This post was written by Stephanie Ruiz.

Is this your first short film? Are you contemplating taking the leap of faith and creating your very first project, but wondering, "Where do I even start?"

First, let me tell you we’ve all been there. Secondly, congrats that’s a very big deal, and get ready because you’re going to kill it!

Now that I have successfully produced three short films, Hope You Feel Better,One Odd Dream, and She Dead, and directed two, Hope You Feel Better and Nose Goes while currently in pre-production for my fourth short film/ proof of concept, Happy Anniversary.

I feel that I can confidently give you six tips that might be helpful to you when preparing your first budgeted film.


1. Story

First, you need a story. Sometimes it might be hard to find writers in the beginning because usually, everyone wants to direct their own written pieces. So try creating some work, or collaborate with a friend and brainstorm a story that you both feel passionate about. I tend to create based on truthful events in my life and sprucing it up!

I write from past experiences that I think would be fun to alter. So write about that one time your cousin scared everyone with that awful prank, or maybe that one time your teacher embarrassed you in front of a whole class. Sometimes when the stories come from truth they can be the most captivating films to watch!

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2. Funding

OK, great I have a story, now how do I put this together? Well, you need funding to hire a crew and cast, or maybe you need funding to feed your crew and cast since they helped out for free!

Whatever it may be, you’ll need funding, but where can you get that? Try starting a campaign page, like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo, etc. Make sure to see what site offers the best options for your needs.

Really understand the percentages the site takes, or if they don’t give you your funds raised if you don’t reach your goal. Share with everyone: friends, family, school, and work. Reach out to as many people as you can.

Another option is to research filmmaker grants. There are so many organizations that are looking to help creatives fund films, ranging from hundreds to thousands! Just do your research and get creative, type in your gender, your nationality, or even just for living in the state you’re in.

The possibilities are endless. However, be aware of deadlines and when to start prepping for them. As a 1st gen Latina woman, I use my personal background to my advantage and see what’s out there looking to help women like me. Try what works for you. There is an ample amount of opportunity just waiting for people to apply!

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3. Hiring

Once you have locked in funds let’s start to think about hiring crew and cast. I’ve come to find out incredibly useful resources that I once never thought to think of: Facebook!

It’s a great resource when it comes to indie filmmaking. There are a ton of groups that are filled with creatives from all over the world ready to work.

These freelancers range from free in exchange for experience to highly experienced filmmakers looking to stay busy. Use keywords like, “NYC Film Production” or “Passion Projects,” “TV/ Film Crew Marketplace,” and anything relative to filmmaking. Another way to use social media to your advantage is by not being afraid of needing help and sharing that with your followers, most people would be very interested to work on a movie! Don’t shy away from that.

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4. Casting

Acting schools are filled with eager actors ready to start working. Cold email schools, meaning even if you don’t know anyone there, reach out regardless, you never know if you don’t ask. Closed mouths don’t get fed! Seriously what better way to provide an opportunity to showcase newly trained actors, than a film?

Other resources to find trained actors are paid sites like Actors Access, Backstage, and Casting Networks.

With these sites, you are more likely to find a range of professional working actors, able to give that specific solid performance you’re looking for.

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5. Production

Whether you’re the director, executive producer, writer, or all of the above, always try to understand that making a movie is supposed to be fun! If you’ve prepared with enough time, your shoot should run smoothly. Granted usually everything that isn’t supposed to happen sometimes, can happen.

However, enjoy the process, adapt, and learn from the experience. Remember you’re the leader of your team, people will follow suit and carry the same energy as you.

All eyes are on you, so it’s important to steer your production into the best experience possible and that’s done by respecting your team's collaborative process. This way people feel heard and valued when executing. Make your set so enjoyable that it makes your crew want to work with you again. This film may be your baby but this also is a team effort. Trust the people you’ve hired to bring your story to life in the best way they can.

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6. Post Production

There are so many moving parts when it comes to post-production. It’s funny because post-production I feel should be prepared in pre-production and sometimes it's overlooked and held to think about until after your film.

However, I believe there are aspects you need to prepare for when thinking ahead. That being, color, sound design, music composition, or editing just to name a few. Something I like to do is make notes of different aspects of other films, whether it is independent pieces or big-time blockbusters. It might be the score, or maybe it's the color grading of a scene that I think would work for mine, it might be the timing for shots, who knows!

These are things that can help your post-production team replicate or create based on references.

Yes, you should execute in production as much as you can, but give your post-team something to work with and from.

This post was written by Stephanie Ruiz.

Instagram: @directedbystephanie