No-budget filmmakers have a knack for overthinking everything, assuming that their films have to be perfect in order to make an impact in the film world, which often results in no film being made at all.
Any filmmaker worth their salt will tell you that it’s better to be prolific than to strive to be perfect every time, especially when you only have spare change and favors from your creative friends as your budget.
Truth be told, you can conceive, write, shoot, and edit a no-budget short film within a week if you switch off that negative voice in your brain and focus on getting stuff made. Here’s how you do it:
Day one is all about the idea and the idea is everything. The concept of a short film is what will sell it to the audience, not the production values, so focus your creative genius on creating an idea that you can explain in a single sentence and will automatically grab the attention of the viewer.
Check out Christopher Nolan’s Doodlebug for a superb example of this. The IMDb page tagline reads: “In his squalid apartment, a man tries to squash with his shoe an insect of some kind that is moving around the room.” It’s so much more than that, but how cool and creepy does that sound?
Once you have the idea, now you’ve got to write the script. Now is not the time for Barton Fink levels of writer’s block, or playing the tortured screenwriter role. Get down on paper what you want to see on the screen, using Final Draft if you have it or free screenwriting software like Celtx if you’re sticking to the no-budget rule.
Remember the “one page = one minute” rule while writing, too. There’s no time for Tarantino wannabes in the no-budget filmmaking world. You want a tight, compact script with minimal dialogue and no samurai sword fights. Please.
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