Summertime is, without a doubt, the best of the seasons. Sunshine, sleeping late, & fireflies give
these warm months a good rep. However, the summertime of 2020 is facing unusual circumstances.
As COVID-19 issues continue, we’ve had to resort to spending our summer leisure activities
indoors, away from the beaches & July cookouts. Whew, that can get boring. Luckily, we have
sparkling movies & TV shows of Netflix, Hulu, & many more to keep us entertained. What if I told
you how to make your own cinematic masterpieces?
I know it sounds crazy, but making your own movie is easier than you think. This creative process
is a fun way to hone your storytelling skills, literary knowledge, and artistic expression. Below, I’ll
review the basics of bringing the Movie Magic right into your hands.
Step #1: What’s Your Story?
All movies have a story. Whether they’re two hours or two minutes long, every film tries to say
something. Sometimes, their messages are straightforward, clear, & hard to miss, like Disney
Pixar’s Inside Out. Or, they’re more abstract & subliminal, like Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.
Either way, both types of narratives, & any in between, work! So, what do you feel like talking
about? It could simply be how much you love your dog, or recounting a fun day that you went
swimming. There are no right or wrong answers. It’s your story, & up to you!
To help you get started, break down your story into three acts. Your first act, similar to a story’s
beginning, sets up your movie’s world, introducing the setting, the characters, & what they’re
doing. The second act is the bulk of your story, containing most of your story’s exciting action.
The third act wraps up your story, resolving any drama that occurred in your second act.
Let’s look at an example. My story is about a camping trip I took that was ruined by a storm. In
the first act, my sister and I travel to the campsite and set up our tent. We sit down at the
campfire and roast marshmallows, admiring the stars. Suddenly, a storm hits, and we have to
scramble. My second act begins here, right where the plot thickens for the first time. We quickly
pack up our campsite and rush to the car. We start driving, but can’t get any GPS service in the
storm and end up lost. We drive aimlessly for hours down empty roads, growing hungry and
tired. Finally, we happen upon a creepy, 24-hour gas station in the middle of the night. Terrified
to enter, we’re hesitant to go inside and try to get directions, but our grumbling stomachs tell us
to toughen up. Together, we go inside, approaching the cashier nervously as the ceiling lights
flicker. The cashier, a friendly old woman, points us in the right direction and gives us two
sandwiches, on the house, for the journey. Right here is where my third act begins, where the
drama starts dying down. We thank her and leave, arriving home by morning for breakfast. The
Step #2: Write a Script!
A script is kind of like a novel. It describes all that happens in your story: the setting, the
characters, & the action. However, unlike novels, scripts do not use paragraphs & chapters.
Instead, they break up the story into several components.
The setting (interior v. exterior, location, & time of day) is written in the SCENE HEADING.
Anything your setting or characters do or look like is written in the ACTION form. Anything your
characters say is written in the DIALOGUE form.
Generally speaking, scripts are pretty bare-boned. They contain all that will be seen on the camera.
When writing a script, you’re doing it less for literary excellence & more for outlining &
establishing a film’s visual basics.
Step #3: Make a Shot List!
A shot list is a document that lists and describes all the shots you want in your film. There are
many ways to make a shot list, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s compare it to a comic strip. A comic
strip has visual snippets of scenes in a story. Shot lists are similar, except it does not contain
snippets, but every visual building block for your film.
Here is an example of a shot list for the script above. See how there are visuals for each thing
that happens in the script? That’s what a shot list aims to do: make your words into images.
Step #4: Shoot it!
The most exciting part of making any film is lights, camera, ACTION! But how do we get there?
The things you will need are a camera (this can be as simple as a phone camera, or an actual
camera that takes video,) actors (this could be anyone! Friends, family, dolls, puppets, etc.,) and
props. So, if I want to shoot my film about Kaia, I will need a TV remote prop.
Before rolling the camera, make sure your scene looks like what you want. Is there a stray sock
from the laundry on the floor? Is your character’s hair messed up? Fix it! Once you start filming,
make sure everything is quiet. The last thing you want is some loud footsteps messing up your
Step #5: Put it All Together!
Now that you have your footage, you need to edit it & put it all together to complete your film.
You can simply do this on iMovie by uploading your footage to your computer, & then into the
iMovie. Here, the shot list comes in handy, as you have already listed the order of your shots on
paper. Now, all you have to do is put them together on the computer. It’s that simple!
Step #6: Have Your Premiere!
Now that you’ve completed your masterpiece, it’s time to show it off. Play it for your family, your
friends, even send it to us at Planting Seeds Tutoring! We love to see your art & hard work pay
Check out the links below for the shot list template, a free script-writing website, and more!
Shot list templates: https://www.powerproduction.com/storyboard-templates.html
Script website: celtx.com
iMovie editing tips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1Hd60lwOyA
More information on 3 Act Structure: https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/three-act-structure/
Example Script: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JaNMlOOzbn6iV1cVbYCwo1Fv2ey5n1Ke/view?usp=sharing
Example short film: https://vimeo.com/228015110