Why you don’t need a filmmaker to make great films
OK, first we need to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Why is a filmmaker saying you don’t need a filmmaker? Good question, and I’ll definitely get to that. I’m guessing that you are reading this on my website (and as you’ve probably seen its in part, a filmmaking website) or I’ve posted it on social media, which means you already know me or know someone that does or I’m successfully sharing the hell out of this.
So why is a filmmaker saying you don’t need a filmmaker to make films? I’m nice like that.
Isn’t he doing himself out of work? Probably, but money isn’t everything…
If I can do it myself, then why would I pay him? You wouldn’t and in a few pages, you won’t need to. Boom, mic-drop etc, etc.
If you have a newish smartphone, you have a powerful device in your pocket capable of making decent quality films. If you have a bit of storage, you’ll be able to download a few apps that will help you with the pre and post editing process (I’ll add some links further down).
Now if you want to make films for your business, obviously I would recommend using a filmmaker but I call this blog ‘Why You Don’t Need A Filmmaker’ so I’ll crack on.
Firstly, think about your audience. Who are they? And how will they find your films? For example; If you will host the films on your website, then the audience already knows of you and your business, so you probably need not pepper it with company information or a marketing-type call to action. However, if you plan to put the films on social media and use your content to drive people to your website, then you must add the relevant information on how people can find your website – links are the way to start with this. I’m assuming you probably know this so I’ll move on.
It doesn’t matter what people say – length matters! The challenge we face when creating content is this simple fact: With social media, the behaviour of content-hungry web consumers (all right, people!) has changed and people are looking at things for less time.
As content-hungry web consumers (ok, ok… PEOPLE) we demand that your content is succinct enough to inform, entertaining enough to keep our woefully short attention span from cutting out and if you really MUST sell to us then please give us that all-important money shot – how is your product/content/post going to change our world or inspire us?? If you’re posting to social media one minute is your maximum – Instagram will automatically cut you at the one minute mark.
Be careful when you cross-post mind as not all hashtags work on all platforms, and if you tag someone with their handle, they may not have the same handles across their social media channels. Fun, eh?
Right we’ve sorted your audience and covered off the length of your film. I’m assuming you already know what you will say? You have, duh … sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned it. Let’s move on.
OK, you have your smartphone in hand ready to be the next Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Hot Fuzz). You must script the film.
I have an iPhone so the links will be for that, but I assume Google / Samsung will have the same or similar apps.
I use Celtx Script – it’s free on iPhone /iPad. (https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/celtx-script/id381536091).
Next, you’ll want to shot list the film (this makes it easier when you shoot). I use Shotlister, it costs $13.99* (https://shotlister.com/). You can get a free template online. *note that this is US dollars, NOT sterling currency
Film scripted – check
Film shot listed – check
Onto the fun bit – filming. Have you decided if you will shoot portrait (phone vertical) or landscape (phone horizontal). Most people shoot vertically for Instagram. Personally, I prefer to shoot everything horizontally to keep my social media accounts consistent. I’m funny like that. Social media is a whole other bag, and I will do a blog post on that later.
The lenses on the iPhone are awesome, especially the new iPhone 11/pro. Portrait mode gives you a good interpretation of depth of field (it’s called bokeh effect).
Honestly, this will be fine if you’re just starting out. Just make sure you have good lighting. If you are interviewing put your subject under light and next to a window. Basically, you’re aiming to get an even coverage of light across the face (unless you’re going for something arty).
I explain lighting in another blog, but for now, just get good coverage.
Where the iPhone falls down is audio. They are designed to do so much they can’t be great at everything. One solution is if you are still lucky enough to have a phone jack (iPhone 7 and older) you can buy a lapel mic and put it straight in. Or an external audio recorder like a Zoom h6n and record into that.
Have a file storage system like iCloud or google drive as you will need to sync the visuals and audio if you record on an audio recorder. I will do a blog post about dual audio / visual recording at some point.
They also have an app that lets you shoot raw (https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/moment-pro-camera/id927098908) It is nearly £6, mind.
Right, you’ve scripted, shot listed and shot your film, what now? You need to edit it. Again, this can be done on the phone. iPhone has iMovie which is free and will do what you need it to do. Android will have their version. I don’t use iMovie but here is a cool tutorial.
Two other things…:
Filming by hand is tricky phones don’t deal well with camera shake you may want to think about investing in a tripod or stabilisation. There are loads to choose from so have a Google. They all do the same thing, so it’s really about your budget.
The best way is just to go out and film stuff you will see what works for you and your technique will improve. Make mistakes and then learn from them.
You’re all set. Job done. If you have read this blog, and it has inspired you to make your own films, I’d love to see them. All my social media handles are @waynesables – look me up and hook me up.
Are you still here?
Disclaimer: making films on your phone is very empowering but the quality will never be as good as a purpose build film camera. The question is, do you need that quality?
There are loads of fantastic resources out there on the internet – here are a few.
Here’s a great video looking at accessories for your smart phone filmmaking journey .