Film Topics and Ideas

1. A health spa is the location, jealousy is the theme. A painting is an object that plays a part in the story.

2. A park is the location, loneliness is the theme. A bus is an object that plays a part in the story.

3. A church is the location, love is the theme. A deckchair is an object that plays a part in the story.

4. Work is the location, joy is the theme. A book is an object that plays a part in the story.

5. A swimming pool is the location, shyness is the theme. A silk scarf is an object that plays a part in the story.

6. A graveyard is the location, good taste is the theme. A computer is an object that plays a part in the story.

7. A gym is the location, arrogance is the theme. A watch is an object that plays a part in the story.
  1. Make your story. Because most movies are essentially visual stories, the first step is coming up with an idea that you want to turn into a movie. You don't have to have every detail in place, but you should have a basic idea of the premise.
    • Ideas. A good place to start is by writing a list of all the props, locations and actors which are currently unavailable locally then develop a film around this. Keep a dream journal, dreams like films are visual stories and dreams. Keep a notebook with you for writing ideas down. Read the news story's in the papers. Have a basic idea, and work with that. Narrow it down as you go along while writing the plot.
    • Think about the movies you like to watch, or the books you like to read, and consider what makes them so interesting. Is it the characters, the action, the visuals, or the theme? Whatever it is, keep that element in mind as you plan your movie.
  2. Expand your idea. Once you've settled on a basic premise, start adding onto it. Think about the film in 4 sections.
    • Beginning, or Introduction (sometimes even a Prologue) where you introduce the characters, establish the mood, and set the stage. This is the exposition.
    • Middle, where the bulk of the movie takes place. Here you develop the protagonist and the people who are friendly to him; the antagonist, and his friends—if any; and perhaps a love interest who could also be the protagonist or antagonist. Feel free to mix the roles and genders as much as you like. (Consider the roles in Kill Bill, for example.) The middle is also where the story is really told. Why are these people here, and what are they doing together? Where does it look like they are heading? What is the friction point that needs resolution? Because about 2/3 of the way through the movie, you’re going to reach...
    • The Climax. This is where the movie comes to a head. This is where the meteor hits the planet, or doesn’t; where the hero defeats the bad guy and lives—or dies—himself; and where the night watchman discovers how to get all the toys back in the box before the toy store opens. The romantically interested kiss, the bomb is defused, the crooked politician is found out, Mars gets an atmosphere, and Timmy is rescued from the well.
    • The Resolution, or Denouement. Now that the story has been told, and the climax reached, your movie needs to tie up the loose ends and send everybody home talking about what they just saw. This is where the scruffy anti-hero puts the girl on the plane and says, “We’ll always have Paris.” Timmy is scolded and then has his hair tousled and is lovingly taken home for fried chicken and dumplings; The toy store owner is clueless about last night’s mayhem...except he thinks he saw Beach Barbie wink at him (nah, couldn’t be); and of course, everybody’s favorite—the mysterious loner mounts his horse and rides off into the sunset...roll credits!
    • When that's sorted out, cut the narrative into even smaller pieces—for instance, thinking about the introduction, development, and transition of the each of the 4 main events. Keep working your story into smaller and smaller segments, until you have a good idea of what's going to happen scene-by-scene.
    • If you want to translate this into a screenplay, see the More Information section below.
  3. Storyboard your film. Story-boarding is drawing out sketches of what you want your filmed shots to look like.
    • It can be done on a macro scale, drawing only each major scene or transition.
    • It can also be done at the micro level, planning every shot and camera angle—even multiple angles per shot. (Think the signature opening scene in Matrix with Trinity.) This process makes a long film go more smoothly. You can try shooting without story-boarding, but it will not only help you visualize your movie, it will help you explain your vision to the director and cinematographer.
  4. Develop an aesthetic for your film. Because movies are visual, it's a good idea to spend some time on the "look and feel" of the movie. Consider two films as an example: Matrix again, with its monochromatic, yellow-green tone throughout, which heightened the sense of being “digitized,” and A Scanner Darkly by Richard Linklater, which was rotoscoped and had a unique and memorable cartoon reality look to it. Here are some other areas to consider.
    • Shooting style: Do you want your film to feature smooth, expertly-edited shots, or a rough, handheld camera look? It’s all there to do. For example, look at Melancholia by Lars von Trier; the opening scenes were shot with a super high speed camera, which renders as a fluid, graceful slow motion. Most of the rest of the movie is shot with a handheld, or “shaky cam,” setting the tone for the emotional and spiritual conflicts that ripple through the movie.
    • Costume design: Films rely heavily on the costumes to communicate essential character traits to the viewer. You need think only of Men in Black.
    • Set design: How do you want the setting of your film to look? Can you film it in a real location, or will you have to build a set? The sweeping panoramas of the big screen epics of the 60s and 70s relied on a combination of wide open spaces and studio-lot sets. Scenes from The Shining were shot at a ski lodge in Oregon. Dogville was shot on a bare stage, with only suggestions of buildings as props.
    • Lighting: Some movies feature soft, almost gauzy lighting that makes the actors and the sets look significantly more appealing, and the entire film more dreamlike; others favor a lighting style that looks closer to reality, and some people push the edges and go for a really hard light that is almost cutting. Check out Domino with Keira Knightley.
  5. Assemble a crew. Your crew will help you translate your vision into a film. These are a few positions to consider:
