Not too long ago I reached out to R.M. Moses, an all-round filmmaker from East London who runs his own production company called Blame The Consumer. I remember coming across his twitter page and watching a short film he produced and thinking “yo this dude is mad talented”. At the time I never thought we’d be here exchanging emails and sharing our vision, Bring Me In wasn’t even a thing then, mad right? Now fast forward a couple months and here we are with our first ever Bring Me In interview and I can’t help but feel honoured. So without further ado I introduce to you The Ultimate Guide To Creating A Short Film On A Budget, R.M Moses style. Hope you enjoy.
So let’s think creative on a budget here, what affordable equipment would you say people need to make their first great quality short film?
The bare minimums would be: Camera, microphone, script and actors. Even up to today, when I’m unable to get crew and equipment, I know I can get all these bare minimums so I can still make a film, even if it’s by myself on crew. You don’t need to go and spend thousands on equipment if you can make friends with people with the equipment already. If you can come together and collaborate, then you will grow together. This is the birth of a great team, so it’s important to start early. Make sure you do the basics well; this has been my motto throughout life, and I use it in film-making. I think it’s important to practice and learn more about your craft, so get involved with classes and tutorials, go out and actually film something because there is nothing as helpful as trial by error in this field of work.
How do you source your actors/actresses? Starting off, are they required to sign anything?
When you’re working with no budget on small projects, or actors with no agents, then you don’t need anyone to sign anything (unless you’re hiring a location or paying someone for something, because in those cases you really don’t need the hassle of people falling through with promised schedules). I think the best place to find hungry and emerging actors is on social media. Its bigger than any kind of casting database around but it’s also helpful to use those casting services to drive your film needs broadly across the internet. Casting Call Pro is the one I use when I need special types of actors.
How do you source music for your short films, any platforms you use in particular or tips on other ways to get music for your short films.
When I was just starting out, I used to take music from YouTube. So I would search for something like “atmospheric scary” and take whatever I felt fitted. Sometimes it’s a good idea to message the person for permission first but if your film is only going online (as opposed to airing on TV or being screened in cinemas) then it’s not a big deal. Nowadays, I know a couple of composers that I frequently work with, and again, I met them off of social media.
What is your process for sourcing venues for shoot? How do you go about that? Any websites that are great for that?
I don’t know any websites but normally a good thorough google search would be sufficient. I always tell people to make a list of all the places that you have access to. So, things like your local park, your estate, a friends car, your mums workplace, if you have a friend or family member who owns a bar or nightclub then all these things will be incredibly valuable to your production. Indie film-making is all about favours and making the best out of barely anything.
How do you shoot in public places? Any permissions that you have to get beforehand?
Unless its somewhere like a park or your estate… Legally, yes, get permission. But coming from an indie filmmaker who has no time or money; if nobody is watching, if there aren’t any police, then go get them shots! And be quick. The most they’ll do is say get lost.
How many hours go into a short film of let’s say 30-1hr?
A short film is normally classed as being less than 40 minutes. Anything longer than that, it is classed as a feature length film. The length of the shoot depends on how many scenes you have and how many pages the script is. Normally for me, it takes about 2 hours to shoot a 4 page scene. And because everyone is working for free, you need to be sensitive to their needs, so try and shoot 1 or 2 scenes a day maximum.
Daylight vs night-time shooting. What you have to consider when shooting in both settings?
Make sure you have a good cinematographer who knows about lighting. It might not bother you if you’re filming outdoors and your shots look amazing. But, if you are shooting indoors, and the outside light is blazing from the window, you need someone to know how to light indoors. Try and have a reflector on set, they are handy and very useful.
Bar 1 or 2 cameras, most cameras cannot shoot at night the way you visualise in your head. You need lighting. Get as much as you can. Watch films that have night scenes and use their lighting techniques. They always have a big flood light really high in the sky to imitate the moon, and then use whatever lighting you can, like a street lamp or car headlights.
When do you start shooting? Any advice or tips for ensuring people are on time.
For a filmmaker, if you’re on time, then you’re late. Make sure you’re an hour early to set. Make sure everyone else is an hour early to set. This just gives everyone extra time for unexpected traffic or train delays. Make sure you rehearse like your filming to make sure everyone is on point before the camera’s roll.
