Short Film Assignment


Produce, Direct, Shoot and Edit a 4 – 7 minute fiction (narrative) short film with at least one character and location. Your film should combine at least two of these elements of cinematic storytelling:

  • Action – The movement of the character (s) flows from one shot into the next. Fast editing and a variety of angles and camera movements establish the pace of the sequence. A mix of close up shots keep the audience close to the action, while wide shots establish location.
  • Dialog – Cut from one character to the next as they talk and react. This “shot – reaction shot” editing can be used to show one person looking intently at an object as well (i.e. staring at a donut they desire)
  • Cross-Cutting – Two stories are occurring at the same time in different places. Cut between them.
  • Flashback – A character in the present flashes back to something in the past. It can be just a few shots or glimpses, or a full scene. Another version of this is a “flash forward,” which could be a character daydreaming about what could be.
  • Voiceover Narration – We see the world from a characters point of view and hear their “inner monologue” as they comment on the world or tell their story. They can be commenting on what is happening right then, or their past. They are speaking directly to the audience. Or, the Narrator can be omniscient and anonymous – a commentator taking us through the story.

Locations: You can shoot this assignment on campus, or take a camera for the weekend and shoot it off campus.

Actors: Your actors can be students in our class or students from outside the class.


To produce  your film, do the following: 

  1. Get together with one or two other students in the class to form a crew.
  2. Brainstorm ideas.
  3. Type a one paragraph “summary” or “synopsis.”
  4. Type a “step outline.” This is just a numbered list of what happens in your film. Be as detailed as possible–don’t leave out any plot points.
  5. Draw a storyboard. It should contain every shot you can think of. (Scroll down to the “Action Sequence” assignment below for the storyboard form. You can print and use this form.)
  6. Give your film a title.
  7. Type a “Pre-Production Packet” that contains:
    1. The pieces you’ve already completed–your summary, step outline, and storyboard.
    2. A crew list. You are strongly advised to share contact information with your fellow crew members so you can communicate about this project outside of class.
    3. A list of main characters, with a one-sentance description of each. (it may be just one character). Who will you cast in these roles?
    4. A list of locations. Where are you shooting?
    5. A list of props (items) and costumes you will need for  your film.
    6. A list of equipment you will need to shoot your movie.
    7. A production schedule. Do you plan to shoot in class? What days? Outside of class? How long will it take? Look at a calendar with your crew to come up with a shooting schedule. Refer to my Calendar for Video Production I on this website to see the Short Film deadlines.

Short Films online!

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Check out this fabulous website, featuring short films–narratives, documentaries, animation, etcetera. Films range from experimental to traditional, serious to funny. Explore the site by going to “Films” to find a list of genres (“Documentary” for example), by going to “Playlists,” or by searching for a key word.

Link: Short of the Week

Place Assignment


New York circa 1932. “Night view, Manhattan.” Photo by Berenice Abbott (1898- 1991)

Assignment Goals:
* Explore a place outside of your house or school
* Choose a place with visual interest to you: look for shapes, shadows, textures, angles, patterns
* Choose a place that has meaning: a street, a barn, a bridge, a place of worship, a field, a stream, a forest, a graveyard, a factory, a room–inside, outside, rural or urban!
* Shoot one entire roll at the location. Get some wide shots (far back) and close ups (details). Play with composition and design.
* If the light isn’t right you may want to return when it is better.
* Try to get just the place. If people are in it, they should be apart of the place, not the main subject.

Due for Critique:

  • 6 small prints (5×7”)
  • 1 larger print (8×10”)
  • A second copy of this larger print to hand tint!
  • A typed paragraph (5-7 sentences) describing why you chose this place (visually why it interested you; why it’s importance)

Download the Place Assignment Lecture (with examples and guidelines) here: 

Lecture – Place Assignment

Photographer Presentation


image and portrait of photographer Paul Caponigrocaponigro portrait 300

Assignment: Create a ten minute lecture (using Powerpoint or Keynote) to teach the class about a photographer you are interested in.


1. Browse the photo books in the Learning Commons and classroom.

2. Choose a photographer. Discuss your choice with your teacher.

3. Collect 30 to 40 images from the photographer. These can represent their their whole career or a particular body of work. You may scan images or find them online.

4. Research the photographer. You can use the photographer’s website, a book, online interviews or scholarly articles or reviews. You will need to cite 3 sources.

5.Organize a slideshow lecture to teach the class about this photographer as follows:

  1. Start with one or more images that represent the photographer, and a quote from the photographer.
  2. Write a thesis statement (3-5 sentence paragraph) describing why you think this photographer is important for us to know.
  3. A brief history of the photographer–when they worked (era), what they photographed (genre), and how they made images (technology)
  4. 3 to 5 “chapters” showing different aspects of the artist’s work, using their photographs as “evidence” (at least 5 images per chapter)
  5. A conclusion that relates back to your thesis.
  6. A source citation page (slide). You should have three sources. Use standard MLA format.

6.Deliver your talk to the class.

Download the assignment here: Adv Photo Presentation guidelines

Download the rubric here: Presentation Rubric

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Short Documentary


Objective: Create a 5-10 minute non-fiction film that explores a subject interesting to the student through interviews and visuals.

Possible topics: A biography of a subject; an exploration of a hobby, sport, or passion and the people who do it; an investigation of a controversial topic, exploring both sides of the issue; documenting an event; a historical documentary, using still images.


  • Subject is student’s choice, but must be approved by the teacher
  • 5-10 minutes in length
  • 1 to 3 interviews (whatever’s needed)
  • 30 shots (“b-roll”)
  • Music can be used for montage sequence(s), intro and ending
  • May use text or a voiceover to convey information beyond the interviews


  1. Find a partner, or choose to work alone
  2. Identify and research subjects.
  3. Discuss them with your teacher.
  4. Identify and arrange interviews (subjects, locations) or an event to document
  5. Type up a pre-production packet: 
    1. In a treatment (4 or 5 sentence paragraph) describe your film (story, characters, theme)
    2. A list of interview subjects (with a one sentence description of each)
    3. Interview questions (at least 5) for each interview subject
    4. A list of locations 
    5. A list of shots (“B-Roll”)
    6. voiceover script or on screen text (as needed)
  6. Make a list of possible video clips and sounds to go with the interviews (b-roll)
  7. Practice technology needed for shooting (lavaliere microphones, camcorders, location lights with umbrellas)
  8. Shoot the video
  9. Rough Edit (Shooting may continue while you begin editing). This means putting the pieces in place to tell the story. Resist using effects or doing extensive audio editing until the story is complete
  10. Screen for fellow students and teacher
  11. Fine cut (trim, effects, color correction, transitions, titles, credits, audio effects and mixing)
  12. Share and screen with the class