    • Director: The director controls the creative aspect of the movie, and is a key liaison between the crew and the cast. If this is your movie and your story idea, and the budget is modest, the director is probably you.
    • Cinematographer, or Director of Photography (D.O.P.): This person is in charge of making sure the lighting and actual filming of the movie go smoothly, as well as deciding with the director how each shot should be framed, light, and shot. He or she manages the lighting and camera crews (or is the lighting and camera crew, on a smaller film).
    • Casting director: The casting director decides which actors are best suited for the film, as well as negotiating contracts and schedules.
    • Set designer: This person is in charge of making sure the sets correspond with the director's creative vision. He or she might also be the props master (in charge of the items that fill the set).
    • Camera operator: The camera operator does the actual shooting of the movie, working with the cameras. On a small production, this person could also be the cinematographer or the director—or both!
    • Sound man: The sound man may be one or more people. Dialog needs to be recorded either in scene, or looped in later during production. Sound effects, like lasers zapping and helicopters exploding, all need to be created; music needs to be sourced, recorded, and mixed; and Foley (footsteps, leather creaks, plates broken, doors slamming) all the needs to be generated.
    • Costume designer: On a large production, this person would choose (and maybe even sew) every costume used in the film. On smaller productions, this position is usually merged with another job.
    • Hair and makeup artist: As the name implies, this person is in charge of getting the actors into the right hairstyles and makeup for each scene. On a small production, this position might not even exist.
    • Script supervisor: The script supervisor is charged with making sure the actors stay on script, and that the continuity of the film is maintained. He or she might also record the production's daily progress working through the screenplay. On a smaller production, this might be merged with another position.
    • Film editor: Once production has wrapped, the editor takes all the shots and combines them into the master. He works with the director, keeping some takes and cutting others. On a smaller movie, the director might handle editing.
    • Sound editor: The sound editor mixes the music, dialog, foley, and effects. Most computer-based film-editing software makes some allowance for audio tracks, but the addition of a skilled engineer is highly recommended.
  6. Cast your film. People in your community might work for screen credits in low-budget films. Of course, it would be advantageous to have a well-known name starring in your movie.
    • Test the range of your actors. If you know that one of them will have to cry in a sad scene, make sure he or she can do it before you contract for the project.
    • Avoid scheduling conflicts. Make sure your actors can be available on-set when you need them.
  7. Dress the sets, or scout a location. If you're going to shoot on-location, find the area you want and make sure it's available for filming. If you're working on a set, start building and "dressing" (or adding props) them.
    • If possible, using actual locations is easier. It's simpler to film in a diner than make a room look like one.
  8. Gather and test your equipment. At the very least, you'll need a video camera. You will probably also need a tripod — to mount the camera for steady shots — lighting equipment, and sound equipment.
  9. Film your movie. The decisions you make will result in the difference between a "home movie" or a professional looking movie.
    • Some people say to shoot multiple takes from multiple angles because it will be more interesting in the end. It will certainly give the editor something to think about!
    • As a very general rule, professional filmmakers shoot each scene in a wide shot, medium shot and close up of important elements.
    • Also, the type of shots they decide to take are determined by what feeling or emotion they are trying to convey. If you are under time pressure use more than one camera. Follow the 180 degree rule.
  10. Edit your film. Take your footage to your computer, upload the files, then log them, identifying what shots work. Put together a rough cut using these shots. The way that you edit your film drastically affects the way the film ends up looking and feeling.
    • Making jump cuts will hold the viewer's interest and set the tone for an action movie, but long, lingering shots have a powerful impact as well, but done badly this can be very boring. Consider the beginning of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
    • You can also edit to music, which is a fast and effective way of editing; you can also edit to music on a quiet section of the film, by choosing music which provides the right mood.
    • Editing between various angles can quickly show multiple things going on in the same scene. Use your editing system's split or razor tool to create smaller clips from multiple shots, and then mix and match. You'll get the hang of it quickly, and with digital movie making, your mistakes are always saved by Undo.
    • With transitions a dissolve or cross fade symbolizes the passing of time and a fade to black is used when someone falls asleep or at the beginning and end of a film.
    • The kind of editing software you use matter. For Windows use Sony Vegas, Adobe Premiere (PC or Mac), or Avid Media Composer (PC or Mac); for a Mac, use iMovie or FinalCut Pro.
  11. Add sound effects and music. Make sure that your music flows with what is going on during the movie at that second. Music gives the movie an emotional stance. It changes the audience's emotions which give them a more positive view on your film.
    • You can vary your music, to make the audience feel happy, sad, scared, excited, etc.
    • Remember that if you are planning on distributing a film using found music can cause problems, so it is best if you can get music specially composed for the film; plus there are many skilled musicians out there who would love to get experience.
  12. Create the title and credits sequences. You'll want to name your cast and crew at the end of the film. You can also include a list of "thank yous” to any organizations that were willing to let you shoot in their establishments. Most importantly keep it simple.

  13. Export the film to a digital format.
  14. Make a teaser or trailer (time dependent). If you want to promote your film online or in other theaters, select pieces of it for a promotional trailer. Don't give away too much of the plot, but do try to catch the viewer's interest.