June 13, 2017

What I learned from my first short film

Last year my number one goal was to make a short film. I spent endless hours in my bedroom dumping ideas in my notebook and writing mediocre screenplays. My YouTube history was full of long interviews with directors like Wes Anderson, J.J. Abrams, and Steven Spielberg. I continued to be a perfectionist and wait until I settled on an idea that I liked enough. Finally, after school started up again I decided that I wanted to make an eerie Autumn film. Every day I would hide away on campus between classes and fill my notebook with blurbs of ideas and ballpoint pen sketches. By October, I had the screenplay. My friends (Dakota, Aspen, and Victoria) and my little brother spent a couple days filming with me. The entire film was shot within two blocks of my house. It took me much too long to finish editing the film, but at last I finished it. I made a short film!

Helvetica turned out much different than the ideas that I originally had in my mind for it. It frustrates me that I wasn't able to fully bring to life my vision, but I learned so much in the process and it was such a valuable experience. Looking back on my mistakes, I am filled with so much excitement to keeping creating and growing. Here is a list of things I will do differently next time (mostly for myself):

Get a team.
I tried to handle most of the technicalities on my own and it resulted in a lot of anxiety and overwhelmed me more than necessary. Next time I will look for people who know more about sound recording, camera stabilization, and directing groups of people than I do.

Let yourself make mistakes.
While writing the script, filming, and editing I was so afraid of making mistakes. I knew what mistakes I didn't want to make and had a very clear idea of what I wanted my film to turn out like. This isn't inherently bad, but I wish that I had calmed down a bit and let go of my perfectionism. Next time I will allow my mind to be more open and get creative with problems that I run into.

Focus on the story.
In Helvetica, I put a great deal of focus into the visuals and worked to make everything aesthetically appealing. This was so enjoyable and I won't focus any less on this aspect next time, but I will put more effort into the actual story. The visuals don't necessarily have to be second to the story, but their main purpose should be to serve as a medium to tell the story. I got sloppy with my screenplay and let there be plot inconsistencies and confusing/straight up way too bizarre ideas expressed.

Show, don't tell.
This is such an important concept and I want to always be striving to get better at practicing it.

In conclusion, making Helvetica was such a fun and exciting process. It felt amazing to finally have done something that I'd wanted to do for so long. And through my mistakes, I collected a handful of important lessons for next time.

This brilliant video has encouraged me greatly as I pursue my creative passions. I encourage you to give it a watch! "I am not the only person who is constantly disappointed about the gap between one's taste and one's skills."

Another film coming soon. A much better one. (Still not as good as I hope it will be, but getting nearer).

x Elle


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