shorts are where it’s happening right now. More people than ever are making web series and – when it comes to the Nikon European Film Festival – 140 seconds is an ideal format for filmmakers to prove themselves. This is long enough to be taken seriously, but short enough for people to be willing to watch it. In the industry, these ultra short duration films are called ‘micro shorts’.

If you’re thinking of shooting a short film for the Nikon European Film Festival, here are some of my top tips:

Get inspired

Study films, especially TV commercials/advertisements for inspiration on how to make a short film memorable and impactful.

Make accessible content

Try to boil down stories into universally acknowledged moments. These can be personal occasions like birthdays or public ones like Christmas, with anecdotes and observations that have a widespread appeal, so people can relate to them.

Cut costs

Numerous actors and numerous locations cost money. Invite friends over for the weekend and take advantage of the fact that lots of people are together in one place. Use friends in as many roles as possible – they could be actors, extras, set designers, camera operators, sound engineers etc. To include licenced music in a film you must purchase the rights, which can be very expensive for well-known songs. If you have musical friends, ask them to record a melody you can use.

Use natural light

A trick Christopher Nolan used frequently in his low budget films was to position speaking actors by a window to make use of natural light – and save having to buy or hire expensive artificial lighting.

Learn how to move the camera

DSLR filmmaking has democratised filmmaking, as modern equipment is accessible, inexpensive, small and lightweight. Develop a vocabulary of movement techniques, such as ‘dollying’, by moving the camera forwards and backwards, or ‘crabbing’ by moving it sideways, to add cinematic impact to your work. Holding the camera steady is very important to stabilise the shot. To avoid shakes with a small camera, support your elbow for extra stability.

Be extreme, but be realistic

Produce stories that are extreme, use techniques that are extreme and make films that are extremely entertaining. Film is art and entertainment. Think big, but be realistic. Don’t write a serious film about space travel if you haven’t got the budget for a spaceship or the special effects to match. Write something you can actually film.

Network

Take advantage of competitions like the Nikon European Film Festival to gain exposure. The Grand Prix prize winner of the Nikon contest will win an exclusive pass to the Cannes Film Festival. This is the biggest and best film festival for networking – over 50,000 delegates, 3,000 films and 1,800 exhibitors attend! The Grand Prix also includes Nikon D810 film kit to use on their next filmmaking venture.

For more inspiration and compelling evidence that a good short film can spark the start of a very successful film career, take a look at these 16 short films that launched the careers of famous film directors, including Wes Anderson, George Lucas and Tim Burton.
Remember, you have until January 5th 2015 to submit your short film for the chance to win some incredible prizes.

nikon-european-film-festival-box (1)Here’s a quick recap of the main rules:
– Theme is ‘a different perspective’
– Duration is 30-140 seconds
– You can shoot on any device
– Shoot in HD
– English language or English subtitles
– One entry only
– Eligible countries are EU, European Economic Area, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and Israel

Find out more or submit NOW at www.nikonfilmfestival.com.

What are you waiting for?

About 

Photo Credit Jay Brooks / BIFA 2015

Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. He has produced over 700 hundred short films and also five feature films, including the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead in 2006, Deadly Virtues in 2013 and AMBER in 2017. He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance trailer 2017

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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