July 31, 2017

No Crew, No Problem: How to Shoot a Film by Yourself

Here are some things to think about when shooting a film all by your lonesome.

Maybe you live in a small town, maybe you don't live in a film hub, or maybe you are just a little antisocial—whatever the case, you might find it difficult to find a crew to work on your projects with you. This is a problem plenty of filmmakers encounter at some point in their life, but instead of slinking home to spend another night binge-watching something on Netflix, you can actually spend your time figuring out how to make films all by yourself.

In this video, Darious Britt of D4Darious explains his approach to one-man-band projects and shares a bunch of tips that will come in handy when you're making films without a crew. Check it out below:

Now, you may not be able to get away with shooting a complicated feature film stuffed with car chases and explosions without a crew, but shooting a short film about something simple is absolutely doable.

And even though there are a few things you have to do differently when making a film by yourself, like setting up your monitors differently and using stand-ins for focusing, much of what Britt does is what you'd normally do for a low-budget film you'd shoot with a crew. Things like storyboarding, shooting with natural light, and recording good audio are integral to every production, but they become far more important and/or challenging when shooting solo.

Some advice on one-man-banding it from someone who spent five years doing exactly that: invest in plenty of mic stands, because without a crew to hold stuff for you, you're gonna need 'em.

What are some things someone should know when shooting a film without a crew? Let us know in the comments below.      

Your Comment

8 Comments

It always shocks me when people CAN'T do anything on their own. Great crew is awesome and makes a huge difference in one's projects, but I've always felt a true filmmaker doesn't need much they can't bring to tell a story. And knowing all about all aspects of the different parts of the filmmaking machine makes you a f lot better at managing a crew when your projects do have the money to 'do things right'.

July 31, 2017 at 10:16PM

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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money. Sometimes, not.
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⬆️ This...

July 31, 2017 at 10:21PM, Edited July 31, 10:21PM

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Very true

July 31, 2017 at 11:55PM

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I've noticed that a lot of people have a very elitist attitude about specializing in a particular job and only that job, because apparently that's the only "right" way to go into filmmaking.

I've seen some pretty snobbish insults directed at people who do a ton of different jobs on a small set. I've even seen it said before that if you call yourself a "filmmaker" (as opposed to a "cinematographer," a "colorist," or something more specific) you've already failed. It's such a narrow-minded and pointless mentality.

August 2, 2017 at 7:19PM

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I am completing post production on a very ambitious first narrative short on which I did everything. Here are some things I got right and wrong.
For sound, use a directional lavalier and pocket recorder for each actor, eliminating the need for a sound person and boom operator. Early on, I used a Zoom H5 tucked inside the actors' belts. Later, I acquired a Juice Link Little Darlin, which is much easier for the actors. But its UI is from 1955 - make sure you have the DAR's operation down cold. Ideally, an off-camera actor can check the sound with headphones after an otherwise good take.
If you communicate what you're trying to do with an experienced cast, they can be a big help handling the slate and watching for continuity issues. Most actors are high in agreeableness. Once they buy in to what you're trying to do, they can be a big help. It works much better if you pay them.
Use only manual-focus primes. If you depend on autofocus, especially on a zoom, you're setting yourself up for unpleasant surprises in post. This one bit me three times. Twice I was able to work around it, but in one case I was forced to eliminate the shot completely.

August 1, 2017 at 12:17AM

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Curtis Polk
Principal
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Although it is a ton of work to do everything yourself, it is the best way to learn the entire process. Your first few that you do by yourself might not be the greatest, but each one should be better than the one before it. I found it nearly impossible to find reliable crew, so for my first film, I ended up doing nearly everything myself. We put the mics on overhead boom stands, bought all our food at Costco, and kept our locations to a minimum. The hardest part was actually editing the film.

If you watch the Make Your Own Damn Movie series, they give a lot of great tips about how to shoot films on a shoe string. I was surprised to see how rigorous the casting process is for Troma. They call the actors back several times and use that process deliberately to screen out the unmotivated. I didn't have that much of a problem with the actors, but had many problems with crew.

August 4, 2017 at 10:46PM

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ROOM TONE!!!

August 10, 2017 at 4:42PM

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That was a really good short..

August 18, 2017 at 10:07AM

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Christopher Evans
Video Artist
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