Making Student Films

Film making at its most basic, often appears in everyday life, but this isn’t about making home videos or filming your favourite band in concert, this is about making a film in a professional sense, and the process of bringing an idea to life in film.

A good film catches the attention of the audience, through both a well written plot, and believable characters. In fact it’s not just the characters and their actions that have to be authentic, but the filming locations, props and costumes as well.

Film structuralist Christian Metz, describes a film as containing five channels of communication, which are visual image, print and other graphics, speech, music and noise. The process of filmmaking he says, is how these five channels of communication work together in every scene.

To get to the point where you have a finished product and all five ‘channels of communication’ are working together, takes a lot of work, in both pre and post production. Like anything creative, the film making process will start with an idea or story concept. This will be developed further into a plot, which details the start, middle and end of each act (or section) of the film. It’s at this stage that you will also see how each character develops through the film. To break it down further, each scene in the film will then be made into a storyboard with notes and ideas. Eventually the final screenplay will be produced which has scene headings, directors notes, details on camera angles, character entrances and exits and actor direction. This will be accompanied by a script detailing all the dialogue.

Once this has all been finalised, the production process can start, which will involve hiring and rehearsing actors, sorting out set design, lighting, filming locations, hiring the crew, and then actually filming the piece. After this, the post production team will kick into action, and edit all the footage together, add in any graphical work, and polish the finished film.

At some point in this process you may think about why you want to make a film, and this will determine what happens with the end result. It may form part of a university project, or an entry for a film competition, or you may be thinking of getting your film professionally made, financed, distributed and shown on TV, in cinemas, or at film festivals.  In which case, when working on your ideas and plot, you’ll also need to produce a logline and/or treatment. These items will help sell the idea, and traditionally contains short summaries of the plot, characters, genre and theme of film, and a hint as to where the ending might go.

If after reading this, you still want to embrace the magic of film, then the hard work is only just beginning. If you’d like and further information about the creative, technical, or business aspects of the film industry, then the BBC Film Network and Film 4 Productions have plenty of advice on their respective websites. Who knows, maybe your idea will be the next big box office hit?!

Reference: Basics Film Making: Screenwriting by Robert Edgar Hunt.