The Short Guide to Making an Awesome Short

Part 1. Script Writing: Have a good story to tell
Part 2.1. Pre-Production: Be ready!
Part 2.2. Pre-Production: Keep on preparing!
Part 3. Production: Are you ready?
Part 4. Post-Production: The fun part!
Part 5. Release and Promotion

Part 2.1 Pre-Production: Be ready!

A key to a great film is to be prepared. Pre-production, after you already have an awesome script written, can be the most important part of a successful film.  Revise your script several times and optimize it for shooting within your budget and elements. For example in my original script for After The Rain I had a scene with a tow truck, after revising the script I realized that this scene would just add complications to shooting and budget, since it was not so important I decided to remove it.

Ahot from After The Rain

At this point you can give an approximate budget to your film. You don’t have to go into every single penny, since you wrote the story chances are you already know what you need. Create a rounded estimate, in case there are major over budgetary concerns you can go back to change the script right away. We will come back to a more detailed budget before shooting.


After The Rain - StoryboardCreate a storyboard for each shot, the more information that you put the better it is for you later, you can see this tutorial to help you create one. This is where you need to think ahead, think creatively and plan each movement carefully, this is what will give your film life. And when you think you are done, go through it again and make each angle and movement better than what it is. create as many versions as you need to! It’s something very time consuming, but it will reward you in the final outcome of your film. You don’t need to be an artist, but try to go a little deeper than stick drawing, if drawing is your last talent, have someone sketch it out for you, but make them follow your directions closely. Don’t have a storyboard template? We have you covered!

Download the free Film Shortage storyboard template here.

Search for actors

Perhaps the most difficult part of pre-production, finding the perfect face for your movie. A little word of advice, use friends and family sparingly! Unless of course they have a STRONG interest in acting or film, a person saying they can act is one thing, but it can be a harsh surprise if you have never been on a set before. Look for actors, post ads online on your social networks like Twitter and Facebook, but also post on sites like Craigslist and Kijiji where there are numerous actors looking for gigs. There are also hundreds of castings sites out there like, and many that focus only in your city and surroundings, you’d be surprised how many actors are willing to act for free just to enrich their portfolio. Make sure your main actors are professional and understand their involvement and commitment in the movie, last thing you need is your main actor calling you on day 2 of shooting and saying “Yea I have plans today sorry can’t make it” or my favorite one: “yea so I didn’t think it was going to be this hard, I don’t feel like doing it anymore”. True story.

Be prepared for the auditions. Avoid having actors come in your parents basement, the level of professionalism and credibility of your film starts here. You need to make it seem like your a studio, or if your not, at least make it seem like your trying. Find little studio or office, ask a friend, or your school, the local theater would probably be glad to help, especially if you let their actors audition (although in my opinion theater actors aren’t the best solution for on screen). Explain to them your film, they probably read your script already, but talk to them in depth about their character and their development. Set up a camera with a spot light or two, and have them recite a few lines from the script. Whatever you do, do NOT DO THIS!

What not to do during auditions

‘Throng’ is the absolute guide to what NOT to do during a casting call, but a must watch for a good laugh!

Shooting Order

Shooting OrderAnother important part in the pre-production is timing and shooting order. This might feel like a waste of time at first, but trust me this can save you hours, possibly even days of shooting. Grab your script and storyboard, and go through it scene by scene, mark down anything that can be relevant to your shooting, example; location, weather, time of day, even things like beard or hair length. If you don’t think these thing through now, they will haunt you when it’s too late.

Organizing locations can save you many hours of running back and forward, try to shoot all the scenes that are in the same place back to back, same goes for weather. Things like beard or hair length, is often a problem with un-linear script timeline, or a large time gap between scenes.

For shorter or simpler films, you can also add any decor or specific props needed for each screen, like gloves, umbrellas or guns… Mechanical props can also be added when used in specific shots, like cranes, steadycams or dollies. However if you are running a more complex film with tons of equipment and props, this job should be divided through several people and have them create their own shot list with their particular job.

This will be your go-to document on set, so keep clean and clear. We will also come back to this document later on in the pre-production.

So get to work, review your script, start storyboarding, looking for actors and prepare your shooting order, because next week we will tackle music research, documenting your process, budgeting and test shots. Stay tuned!

Part 2.2: Pre-Production