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The Barebones of Making a Short Film

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

If you're an aspiring filmmaker that wants to learn how to create content for a living, the best way to do that is hands-on experience. Making a short film is an easy, fast, and affordable way to hone your visual storytelling skills.

While the thought of creating a short can seem like an unnerving task, it actually wouldn't take much to get a project off the ground. You just need to plan your production properly, collaborate with the right people, get the right equipment, and have a lot of determination.

The Barebones of Making a Short Film

Due to advances with digital film equipment, creating content is easier to make than it's ever been in the history of filmmaking. You can literally make a short film with little to no budget. Some creators are shooting content with their cell phones and editing the footage on their personal computers-- making it a reality that anyone can produce their own short film.

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PS: Some of these are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I may get a commission for recommending the product to you.

So, if you're really ready to roll up your sleeves and create a short film with fantastic production value, check out this barebones list for making a short film:

Choose a Concept

Think of an idea that you can create with minimal locations, cast, props, wardrobe, and set design.

Write or Find a Script

Once you've chosen the concept, write or select a 10-15 pages long screenplay. Ten pages are the sweet spot. Make sure your short script includes these five stages:

  • Ordinary Word – Begin the story with a glimpse of your protagonist's everyday life.

  • Inciting Incident – Create an incident that will instill a clear goal for your protagonist.

  • Point of No Return – Give your protagonist an obstacle to confront.

  • Climax – Create a climactic scene the protagonist has to resolve.

  • Aftermath – Create a final resolution to end the story.

Celtx is a great screenwriting software you can use for the proper formatting of your screenplay.

celtx scriptwriting software and preproduction tools

Create a Shooting Schedule & Budget

After you finish your final draft, break down your script. Identify all of the elements you would need for shooting your short (i.e., Props, cast, locations, wardrobe, special equipment, etc.).

From there, you can create your shooting schedule. Even if you're shooting for just one day, you still need to create a schedule to lay out the order in which you will be shooting each scene.

Once you've finished the scheduling, you can create a budget. However, be resourceful and utilize possessions you already have. For instance, you can utilize anything from working with friends and family or using props and wardrobe from your home.

Robert Rodriguez quote

You can learn more about resourcefulness from my blog article, "Do-it-Yourself: Indie Filmmaking."

After you've identified every resource you can get your hands on for free, then determine how much cold hard cash you'll need.

Find the funds

There are several ways that you can find funds for your short film. For instance, maybe you can tap into savings, work part-time for a ride-sharing or delivery company, raise money through crowdfunding donations, apply for grants, or pitch investors.

Finding funds may take a little effort, but it's all a part of the process.

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Create Storyboards & Shot List

Storyboards are a powerful storytelling method that helps you to visually present your story frame by frame. Even if you just draw stick figures, your team will get the gist.

Using the storyboarding method helps you to create a shot list. Identifying all the shots before the onset of principal photography eases the burden of figuring out everything the day of shooting. Remember, time is money, and you do not have any time to spare.

Casting Call

After identifying all the characters needed for your project, write up character descriptions and a casting notice. Place the casting notice on your local film commission's job board.

You can also place your casting call on Actor's Access, Backstage Casting, and Facebook groups for film and acting.

I know it's tempting to use family and friends, but you want to make sure you find someone who can embody the character's spirit. Everybody is not meant for every role.

Crew Call

More than likely, you'll be working with a skeleton crew for your short. It would be best to consider hiring the most significant players: the producer, first assistant director, cinematographer, director, editor, and production sound mixer.

Place your crew call with the local film commission, Mandy, Production Hub, and Staff Me Up.

You can also post your crew call on Facebook groups for film and crew.

Also, networking is a great way to meet people to collaborate with on projects.

Scout Locations

Find locations that match the description of the locales in your script. Do a tech scout and survey the sites. Take a ton of pictures of each place you visit.

Also, make sure your locations are suitable for shooting. For example, is the building safe and up to code? Will there be lighting and sound issues? Do you need a permit to shoot there?

Those are just a few questions you need to answer before locking down a location.

If you have a limited budget, I highly recommend writing a script where you know you'll get free access to a location. Don't be afraid to ask friends, family, and colleagues about places they may have access to use.

Magix movie studio 2024

Gather Supplies & Equipment

To shoot your short film, you'll need to rent or purchase film gear for the project. As mentioned earlier, nowadays, some creators are shooting shorts from their camera phones. The only setback with using a cell phone is that it doesn't have much memory to hold content, and it would take a long time to upload the footage to a cloud-based storage system.

