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How to make a Short Film: Step-by-Step Guide for 2023

Updated 1 year ago - By Cybertize Digital Team - 3338 Words

Global consumption of short film has unexpectedly increased, and in this digital age, millions of gigabytes of creative short films are watched daily. It’s because short films have a wide range of uses that benefit corporations, governments, political parties, and even private individuals like musicians, performers, painters, and dancers. This step-by-step guide will be very helpful if you are a business or in the film industry and want to incorporate short films in your forthcoming commercial or project.

How to make a Short Film? A Step-by-Step Guide for 2023

Short films are the perfect format for conveying clear narratives and innovative ideas and demonstrating your filmmaking abilities. A short film lets the filmmaker immerse themselves in a topic or narrative cinematically without sacrificing a significant amount of resources and time to the project. 

Making short films on a tight budget is the main objective in this guide. But you should know that short motion pictures that are nominated and awarded by the Academy Awards, Oscar, British Academy Film Awards, or Golden Globe Awards require a great deal of work.

Knowing the basics of a short film

You can create your low-budget short film with the help of this straightforward tutorial guide for beginners and aspiring short filmmakers.

It would be best to start with this guide using a 4K camera. For creating mind-blowing short films, 4K cameras like the Nikon Z6 II, Sony A7 IV, Olympus OMD E-M1X, and Panasonic G85 will work well.

Remember that a short film is not a regular movie and that its running time may range from 5 to 15 minutes.

Now that everything is prepared, follow the tutorial’s step-by-step instructions to make your classic short movie.

Step 1: Doing with the scripting (Pre-Production Phase)

If you are a newbie or aspiring screenwriter, writing a script for the first time can be highly complicated or tough. But don’t worry, as there are a lot of fundamentals that will make things easier as you move on with the tutorial.

Your first objective should be to create an outline or synopsis that includes both the protagonist and the antagonist. After which you can proceed on to the starting plot, an intermediate plot that includes the twist and concluding plot. Experts urge filmmakers and screenwriters to make their actors work hard to attain their objectives.

Expert Advice:

Even if you believe that certain things cannot be included, keep writing and mentioning everything crisply. Don’t spend too much time editing/revising as you write. Allow your cinematic imagination to run, and after you have everything on paper, organize them properly.

Keep in mind that you have access to many freelance screenwriters who may provide you with mind-blowing scripting for a minimal cost.

Step 2: Making the storyboard (Pre-Production Phase)

You can add a series of sketches or illustrations in this section that depict the various shots intended for a brief commercial or film. A storyboard can include dialogue, other notes, and instructions for the camera position, lights, and progressions. The process of imposing the script with the illustrated plot is known as storyboarding, and it is correctly disseminated to the entire team. So, that everyone is on the same page for the film.

You must realize how important it is to maintain a timeline and screenplay in order to ensure that every shot and scene is appropriately integrated into the overall narrative.

If it is for a business purpose or advertisement, you must state the introduction, issue, proposed solution, and call to action or CTA.

Expert Advice: Avoid thinking entirely in descriptive terms when creating a storyboard because this can lead to excessive bragging. You should always research the storyboarding techniques of the top films for the best outcomes. The secret is to get familiar with each character and work with the script.

Step 3: Setting up the budget (Pre-Production Phase)

The process of creating a budget entails assessing all costs, including those associated with the cast, crew, set design/location, equipment, and overall production. Working on a low-budget short film requires making the best use of your actors and crew’s time to reduce expenses.

For instance, if you have several artists, each with a distinct schedule, you should select a suitable time for the majority of them to arrive at the set together. So, that you may capture the shots of the available artists simultaneously to avoid wasting time and keeping other artists waiting.

You can look at the following elements that need to be considered for calculating the cost to simplify things in the budget.

  • Cost for crew and artists
  • Staff costs for shooting
  • Food supplies, lighting, sound, and other expenses
  • Location and Set construction costs
  • Cost for clothing, puppets, special effects, cosmetics, and pets
  • Studio/Workshop lease and associated costs

Step 4: Time to hire and assemble the crew/team (Pre-Production Phase)

Hiring talent and crew can be fairly challenging if you are new to the industry. However, there are various websites and social media platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, where you can find the good recruits. Creators and aspiring filmmakers hire a writer and director before raising money, including for short motion pictures.

