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What it really takes to make a "movie"

With the Jalopnik Film Festival contest thing coming up I thought I'd give a quick rundown of what it actually takes to make a 3-5 minute short. I know this isnt going to apply to everyone, maybe you want to do things differently, cut stuff out, whatever. This is going to be as minimal as possible while still getting quality results. I wont touch on insurance, permits, or a full crew as not everyone can afford all that. (Disclaimer: Shooting without a permit or insurance can really ruin you in some places. Be warned.)

First and foremost you'll need something to film with, be it a dedicated film camera, a DSLR, an iPhone, or my personal favorite Bolex hand cranked camera. (If you shoot non-digital you're also going to need film stock which is expensive as rhymes with truck.) My crew and I use Canon 5D mk III's with different firmware and an assortment of different lenses and filters which I wont get in to because that will take another 6 hours.


You'll need lighting equipment, which (to keep it simple, we will use 3 point system) consists of: Key light, back light, and fill light. The key is your main source of lighting and serves as the standard for your "look." I shoot outside a lot so my key is usually the sun. Your fill light is softer and is used to get rid of shadows (like the one your nose projects on your face). The back light is to bring you out of the background, more or less.

Sound equipment: We use a TASCAM dr-100 and a high quality stick mic (which I dont remember branding) with a wind sock for sound. The tascam allows for playback and can also be used as a mic, although I dont recommend it. We use boom poles, floor mics, and duct tape to get the mic where it needs to be.


The "Talent:" Self explanatory. You need someone or something to film. Hopefully they dont suck balls, unless that's what you're filming.

Assorted Misc: Editing software, mixing boards, coffee.

The number one thing you'll need is time. Everything takes time. Setting up the shot, getting your numbers down, rehearsals, dry runs, filmed rehearsals, reshoots, having to change angles because a train came through the background. Everything adds time. The best projects make good use of their time, keep that in mind.


The below clip took us a full day to film and it only resulted in a rough cut of a proof of concept that never materialized into a full project. Its like a minute and a half long.

Clippy clip

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