The Basic Steps to Making a Movie

The basics of how to shoot your first movie,

This is a general plan for making your first movie.  Keep it simple.  Allow yourself only five characters maximum.  Keep the dialogue to the minimum.  Movies are primarily a visual story.  Tell the story with your pictures.  Keep your costs down, your energy high, and your mind focused on the job.  Remember that you want to make some money on your film because you would have spent some money.  Try a short at first.  Twelve minutes should be about right.  

Making a movie requires the coordination of bring several steps together simultaneously.  The basic elements are as follows:

A.  The Creative beginning step.

1.  Come up with an idea.

2.  Write down that idea.

3.  Make it into a script.

This will give you an idea of what to shoot.

Take your brand new script and register it with WGA (Writers Guild of America), the cost should be around twenty dollars to hold register for five years, and then fill out the Copyright form PA, include another $20.00, and register it with the Library of Congress.  This way if there is any dispute later about who owns the copyright, you have the physical evidence.

Make eleven complete copies of the script.  Mark the scripts as follows: Producer/writer, Director, Camera, Sound, Costumes, Actor #1, Actor #2, Actor #3, Actor #4, Actor #5, Sponsor.

Now take you brand new script to someone that will sponsor your one day film shoot.   That is your very first investor.  Your budget will be determined by how much you can raise from this investor.  If all you can get is one hundred dollars, then that is your budget. 

B. Unless you are proficient at being a director, put your ego in the closet and find an experienced director.  You become the producer and the writer.  Learn from your crew.  Hire your director.  The director will put together the rest of the crew.

Here are your non-union crew (you can not afford union on your first movie) requirements for the very basic of movies.


Camera operator with their own camera

Digital Imagery Technician (DIT) with their own computer

Sound mixer with their own sound equipment

Gaffer with their own light package.

two Grips

three production assistants

wardrobe mistress/master (save yourself some trouble, make the story contemporary.  Everybody can bring their own wardrobe.  Use the wardrobe mistress to add to the actors selections.)

makeup artist/hairstylist with their own kits.

Go to a single location to shoot your movie.  Look for a simple setting without very much traffic.  Have everyone meet you there.

Check with the locality about permits.  Some places are very expensive and require insurance on top of it.  If you can not afford the permits, then like other filmmakers before you, you will have to "shoot naked" meaning shooting quick shots while watching over your shoulder for anyone that might want to see those permits, you "misplaced."

Next, set up your equipment at your location, this includes a cooler with some water and drinks plus a second cooler with some kinds of snacks, like red vines or other candies.  

Your director will now take over the shoot and block the scene and the shots.  This means that the director is rehearsing the movements of the scene.  This is usually followed by the actors doing one or two rehearsal takes.  Note roll the sound and the camera during the takes.  You want to do this for two reasons, first to make sure the equipment is working right and secondly, sometimes the actors rehearse better than they perform under pressure.

Your movie will start with an establishing shot, followed by a wide shot, a couple over the shoulder shots, an angle shot, one shots on the individual actors, three or four medium shots, a couple of close ups, and at least one or two very close up shots. 

Once you have the shoot, re-shoot it again, and then do this a third time.  Move to the next scene, follow the same pattern.

Make sure you are downloading this footage and the sound into a file that is not corrupt.  If the file is corrupt you will have shot for nothing, so after every down load, have the DIT show you the file is good.

Your short should take you less than a day to shoot.

Now find a film student that has final cut and ask if they want to edit what you have for a nominal fee and an Associate Producer's credit.   If the film student goes along with the idea, set up a time when your director, your new Associate Producer, and yourself can meet up and edit the movie. 

Purchase a royalty-free commercial use music track.  Once you all have reach an agreement on what best tells the story through the many images and sound bites you have shot, you are ready for the final step, press a dvd and take it to market.

There are several avenues open to you.  You can take it to a short film festival, if it does well there might be a buyer for it.  You can also go online and sell it to someone that sell downloadable shorts such as or

Once you make your first sale, congratulations, you are a professional movie producer.


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lucia anna
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Posted on Dec 6, 2010
Kathleen Murphy
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Posted on Apr 19, 2010