The best place to start is by choosing an experienced short filmmaker or director who can manage the crew and further hire from his network.

The Line Producer and Unit Production Manager (with the most comprehensive expertise and brainstorming capabilities with short commercials, short dramas, animated short movies, etc.) Will now be recruited, so here’s a quick trick.

Hire an experienced professional who can serve as a producer, line producer, and unit production manager if your budget is constrained. Unit Production Managers are in charge of production logistics, whereas Line Producers are in charge of the budget and anything related to finances.

Once you have completed hiring your crews, gather them all together in one location to educate them on the overall storyline and film elements, such as shots, locations, and actor roles.

Step 5: Casting the performers or actors (Pre-Production Phase)

Now that the performers must be cast, auditions are required to find the best talent for your movie. You must describe the idea and offer details about the character and the character’s appearance in the audition announcement or advertisement. Many producers like to make their audition offers visually and audibly appealing to match the film’s dynamics.

The following is a quick process for the casting call or audition.

  • Reread the script
  • Compose an audition report
  • Select a casting or audition room
  • Promote/advertise your casting call or audition
  • Do with the audition or performance Slides
  • Record every event of the audition
  • Issue results/outcomes to all stakeholders

Here’s how a production company does a casting call or audition announcement.

Project Description
Casting for New Web Show for a Top Production Banner
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Multiple Characters required to play important roles
Shoot Date – March 2023 (Tentative)
Primary Lead & Secondary Character Brief :
1. Rohit (Single Father/Lead Character): Mid 40’s
2. Raunaq (Son/Lead Character): Very expressive who can emote well. Fabulous
actor. Screen Age is 16-17. Real Age is 20 – 22
3. Ankita (Mother): Mid 40’s. Semi Known Face ideally from TV circuit.
4. Amma (Granny) : Mid 60’s. Witty character. Fun Loving
5. Investigative Journalist (Janvi) : Mid 30’s. Go getter. Level Headed.
6. Tarush (Best Friend/College boy): Good Looking. Charming. Screen Age is 16
-17. Real Age is 20 – 22
7. Ira (Ex GF/ College girl): Pin-up girl. Attractive. Hot. Sexy. Flirtatious. Cold bitch.
Screen Age is 16 – 17. Real Age is 20 – 22
8. Anshay (College boy) : Droolworthy. Good Looking. Charmer. Dominating. Group
Leader. Negative character. Tall. Well built. Screen Age is 16 – 17. Real Age is 20 –
9. Ayaan (College boy): Sweet. Soft spoken always looking for validation. Not
confident. Hesitant. Small. Frail. Fragile character. Screen Age is 16 – 17. Real Age
is 20 – 22
10. Zara (Ex GF/College girl): Rohit’s ex gf. Great cricketer. Athletic figure.
Emotional. Apart from the rest, very focused girl from lower middle class family who
wants to make a mark for herself. Basically an outsider who gets attached to
Raunaq due to their commonality, Screen Age is 16 – 17. Real Age is 20 – 22
11. Karan (Best friend) : He is Raunaq’s bestie who’s been with him through good
and bad times. Good Looking. Screen Age is 16 – 17. Real Age is 20 – 22

Audition Call

Step 6: Obtain the proper equipment and gear (Pre-Production Phase)

Large, expensive equipment and gear designed specifically for motion pictures are not feasible in a fast-changing digital era. You can get all types of video production gear and equipment from online shopping stores at an affordable price. 

Be aware that the most effective shot angles and actions for your movie can be achieved using a traditional DSLR camera, a low-cost 4K camera, or even an iPhone. Numerous films or visuals fully filmed on an iPhone have won top motion picture awards worldwide.

Experts advise young filmmakers to spend more money on sound gear and equipment since viewers can overlook subpar visuals but not subpar audio.

The list of exclusive production equipment and gear that are necessary for short films are as follows –

  1. DSLR or 4K Camera or iPhone
  2. Tripod, Trolley/Dolly and Cranes
  3. Lenses and Viewfinder
  4. External Hard Drive of 2 TB and more
  5. Macs, PCs, phones, or tablets (for editing)
  6. Editing software and apps like Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Final Cut Pro, Pinnacle Studio, Cyberlink Power Director, Adobe After Effects, etc.

