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Filmmaking Tips: How to turn your class film into a classy film

Filmmaking Tips: How to turn your class film into a classy film

Movies: the marvel of the 20th Century. We all have a few favorites, but how much do we know about the film-creating process? Teachers often assign film projects to see how well students are able to cooperate, problem solve, and produce quality work. This is why I, Christopher Barclay, am going to teach you a few easy techniques that will guarantee a professional-looking film.


            Build a script! Having a list or set of instructions helps expedite the filming process, and it will get everyone focused on what shots you will be taking. A script doesn’t need to be a long list, but it should generally outline what film you want to get, how the film will be set up, and what you’d like to achieve. Please, do not go out to film unless you know what shots you’d like. We’ve all done it. It doesn’t work. Having an outline for shots creates a plan for the film you’re producing, and will make the filming process so much easier.


            Camera equipment. Here’s the basic set of equipment you’ll need: A decent camera (phones are perfectly acceptable, but hold them horizontally!!!), a microphone, and a tripod. These three things are easy to obtain, and yet they have such a huge impact on the quality of your film. The camera should be charged and able to take decent video. Most up-to-date phones have zoom, flash, and focus built-in, so you don’t have to go out and buy a $500 camera for a school assignment. A microphone is essential. Sound quality is debatably most important, as it allows the audience to understand what’s actually going on plot-wise. The easiest microphone for interviews or talking-heads type film is a clip-on microphone.  The easiest for standard film is a shotgun microphone (it captures sound in a shotgun-like blast radius, it is not a shotgun). Finally, a tripod. Don’t have a shaky camera. Just don’t. Tripods are easy, they screw in to fit any size phone (horizontally!!!) and screw in to fit about any camera. Tripods make it easier to zoom, focus, and set up a camera without any person holding it. All of these items can be found in the library checkout.  Just politely ask and you’ll be able to check them out for a while.


Filming is the fun part. Have fun with it. Here is a quick list of what NOT to do:

1.     White walls: they’re everywhere, they’re boring. Don’t film in the midst of a white wall.

2.     No perspective/depth: find a hallway or go outside. Don’t film next to a wall.

3.     Bad lighting is the death of many school projects. Make sure to film in a well-lit environment. If you’re not familiar with the 3-point lighting system, quickly look it up and abide by that if you’re filming in darker environments. Here is a link to a quick tutorial on lighting:

4.     Incorrect Zooming: A close-up shot is used to bring attention to an important item or thing, so don’t film a close-up shot of something to just make it look “cool”

5.     Wind. Your worst enemy. Don’t take audio for film in the midst of wind. If you actually need the wind effect, fix it in post.

6.     Student-filmed Green Screens/Blue Screens scenes are somewhat tacky. Avoid if possible.

7.     Filming while hungry. Make sure your actors/directors are well fed and happy. Hungry actors are not fun. They are zero fun units. Not fun. Please.

8.     Long scenes with no switch in camera angle. Nobody likes watching long scenes. It’s easier to film in shorter snippets. It’s easier to edit in shorter snippets. It’s easier. No long scenes with no switch in camera angle!

9.     Filming only what you need. You should film at least twice the necessary film. If the requirement is 3 minutes, you will film 6 or more. This is important. Chain your actors to the set until you have 6 minutes of quality film to pull through while editing. They will thank you. You will thank yourself.


            Other than that, you’ll be fine. If it’s a fighting sequence, spice up your camera angles. If it’s an interview, perhaps switch between two camera angles to make the film less boring to watch. Watch for lighting, sound, and film quality. And for the love of macarons, DO NOT FILM VERTICALLY!!!!! Make sure you’re confident in your film, and film a lot. You’ve got it!


            Editing is the easiest part. Take out the bad parts. Pick out the good parts. Avoid tacky fonts, dumb transitions, and save every 10 minutes. Email your film to yourself or post it on google drive afterwards. Make sure you can hear, see, and understand your film. While editing, get constructive criticism from respected peers, and even show it to your teacher beforehand. Asking a teacher for their opinion not only demonstrates maturity, but will also help you make your project the way your teacher wants. Once you’re done editing, save and make sure you’re ready to present your finished product. You’re done.


            Rapid-Fire tips:

1.     Make sure you have everyone’s phone number

2.     Include everyone, even people who aren’t invested in the project

3.     Camera-fright is normal. Try not to push frightened actors/actresses

4.     Costumes are fun, but avoid tacky costumes

5.     Choose a director within your group, preferably someone who has read this article

6.     Film horizontally

7.     Collaborate while editing, so all the work isn’t pushed onto you

8.     Communicate with your group on who is going to do what before you do it. If the other party doesn’t do the work your group decided upon previously, you can bring that up to your teacher for a better grade

9.     Film……. horizontally

10.  The credits page should not be longer than 6 seconds. Display the names on a non-scrolling credits format for a more professional effect


            That’s it! You’re ready to make the best film in your entire class. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve never produced a film, barely have acted, or if your group is “terrible.” If you abide by these easy tips, you’ll get a great grade for significantly less work.



Morris in the Morning: my secret motivational jazz radio station

Morris in the Morning: my secret motivational jazz radio station