A few items you will need are a camera, lights, and something to record audio. If you have a story that takes place outside during the day, you may only need a bounce board.

You should select filming equipment that meets your needs and your budget. If you're on a small budget, you usually can find a digital camera that fits within your budget.

Other equipment accessories you may need:

You can check out other tools and accessories at Diversity in Cinema Academy's online store.

Principal Photography

It's finally time to shoot your film. The shooting schedule, storyboards, and shot list you created earlier will help you shoot with ease and efficiency.

  • On the day of shooting, have your talent arrive early for hair, make-up, and wardrobe.

  • Conduct rehearsals and camera blocking with the talent and camera department

  • Roll sound, Roll camera, Action!

Edit the Film

After principal photography has wrapped, it's time to edit. Upload your footage to a video editing software, like DaVinci Resolve, Vegas Post Suite, or Adobe Premiere Pro.

Once you've organized the files in bins or folders, you're now free to start cutting the footage. Put the scenes in chronological order to create a cohesive story.

DaVinci Resolve Blackmagic design

Sound & Music

Once you lock the picture, it's time to edit the dialogue and add sound effects and music.

The sound designer may use audio software, like ProTools or Acid Pro 10, for the final mix.

During the final sound mix, you will watch and listen to the entire film. The final mix is your last opportunity to sweeten the sound.

epidemic sound

Color Correction & Grading

Lastly, you want to make sure to color correct and grade your film. Raw footage is bland, and the color usually doesn't match from clip to clip.

The color correction process makes your raw footage look exactly how we see it with the human eye. In contrast, color grading is where you create a particular aesthetic for your film or a scene. Color grading usually sets a visual tone or mood for a scene.

Film stills courtesy of - Karma: The Tale of a Woman Scorned

Once the colorist completes the look of the film, the picture is locked, rendered, and delivered.

Final Picture Lock

Yay! You have completed your short film. Now, it's time to submit it to festivals and show it to an audience.

Rev: customizable video captions

Final thoughts for making a short film...

So, there you have it – a quick and easy 14-step barebones process for making a short film. Let's recap the steps:

  • You've learned how to choose a concept.

  • You've learned the structure for writing a short film.

  • You've learned about breaking down a script and creating a shooting schedule and budget.

  • You've learned different ways to find funding.

  • You've learned that storyboarding and shot lists help ease the burden during principal photography.

  • You've learned about methods for posting a cast and crew call.

  • You've learned how to scout for locations.

  • You've learned about potential equipment and supplies you'll need for shooting.

  • You've learned the process for principal photography.

  • And, you've learned the process for editing the footage, sound, and color.

An excellent exercise for you would be to create multiple ideas and strategies on how you can best use short-form films for your benefit.

Remember, this is not a pointless exercise. Planning for your short film strategy begins at the formulation stage. This exercise would be one of your first steps towards figuring out your short film's purpose, plan, and marketing strategy.

Good luck!

Oh, and let me know in the comments how this exercise works out for your project.

Please help us promote this article by hitting the heart❤️ button below! Thank you so much!

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If you're seeking a clearer understanding of how to secure short film funding, I invite you to accompany me on YouTube. I share practical tips and tricks on how to secure short film funds for your next project. Plus, I provide advice on how to be resourceful when shooting a $0 to little budget short film.


Of course, Diversity in Cinema Academy has many other resources that I love to share with you, but I wanted to keep this blog strictly about the barebones of making a short film.

If I had to pick two resources I couldn't live without for my short film production, it would be these two tools.

Aside from the tools above, I also use many other resources to help me prep for a movie production. Some of them are FREE and some are paid.

You can check out some of the other resources that I love using on Diversity in Cinema Academy's resources page. You can view all of the resources for Filmmakers, Content Creators and Screenwriters from the links provided.

From filmmaking tools, to content creation tools, to screenwriting tools... they all can be found in the tools section of Diversity in Cinema Academy's website. I highly recommend that you check out our tools store! :)

If you like it, please help me to share the resources link with a friend. I would really appreciate it!

Okay, that's all for now. I hope that you have found the information I provided helpful!

Enough information, start brainstorming ideas!



Diversity in Cinema Academy is an online digital media company that primarily uses web-based applications, such as an interactive website and social media platforms, to offer aspiring filmmakers and screenwriters an entertaining and educational place to interact with each other and professional filmmakers.


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free online filmmaking course: the hard truth about film funding

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