The list of exclusive sound equipment and gear that are necessary for short promos or commercials, or films are as follows –

  1. Digital Audio Recorder
  2. Condenser Shotgun Microphone
  3. Handheld and Lapel Microphones
  4. Boom Pole and Head Phone
  5. Audio Cables

Step 7: Doing the location recon (Pre-Production Phase)

Finding genuine sites that may act as the imaginary settings mentioned in a film’s screenplay requires a lot of location research. The correct setting aids the storyline and creates a realistic world in films.

For any location scout, finding the ideal settings can be challenging, but if you contact the state ministry of culture and information or their liaison officers, they can be of great assistance. When you choose a location, ensure that you have also obtained authorization from the local government. Make sure the location can easily get logistics supplies. Charges for the location and other facilities should also be paid if necessary.

Step 8: Putting the lighting and sound (Pre-Production Phase)

Types of lighting

Different light sources and positioning create

different effects.



Key light: this is the main source of light that

will ensure the subject of the shot is lit, usually

from the front.

Back light: a light source positioned behind

the subject. Used without a key light, this

creates a silhouette, shrouding the subject in

darkness for dramatic effect.

Fill light: to fill in other parts of the shot with

light as appropriate, usually from a side angle.

Source light: lighting that is visible in the

shot, like a window or lamp.




Contrast range

The range of lighting in a shot can be altered

for effect.



High key: full use of key, back and fill light to

create a flat, even range of light with little use

of shadows or depth. For example, a

Hollywood musical utilises this type of lighting.

Low key: noticeable contrast between light

and dark, shadows and light. Creates depth in

a shot. Commonly this will be achieved by

using key light and little use of back and fill

light. Film Noir is a classic example of this lighting.




Colour temperature

Combined with the quality of light in the

scene, colour temperature can establish a

tone of either warmth or coldness. This is

done by using light filters, diffusers and

different coloured gels fixed over the camera



Warm colours such as red and amber often

provide an image or shot with a sense of

warmth, with blues and greys used to create a

sense of coldness. The colour temperature

will not always be consciously noticed by

viewers making it an effective tool for creating

mood, atmosphere and to code a story so that

it has greater dramatic clarity.



Colour palette

The predominant colour scheme. Used for

dramatic and emotional effect as well as story

and character definition.


Colours are often used for their associations.

Darker colours like red and black suggest

white suggest purity and innocence, while

passion, danger and evil; lighter colours like

historical films might use a brown, yellow or

sepia colour palette. The colour palette will be

emphasised through costume, set design,

location, lighting and temperature.



Everything You Need To Know About Lighting And Coloring

Every seasoned director and cinematographer will agree that lighting is a crucial component of cinematography. And is one of the many fields in which configuration options are virtually limitless.

Different cinematographers may light a scene in an assortment of ways, each changing the tone and significance of the picture. Usually, tungsten, halogen, Hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide lamps (HMI), and fluorescent lighting are very much required. You can discover some specific lighting options for your short independent films or any business commercials below.

  • Natural Light
  • Fill Light
  • Overhead Light
  • Back Light
  • Side Light
  • Kicker Light
  • Practical Lighting
  • Bounced Illumination
  • Soft Light
  • Hard Light
  • Low and High Key

Like lighting, the sound is also an essential component of any movie. As was already established, while consumers may tolerate visual flaws, any audio issues would instantly ruin a movie. So, to make your movie a spectacle, you must also stick with some basic sound equipment. If you want to have an edge, investing in high-quality microphones is crucial.

Step 9: Building the set or theatre (Pre-Production Phase)

Another crucial element that must be in harmony with the movie’s location and the script is set arrangement, commonly referred to as set dressing. It includes any actual location where filming will occur.

Set dressing or arrangement is more than just stuffing the room or the space with things to assist the actors standing before them. It should also look as natural as possible to help the audience create a genuine environment. Furniture, props, and other small details are crucial, but if you want to go all out, make sure the lighting is perfect.

Expert Advice: You should concentrate most of your efforts on studying different films to comprehend how they accomplish it so flawlessly if you desire the top results. You must thus research your shooting location, break down each script into sequences, and choose a sensible and complementary set.

Step 10: Integrating special effects VFX (Pre-Production Phase)

It is a prevalent belief that special effects can transform any movie into a phenomenal success. Special effects in movies or short commercials instantly improve a narrative by creating realistic characters, settings, and thrills.

