Distribution | Film Festivals | Filmmaking | How To's

Get Shorter: Advice to the Short Filmmaker

1 Feb , 2000  

Written by Andrew Slattery | Posted by:

Andrew Slattery is back from Australia with post-production tips for the short filmmaker. In Part 1, he explained how you can get your film made; here in part 2 he explains what to do with it.


How do I edit my footage?

Part of your massive reading program has been familiarizing yourself with the Continuity System. You’ve read Pudovkin and Co. You’ve watched "Rear Window" 30 times. When you wrote your drafts, you had this system in mind: shot-reverse-shots for some of your dialogue, establishing shots, cross-cutting for building suspense between two locales, fading out, etc. If your script is well paced, the potential of editing will only make it even more so. If everything came together during the shoot, you should have a length of rushes that is waiting to be an interesting short film.

Getting your film edited is your only problem. You have no connections with filmmakers or students, and you don’t own an edit controller for video. If your rushes are interesting enough, a student will likely oblige his or her time to edit for you. If you can’t connect with someone (but you should be able to if you try hard enough), then you’ll need to do whatever possible to edit you film yourself. Use two video players? Go from camera to video player? Edit in-camera? All very inaccurate methods, but they are methods, and they’re good enough to make a rough cut that may pique the interest of someone. Try local wedding videographers. They’ve got edit controllers. Offer them chief editing credit. Hire an editing controller from somewhere. Organize a student to spend six hours editing your short on a Saturday afternoon. Buy them beers. Offer them the opportunity to edit the next film you pitch to them. "It’s about these two guys who… "

How do I get a cool soundtrack?

Forget about getting copyright permission from your favorite band to use their songs. This is only your first short film. Maybe in ten years you’ll be able to get Radiohead to write your soundtrack. In the meantime, your friend’s band has recorded a few songs; use them. Your co-worker has a four-track recorder. Your dad’s eccentric buddy plays guitar; get him to record a suitable piece for your film. There’s a local band starting the rigors of gigging. "Can I use one of your songs for a short I’m doing?" The idea of potentially having one of their songs heard at a film festival will appeal to them. Brilliant!

What about short film festivals?

Almost every major city or town has a short film festival. Before you shot your film, you had two or three festivals in mind to enter your short into. You made your short in accordance with those festivals’ time length or thematic restrictions. You’ve familiarized yourself with entry requirements from day one, so you have an attractive entry by the deadline, and your cast and crew are excited about the prospect of having their contribution seen at a screening. Run through Tim’s www.filmfests.com, an impressive listing of international festivals where you’ll surely find at least ten that suit your short. Go to festivals. Network. Have a drink. Look at how the short films are put together. How did they make an interesting short with a video camera and two actors? How did they edit? Keep networkingŠ.

How do I get my short film screened?

If you collaborated with students on your film, you will probably have a campus-based screening. If you made it with your dad’s camera and used your friends to act, you will have to screen it yourself. Your Auntie is a rich architect; she’s just bought a ridiculously large TV. Borrow it and put it out in the backyard on a warm summer’s night. Invite the cast and crew and all their friends. Invite a reporter from the local student radio station. Put up a notice in the film department at the local university. It doesn’t matter that it’s only screening on a TV; this is still a screening. A screening of your short film with 40 local film/theater/TV/students/friends/family is a screening, and a screening of your short film in every major cinema in the world is also a screening. To eliminate the inevitability of an anticlimactic response to your film, get other short films from those students who you collaborated with, and run as many as ten short films for more than two hours (with yours being the last and best, of course).

How do I get my short film on TV?

Use your backyard screening as a gauge as to whether marketing/distribution is finished or whether it is worth sending to a broadcaster that has a short film program. You may need to alter the format of your tape/film. If your short is interesting enough, go for post-production funding to get it boosted to 35mm.

How and why do I make a Web site for my short film?

It’ll take you one day to make a Web site for your short film. The site will add ‘completeness’ to your production. Geocities and Lycos and many others offer free space. Twenty people worked on your short; those 20 people can link from the site to their CV or whatever pages they have. You only need have two or three pages. List cast and crew, scan your production stills and put them in, write a synopsis, and put a ten-second MPEG clip on there, too. Get a film lecturer or critic to write you a short review, and put that on there, too.

"Thank You."

Send a "thank you" card to everyone that had anything to do with your short film. Send them a VHS copy of your short so they can incorporate it into their portfolio for future projects. Sneak a Release Form into the cards. The actors must consent to having their performance publicized at a festival screening and on the Web site.

The Network

You’ve met a lot of people during the making of your first short film. Design your itemized database of these people and what they do. You now have connections for your next short. Offer to work on their short films. Check out "Independent Filmmakers" magazine. This monthly publication is crammed with highly practical info for Australian no/low-budget short filmmakers. In the U.S., look for "Filmmaker" and "The Independent Film & Video Monthly" and similar publications. You’ve produced a no-budget short film. No one expected payment from you, and no one expects a return from any mode of distribution. Your snowballing network is the "currency" that you will reinvest into your next short.

Well, What Now?

You start to realize that your short film is crap. Every time someone visits, you have to show it to them. After the 20th time, all you see are the mistakes. But you think, "I had so much fun doing that." But that’s not the only reason you’re anxious to make your second film. You’re keen to make number two because you now see the many, many areas that you can improve on, and thus you are highly confident that number two can be a much better short. So start writing. After all, you ARE in the film industry.