Script, Prep and Shoot: Short Film #1

by Alyssa Hunt

Outside the System, or as we like to call it, the ‘Mistakes of a One Man Crew’, is a dramatic scene about two teens in foster care.

SCREENPLAY DEVELOPMENT

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First, let me just say that we all must start somewhere. My first attempt at writing a short script is embarrassing and unremarkable, but while Outside the System (OTS) may not be my shining achievement, there is much to be learned from my process. Ergo, what not to do when writing a screenplay.

Don’t Settle On Vague Ideas

When I first sat down to write, I asked myself, “What do boys and girls talk about?” While this may be an intriguing concept, it is not specific enough to form an interesting story.

I then began writing a conversation between two teenaged foster kids: a girl who couldn’t wait to leave the system, and a boy who would be forced to leave due to his age.

Don’t Skip Rewrites

I wrote the script in an hour, double checked for grammar/spelling, and called it a day. Ryan and Kelanie said they liked it, and we prepared to move on to filming.

Never settle with your first draft. If screenwriting is your passion, time spent doing it halfway is time wasted. If you feel writing is easy, you are doing it wrong.

PRE-PRODUCTION

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DON’T SKIMP ON REHEARSAL

As soon as we had the script finalized, we began scouting locations. The script called for a house with a porch. So, we drove through neighborhoods until we found the perfect one. Thankfully, the owner was more than willing to let us film when we knocked and asked permission.

TIP. Don’t be afraid to ask permission to film on private property. You’ll be surprised at how willing others are to let you use their space.

With the location confirmed, we could focus on the following elements we thought were essential to producing a successful independent short film.

  • Realism filmmaking
  • Shooting at golden hour/dusk
  • Two on-location rehearsals, 1 filmed
  • Appropriate props and costuming
  • See the rest of our pre-production info here

With the help of our Pinterest page, we gathered inspiration for our costumes and decided to use dark colors to fit the mood and overall aesthetic of OTS.

We documented our first rehearsal with an iPhone, did not block since we only had two actors sitting on a porch, and it wasn’t until we reviewed the rehearsal footage that we realized the script was lacking.

After a playback of the rehearsal footage, it was apparent that the dialogue was terrible. We were filming in two days, so I immediately started a re-write.

PRODUCTION

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Since we wanted to film during golden hour/dusk, we had a very small filming window.

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With a two-person cast and one-person crew, it was a challenge to record sound, hold the camera, frame the scene, and still create a calming creative space for the actors.

Filming was a mess. Lines were forgotten due to the last minute rewrite, there were blocking issues, and we were quickly running out of light.

By the time we got everything together, it was dark. We had to wrap before we felt confident with the final product.

While we aren’t proud of OTS, it was a necessary experience and we hope you learn from our mistakes. Remember,

  • Start with concrete ideas.
  • Leave time for rewrites.
  • Invest in a thorough rehearsal.
  • Recruit at least two crew members (for short projects) to insure an efficient and productive filming process.

Next Monday we will discuss post production, marketing, and where OTS landed on our Sharpen Scale.

xx

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