Although CGI special effects are most prominent for any seasoned director or producer, you can also stick to the fundamentals with green screen. Which has been employed in the movie business for decades. Being an unusual hue for skin and clothing, green is very helpful in differentiating the subject from the surroundings. Green Screen special effects are also cost-effective when compared to CGI. 

Other special effects that you can also do –

  • Stop Motion
  • Motion Control
  • Live Special Effects

Step 11: Commence with shooting (Production Phase)

Finally, the big day has come, and you must assemble your team for the video shoot. The cinematographer needs to locate the frame and rehearse the movements; hence, you should bring a stand-in to the set. To avoid obstructing the cinematography, your sound technician might need to use some ingenuity. Your gaffer or lighting crew will illuminate the set or theatre during this time.

Every expert would concur that you should record several takes, even if the first take was excellent. You can use the next ones if anything wrong goes with the previous takes.

Expert Advice: You shouldn’t limit the footage you capture, and it’s good to capture a lot of each scene. Long footage will work well because editing greatly reduces it.

Step 12: Getting into movie direction (Production Phase)

Everybody’s under the director’s authority. He is a superb creator who is bursting with imagination. The director is the one who enters the audience’s consciousness and compels them to become fully absorbed in his or her creativity. Five dimensions define a director’s job.

  1. A director is capable of mastering any movie with the appropriate frames and sequences.
  2. A director is genuinely the man behind the camera; therefore, camera movement dictates his skill.
  3. The director is in charge of creating the ideal and captivating set.
  4. Light is crucial for the filmmaker or director since he needs to succeed with the proper illumination throughout the entire movie.
  5. Last but not least, the director is in charge of directing how the actors and performers act out their parts in each scene.

Expert Advice: Let your team members, technicians and crew be the subject-matter authorities. You should pay attention to all. For instance, you should pay attention to your sound technician if they claim to have captured a distinctive or needless sound and eliminate unnecessary noises. Be receptive to the opinions, interests, and issues of others. As a director, you should be conscientious, formally appropriate, polite, and accessible.

Step 13: Doing with the editing (Post-Production Phase)

You have every scene that needs to be edited on your external storage, including both the top and worst shots. Software and applications are incredibly helpful, but you must first make sure that all the shots are correctly gathered and ordered.

The “Rough Cut” is what it’s known as, where you must keep all the necessary shots to be assembled in order. Your main resource is Rough Cut, but it contains all the incorrect takes that need to be altered or removed.

Before making any cuts, use video editing tools (a few top ones listed above) and software to match your audio to each clip.

Expert Advice: To create the best possible version of your movie or short commercial, you, as the film editor, must work with sound engineers, colourists, and special effects experts. You must capture each image/shot and perform the necessary adjustments under the cinematic features, such as sound effects, speech, and music.

Step 14: Adding sound and colours (Post-Production Phase)

After the rough edit, any film or short video movie depends heavily on sound and colour. When a movie starts playing, the audience may experience an emotional outpouring tied to sound and colour processing.

Adding sound can be challenging, so you should work closely with a sound engineer who can create the many forms of sound and music required for your shot and scene. For instance, adding sound effects like footsteps, birdsong, removing a jacket or coat, and slamming doors are ways to give life to your film.

Similarly, colour correction and grading are essential to punching your movie. In colour correction, you can intensify sceneries, make objects black and white, sharpen people’s eyes, and blur out/dim backdrops, among other enjoyable things. 

Colouring experts are skilled at using techniques to direct the viewer’s attention to specific areas of each frame.

Step 15: Develop the final cut (Post-Production Phase)

Short video ad commercials and films don’t contribute much to the final cut process. During this stage, a lot of work is put into editing and reediting the movie until everyone is satisfied with the final result.

In this phase, the colour grading, audio mixing, special effects, and closed captioning experts creatively transform the film from dull to spectacular.

The final cut is completed after several edits and reedits, when new content, sounds, and other elements might be introduced to the film.

Bottom Line

Making short films is certainly not easy, especially when you consider all the components involved, as was just mentioned. The secret to making a successful movie is creativity. If you have good visual sense in addition to being creative, you can use your natural talent to make any illustration seem realistic. Finally, if you have ambition and the desired passion, nothing can stop you from creating your first short film, which will be viewed by people worldwide.


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