How I Made My Short Film

Shooting 6

I wanted to write a post about making my first short film. I always find it interesting to see the behind the scenes things or how other people do their craft so I figured I would shed a little light onto how we made Exodus. Click below to check it out.

I’ve had a few poorly written, half-written, half-thought out scripts that I’ve sat on for a long time. Some of them I never felt were good enough to put the time and effort into and the one I did put some time and effort into got really stagnant and I got bored with it (probably from sitting on it for so long and starting to pick it apart). I dragged a few people in on it and the film ended up going nowhere. Boy, did that make me feel bad and worthless. So I said to myself, the next time I do something like this I will commit completely. Even if it doesn’t turn out how I want it to, I will commit and finish it. No matter what. I abandoned my past writings and decided to write something that I COULD film, not something I WANTED to film. I had to make a list of things that could help or hurt me along the way.

First, I didn’t have a lot of money to fund this thing. I had a DSLR camera that I was learning to use and some editing programs I was getting familiar with. I had a great friend who owns his own recording studio so I knew I could ask him to help with sound or music. I didn’t have the money (or time) to pay and audition real actors so I had to rely on committed, great friends. I’m not sure how many of you have tried to do projects that involve a decent amount of other people at once, but once you try, you will see how hard it is to get a group of people together for something like this. Needing a group of people meant the filming couldn’t take forever and organizing everyone’s schedules meant it should probably be a one day shoot.

So now what? Where to start? I knew I wanted to make something exciting. My old scripts were a lot of talking. They relied on emotion and getting to know the characters. In a short film you don’t have the luxury to build characters or have the audience get to know them. A lot of short films online rely on dialogue. Well, me not being a grade A script writer or having real actors, I figured the film should have minimal dialogue and shouldn’t involve the non-actors trying to act. Makes sense to me.

I’ve always been interested in the idea of a government meltdown. Yes, it frightens me but it still intrigues me to think what would happen if our government collapsed or we lost our freedoms and actually were ruled by someone or something evil. All these scenarios start flying through my head. What would the world be like if there were a group of people outside of government rule? How would they survive? What struggles would they have to put up with? I started to think who I was using as actors. Males my age. So I had to write the story around them. My previous scripts I wrote with no thought to the actors. I wrote in women and old men and old women, or middle aged men and women. Where was I supposed to find those!? So my story revolves around twenty something year old males. I had to do some research.

Some of my mood board / research images.

Mood Board 2

Mood Board 3

Mood Board 6

Mood Board 7

Mood Board 5

Mood Board 6

Mood Board 4

I had visions of people my age up against powerful forces that they had no chance against. What would the police be like in a time of tyranny? Well, they would wear skull masks and be frightening of course! I have no problems with police. I get really upset and heated to see or hear about police abusing their power. I don’t want to say I love police but I love the idea of police. I think for every bad cop there are many, many great police officers that are great human beings. That being said, I didn’t want those great human beings. This was something different. Something evil.

The script was extremely short but I thought that was good. It seemed like a realistic goal. There were a lot of questions by people who read it and who have viewed it. What were they running from? What was the point? Well, it doesn’t matter what they are running from and that is the point. For me it was a snippet out of a larger story. Maybe one day we’ll tell it…

So now that I had my story down concrete I needed to start planning. I had to secure my friends as their characters. I had to start thinking about costumes and settings. I started to storyboard out every scene. I got most of the clothes for the characters at thrift stores (shopping for filthy, homeless looking males is easy) but the officers were a different story. I needed riot gear… helmets, vests, gloves, boots, etc. Let me tell you… real riot gear is EXPENSIVE. So I ordered air soft gun equipment (vests and helmets), borrowed boots from a friend, bought the other clothes and equipment from thrift stores. The gore and makeup for the film was a concern to me. I looked on a million internet sites but I had never done makeup before and just didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know what to buy or how to use the stuff. People go to school for special effects. I was way over my head if I wanted to do anything crazy. I ended up going to Mr.Funs and getting halloween stuff and re-working the script to fit what I had bought.

I had all of my supplies, storyboards, actors, helpers, costumes and equipment. We set a date in early August to film from 9PM to 9AM. As part of my budget I made sure to “cater” the shoot. (By cater I mean a few $5 dollar pizzas, chips, coffee and 2 liters of soda). That’s the least the people that helped me deserved. Having everyone show up we started to get into costume and get setup.

Shooting 7

Shooting 3

Shooting 4

Shooting 1

We started filming in order of how the movie was going to go. It was the easiest way for me to keep track of everything. There would be nothing worse to finish shooting and be missing a scene or something. Shooting in downtown Kent was nice and also humorous. For the first scene, we drove around downtown with me and two other people hanging out of the back of my car in front of three kids (our actors) with masks running (SPRINTING / ALMOST DYING) behind us. People walking down the streets or hanging in front of bars seemed pretty confused. They seemed even more confused to watch three large men in riot gear with skull masks sprinting through downtown. Other than having the usual, random problems (rain / car battery dying) the shoot went very smoothly. One notable occurrence was during a small break when we were in the driveway of the studio and all three officers were standing around. A car with a few guys pulled in to turn around but only made it half way in the drive before seeing Scott, Sam and Max. They look at them, then at each other and I heard them say “What the fuck is going on here!? We need to get out of here. What the fuck!?” Then they peeled out of the drive and went the opposite way.

We finished filming early in the morning. Everyone was either asleep in the studio or had left (minus Scott and Dane). We wrapped up and called it a day.

Shooting 2

After the editing process I enlisted Gabe and Sam to help me write the soundtrack. I thought about using someone else’s music or maybe buying some music or trying to get a lesser known band to allow me the permission to use their music. But with musicians as friends there is no need to do that when you can have your own soundtrack and people that want to write one. We spent a couple weeks writing and recording the music. The final soundtrack was done and all that was left was one final edit.

I can’t thank the people involved in this enough. Check it out below and help spread the word!

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