In the post before this, I discussed my method for writing a script for a short video. In this post, I aim to shine some light on the next step in my short movie making process: filming!
WHY A VIDEO?
A picture may be worth a thousand words… but a video is worth a thousand pictures. Literally. This is the reason I chose filming as my preferred medium for telling a story. Since I am a visually oriented person, it helps that I don’t have to use words to describe scenery or character movement; I simply show it with moving pictures. While a writer selects words that best express their mental image for a scene; I use props, lighting, backgrounds, and characters to translate the picture from my mind to the screen. But figuring out what to show and how to show it takes a different kind of creativity, and sometimes altering my mental image to match what I can realistically do.
Deciding the physical appearance of a character is an important beginning step in my filming process. I aim to tell a lot about a character’s personality with their clothes, hair, eyes, and facial expression. With LEGOs, I can actually build the characters to make them look similar to what I picture in my mind. I can switch parts out and give them different heights, hairstyles, or outfits depending on what the story requires. I want to be sure that my villains look like villains, and my heroes look like heroes. This helps the audience get a feeling for what to expect from each character. Sometimes it takes several different LEGO piece combinations to find the right look I am going for, but I think that it is worth all the extra fun!
BEHIND THE BACKGROUND
Though backgrounds are not usually the focus of a scene, they add dimension and atmosphere to the overall visual story. Since my story is being acted out on a LEGO-sized scale, it is easy to find backgrounds to fit. Among many other live-sized household objects, I have used windowsills for hallways, desk legs for pillars, bookshelves for ballrooms, a fireplace for a dark alley, etc. When filming, the camera will only have to capture the small portion of the background that will suggest the setting of the scene. So, if the background feels to-scale for the characters and camera, it will become believable to the viewer as well, no matter what is used.
LIGHT IT UP
Although lighting may seem like an insignificant step in filming, it is one of the determining factors in setting the mood, showing passage of time, and creating the illusion of reality. When I begin filming, I always try to find a reliable and sufficient light source that will provide the mood that the story needs and will remain consistent if I film a scene over a period of time. I have used warm Christmas lights to show happiness, bright flashlights to show stress, and even a weird disco-toy to create the illusion of a wild party. I think that using ordinary objects to light up an extra-ordinary story will help make the film more believable.
THROUGH THE EYE OF THE CAMERA
“1,2,3 Go!” and I press the record button on my iPhone camera. My little sister Josie says the character’s line as I zoom the camera in to give the illusion of physical movement. I pause the camera. “Josie, I think that line needs to be said with more emotion.” Josie sighs as we get everything back into position and start the shot over again, but this time with “emotion”. Line by line, angle by angle, sometimes only a couple of seconds at a time, this is how we create each individual film clip. My movies are generally composed of about 45 video clips, each 3-10 seconds long. “Take two, they’re small” is my motto for filming because I always want to have an extra video clip to choose from in the event that we made a mistake in filming the previous clip.
If there is anything I’ve learned about filming, it’s that there is always more about it that I could learn. It is an art form in and of itself. Of course, my objective isn’t to master cinematography, my objective is to tell a story; filming is just one of the tools that I use to do that. I always feel so pleased when Josie and I finish filming the closing clip. So far, the story has gone from ideas in my imagination, to sentences in a script, to video clips on my iPhone.
What’s next? Stay tuned for my post on editing and piecing it together!
Hadassah Murdock is a seventeen-year-old home school teen who lives and works on her family’s farm in South Carolina. She loves playing with her four siblings and making movies for her YouTube channel, which you can check out here. When she’s not helping with the animals or working in the fields, she enjoys talking to friends, brainstorming new stories, and baking muffins. She credits attending Write2Ignite conferences for learning aspects of storytelling and characterization. She hopes to expand her knowledge of screenwriting and film producing.