The Short Film project

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Still from the 1981 film, “Raiders of the Lost Arc” (Dir: Steven Speilberg)

Your assignment: Write, Direct and Edit a narrative (fiction) short film with dialog and action in class (or on location, with teacher’s permission). This builds off of the documentary we just watched, “The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing”

Steps

  1. Form a crew of 3 or 4; come up with a “Production Company Name”
  2. Come up with an idea for your action sequence with your crew
  3. Write a 1-2 paragraph treatment (description) of your short film
  4. Write a script (in screenplay format) for the dialog scenes
  5. Draw a storyboard for each shot in the action sequence. (The storyboard form is at the bottom of this post, and is handed out in class)
  6. Scout locations, find props as needed, and cast actors from class (pre production)
  7. Shoot your film during class time, somewhere on campus; OR, with permission, shoot outside of class.
  8. Edit

Skills (we will learn)

  1. How to shoot a dialog scene
  2. How to use a boom microphone
  3. How to shoot with one or two cameras, with a clapboard
  4. How to script (screenplay format)
  5. How to storyboard
  6. How to keep continuity between shots (match action)
  7. How to control the pacing of the film
  8. How to edit (includes creating a project, inserting and moving shots, the “L-Cut” for dialog, cutting to music, basic sound mixing, titles and credits, and transitions / color correction where needed)
  9. How to watch, compare and critique each other’s final work.

Guidelines

  • Length: 3-5 minutes total
  • No weapons, sexual references, drug references or profanity. No violent fight scenes. No blood.
  • Characters: Two characters. You may have students in your crew to act in your film.
  • Plot: The film should start with an “instigating event”–some situation that starts the action. The chase ensues. The chase must resolve or end in some way with a final short scene
  • Dialog: You must have a short dialog scene (at least three lines each character) at somewhere in the film (often it works well at the beginning or the end)
  • Shots: At each moment in the film, the editor should have at least 2 shots to cut to (this is called coverage).
  • One random prop: You will be assigned one random prop that you must incorporate into your film, in a major or minor way
  • One random line of dialog: You will choose a line of dialog at random that you must use in your film.
  • Style: The dialog scenes need to follow a traditional shot-reaction shot structure (2 singles and a two shot). The action sequence must be shot two different ways–for example, all in close ups and all hand held.
  • Edit: Each crew member edits their own version, with an alternate ending! 
  • Music: Edit the chase to music
  • Finishing: Titles and credits

 

A storyboard form is here:

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