3) Stop talking about it and start working. Even if you can only work on your project for a few hours a week, keep at it and you will eventually have a film. If you cannot find the time to work on a film, stop thinking about filmmaking and try something else.
4) Keep it short and simple. Under three minutes is brilliant. A one minute is a delight to make and does not cost very much. There are festivals just for films that are a minute long (or less). Shorter films fare better at film festivals. Medium length films (15 to 25 minutes) do not fit into festivals and are difficult to distribute. Films for children can also be difficult to distribute and are often shown only in matinee festival programs.
5) Make a storyboard of your film. A storyboard is a simple set of drawings that illustrate key moments and shots in your film. Keep it SIMPLE. Use stick figures. Do your best to show camera angles. Draw images on index cards or on your computer and print them out. Pin your storyboard up on a wall next to your desk and add or remove images as you make changes. Making a storyboard is the best way to organize your thoughts. Of course, you don't have to follow it but it is a great way to get started, it will make your project better and it will save time.
Once you have a storyboard, pick two people whose taste you admire and talk them through it. You'll get lots of new ideas (write everything down!) and you will find out what works and what does not work. For my last two films, I've hired a storyboard artist (thank you Dan Schaeffer). It jump started my work and I got a boatload of new ideas, especially for the transitions from scene to scene. I have seen very smart students ask other students to do a storyboard for their film.
6) Ask for help. Online searches and animation books can answer technical questions, but asking for help from filmmakers and film industry professionals will make you a part of the filmmaking community and you will find out how kind and generous people can be. Jim Blashfield gave me my first animation stand and Joan Gratz loaned me a 35mm flatbed editing machine for years!
7) Work with whatever money and resources you have. Borrow equipment. Ask sound studios equipment rental companies and production houses for reduced fees, evening rates, student rates or free time/equipment. You might become a lifelong customer! Most people fund their first film by asking their parents, relatives or family friends for money, either directly or on a crowdfunding site.
Here are ideas to get you started.
by Joanna Priestley
1) Spend time deciding what to do and how to do it. The most important part of a film is the idea. Take time to develop your ideas and to write and rewrite the script (if you are using one). You may be working with this idea for a few years and you do not want to get bored with it. I worked on my first film, The Rubber Stamp Film, for five years.
2) Work with what you know best. One of my favorite animated films, The Back Brace (by Andy and Carolyn London), is a first film about a trauma in Andy's childhood. What do you know really well? What are you passionate about? This can make the difference between an ordinary film and a unique and fascinating film. I chose to make an experimental film with rubber stamps on index cards because I had a novelty rubber stamp company and a huge collection of rubber stamps. I also knew many people in the business and was able to borrow lots of stamps to keep the process interesting.
See below for "Entering Film Festivals"
Want to Make a Short Film?
Joanna shooting The Rubber Stamp Film in 1982. Photo by R. Dennis Wiancko.
Entering Film Festivals
Entering film festivals is daunting because there are thousands to choose from. It can also be expensive because many festivals have entry fees. With a few exceptions, I spend very little money entering film festivals. I feel that it is unfair for the filmmakers to provide the content for a film festival and also be asked to provide funding for the festival. That's the duty of the sponsors. There are many web sites that aggregate film festivals and make it easier to enter them, since you only have to fill out the information forms and upload your film one time. My favorite of these is Film Freeway. You can set parameters for searching for film festivals, including the amount you are willing to spend on entry fees.
Favorite Film Festivals
ANIFEST (Czech Republic)
Annecy International Animation Festival (France)
ASIFA Animation Festivals (USA)
Cannes Film Festival (France, pronounced "can", as in tin can)
CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival (Canada)
Chilemonos Animation Festival (Santiago, Chile)
Cinanima Animation Festival (Portugal)
interfilm Short Film Festival Berlin (Germany)
Melbourne International Animation Festival (Australia)
New York Film Festival (USA)
Northwest Filmmaker's Festival (USA)
Oberhausen International Short Film Festival (Germany)
Pixelatl Festival (Mexico)
Ottawa International Animation Festival (Canada)
Sundance Film Festival (USA) Really difficult to get in.
Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film (Germany)
Telluride Film Festival (USA)
Tricky Women Animation Festival (Austria)
Zagreb World Festival of Animated Film (Croatia)
“Ruby Beach Illumination” (1986) Olympic National Forest, WA, by Joanna Priestley.
Photo by R. Dennis Wiancko.