What I Learned from Making a 1-Minute Short Film
Last year, I wrote, produced, and acted in a 1-minute short film alongside some talented filmmaker friends of mine. We came across a 60-second film contest put on by Moet and immediately hit the ground running with this idea. The challenge was to create a short film around the theme “this is your moment.” It was one of the most amazing experiences to date!
First and foremost I learned that a great idea, even a 1-minute idea, takes time and effort to become a clear, succinct story. My friend and director of the film, Jonathan Coria, met with me one evening and we hashed out a vague idea I had. A few hours later, we turned that vague idea into a short (very short) story with an arc and inspirational ending. One thing I learned was that no matter how “small” a project may be, it still requires a lot of time and effort. Treat your shorts like they’re a feature. Comb through the vague ideas until they’re specific. Even though there were no words in this script, I went over it multiple times to make it the best it can be. I’m a firm believer in setting the script aside for a day or two and coming back to it with fresh eyes, so I did exactly that before locking everything in.
Our short, Shoot for the Stars, follows our main character Jane as she dreams of what it would be like to turn her idea into a film. We follow her through daydreams of casting, directing, editing, and finally back to the epiphany that started it all. This is her moment.
The film was set in a single location which certainly made it easier considering we only had 60 seconds. We were lucky enough to be able to use a vacant town home that was open for a few more days before tenants moved in. That was a huge weight off our shoulders not having to worry about renting a location space. Especially with a short film like this we had practically no budget, so I tried to be resourceful as possible in making this happen.
I’m grateful for this experience because I underestimated before-hand how much time it took to set up all the props up, how much stuff (props, equipment, etc.) we loaded into the town home, and how long it would take to film. We were ambitious in how we went about the shots, but that also led to more time-consuming set ups. Watching our director and DP work together taught me so much about camera, lenses, and the rigs they set up to get the shots we wanted. I learned to ask questions now because there’s no better time than to ask your friends on a short film where everyone is still learning.
All-in-all our 60 second short film took 12 hours to film. 12 hours of getting the choreography of the camera with the actors right, getting the lighting perfect, and getting the shots that blended into one another just right. 12 hours of working with an amazing crew that made this shoot so fun and rewarding.
Although we didn’t win the Moet contest, I wouldn’t have changed this experience at all!
Here are some of my personal key takeaways:
- I learned that collaboration is key.
- I learned to overestimate how long it will take to film.
- I learned that it’s the small details that matter. Days before the production we were making sure we had the small props that mattered and we stayed up late the night before adding in the last minute details we thought would matter on-camera.
- I learned that sometimes when you’re funding your own dreams you have to wear all the hats, and that’s perfectly okay.
- I learned that there are so many wonderful people that lend their time and talents to make films happen. We couldn’t have made this without the people who volunteered to make this 1 minute short happen.
- I learned that being thorough in development, all the way through to post production can make you stand out. I know we did the very best we could and we were devoted to this creative idea.
- I learned that winning or losing a contest doesn’t not put a value on our worth and our talent.
- I learned that coffee is a necessity (actually, I’ve always known that let’s be honest).
- I learned that this was just a stepping stone in our careers and if making a 60-second short film was this exhilarating and rewarding, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for our next film.
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