How does a plan or outline for a usual day of the shooting look?
I usually take an hour to load up, then meet everyone on set. Spend an hour to unload, then another hour to set up and for everyone to get changed and start rehearsing. Then depending on how many scenes we are shooting or how long the overall shoot day is, we will work until lunch break or the end of the shoot. It’s important for everyone to rehearse so that you don’t make shoot days long and moody, because being stuck on one scene for 5 hours is not fun. But your job as the Director is to make everyone confident enough to get through it. This is also comparative to the shot list. If you have a good cinematographer then you will be done with a scene in an hour or so. Amateur cinematographers (including myself back in the day) always include unnecessary and excessive amounts of angles and shots. This can also lengthen out your shooting schedule.
On the writing side of things, do you usually write yourself? Do you change things up on the day? Do you suggest a team of writers or just one writer for a short film? What are the defining characteristics of writing for a short film as opposed to writing for longer films or other things?
All the films I have made, I wrote and directed. It is just a matter of being a perfectionist, having written something, I would rather give the actors the right kind of direction as opposed to a director with a different perspective on the writing. On set, you always have to change things, even as early as the first read-through, I always change the writing. It’s because the writing looks good on the paper but when it comes out of someone’s mouth, it might not be as pretty as you thought.
Writing for short projects are easier, of course, but with feature films, you can have a lot of fun. For shorts, you’re creating a day, or a scene or even just a glimpse of someone’s life. With a feature you can create universes, whole new lives, worlds and events. Writing is a very romantic business but in all seriousness, you have to be strong hearted to make it through a project. I always say, the writing process is 90% not writing; you are watching films, reading books, listening to people talk, and then thinking about what you’re going to write. It can get very depressing and dark at times but to be a writer, you have to be able to survive those dark days to get some golden pieces of work done.
Editing and putting it altogether…any dope YouTube videos that people can look at to help with that process as a beginner? Any suggested books? Suggested software that is relatively easy to use?
Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro, are leading the race at the moment for editing softwares. They are for professionals but with some practice, you can master it. Premiere Pro is my favourite because you don’t have to leave the application; you can cut, mix and master, engineer audio, colour grade and then export your timeline all in one. One of the best youtube channels for filmmaking has to be Film Riot. They teach you all kinds of techniques and tricks to indie film-making on a budget and that is where I learned some things. I haven’t read any books on editing, because I was someone who started from young and learned through trial and error. But there are some really good books on Amazon for directing actors.
Shots and angles: any advice on great ways to make a short film look top class.
Firstly, any filmmaker will tell you, take your favourite films, and really break them down shot by shot. What makes these shots so compelling and beautiful? Make a note of lighting, acting and locations and try to imitate them in your next shoot. There are some good books I got from Amazon on cinematography but I can’t remember what they’re called. Essentially all it is, is a book of screenshots from famous movies and explaining the camera movement of each shot. Secondly, watch interviews! This is such a key piece of advice that has helped me. Almost every famous director and actor has had an interview done and it is available on YouTube. Go and watch them talk about their shots, watch behind the scenes and see what they get up to. This insight can be really valuable to your education in this industry.
Pet peeves when it comes to short films that you want to encourage beginners to avoid?
Not really, I mean, personally I would say go out there and get shooting. I could tell you not to do something but you won’t understand why unless you fail first. Trial and error is literally the only way you are going to find your voice and where you are strongest, so go out, create, fail, learn and grow.
Mics, ensuring that each character is heard and the sound is consistent throughout, any advice? Possible changes in sound depending on environment that you think characters should be aware of?
Bad audio can make a film unwatchable. Learn how to de-noise audio, learn how to mix audio and also learn how to SHOOT good audio. When I say “shoot” good audio, I mean, listen to your location. Check if there is a train rumbling, check to see if the plane flying overhead is too loud, and the most painful one to listen for is checking to see if the refrigerator is humming too loudly. Trust me, in the editing room, its worse than it seems. Its best to have a boom pole, with a mic on the end, with someone operating it so you can capture dialogue close to the person. Depending on your scene, if nobody is moving too much, then you can use lavalier microphone, the same ones that they use in interviews.