How to Make a Short Film: Seven Steps to Make Every Second Count

This article is a guest post from veteran filmmaker Lisa Harold.

How to make a short film

Crafting your own unique short film is a great way to get your feet wet in the film industry

Some excellent short films have appeared over the years, and they can be just as powerful and engaging as feature films. In fact, because they rarely tend to drag on and lose focus, they can often be even better.

Short films are also a great way to get into the film industry by showing off your talents, and they are the perfect format to experiment with. But how should you go about making a short film that is engaging and compelling?

Here are seven simple steps to follow.

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1. Come Up with an Idea

Coming up with a good idea is one of the hardest things to do. One of the best ways to get ideas is to watch other short films online. There are many available, so study them to find out which types of ideas work the best.

Just remember to use them as inspiration for your own idea rather than copying them.

2. Decide on a Budget

Know the budget for your short film from the start, as this will prevent you from coming up with a great idea only to realize that filming it will be impossible. Your budget will determine the equipment that you can use, including the:

  • Camera
  • Sound equipment
  • Lighting
  • Props
  • Editing software
  • …and it will also influence how you shoot the film.

Come up with a budget early on and don’t waste time developing an idea that is well beyond your capabilities.

how to make a short film

3. Get Straight into the Action

Short films by their nature get straight into the action, so don’t waste time with lots of back story or long scenes where nothing much happens. Instead, you will want to get the story going as soon as possible using action and dialogue, so forget the long build up.

4. Write a Treatment

Treatments are used as summaries for feature films, but when you are making a short film you can use your treatment to provide an account of the whole film. This is a great way to see how your story is developing and to visualize it, allowing you to get rid of things that are not working.

5. Get Feedback

One of the best ways to get rid of unnecessary material early on is to show your treatment to others and ask for feedback. Other people may well be able to pick up on things that don’t work or characters that need more development, along with other things that you have missed. This will allow you to make changes before filming to save time.

6. Create a Storyboard

how to make a short film storyboard

A storyboard displaying your vision can take on many formats (Photo Courtesy: Don’t Shoot The Costumer)

Storyboards are an excellent way to plan your shots well in advance of filming them, and it will be a good way for you to visualize the shots that you will make. Again, this can help you to make changes at this early stage rather than after you have finished the filming.

7. Edit Carefully

After filming the footage, spend a lot of time editing it down. This is the stage where you really make sure that every second counts. Shoot more material than you need, and that way you can condense it down.

Be strict with yourself during the editing stage, and get rid of anything that is not necessary to create a tight, compelling short film.

Get Your Film Out There

Once you have made your film, make sure as many people see it as possible. As well as entering it into competitions, upload it to a video sharing website and encourage everyone you know to download it using a program like YTD so that they can watch it offline. Ask them for their feedback, and take this into account when marking your next short film.

Remember to respect intellectual property with video downloads.

How to Make a Short Film: Final Thought

Short films can be compelling, exciting and creative, but it is important to make sure every second counts when creating your own. So follow the tips above and create a short film that the audience will love – it could just provide you with the opening into the film industry that you’ve been looking for.

Author Lisa Harold is a veteran filmmaker. She especially enjoys helping beginning filmmakers navigate through the skills and processes.

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for &

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.