A short film…”The Last Gift”

Random Thoughts about my first short  film, “THE LAST GIFT”

For those of you patient enough and periodically check my blog, you may recall my sharing from time to time about movies, about my screenplay writing, and more recently about making a short film.  Well, “TahDah!”  My first short film, ”The Last Gift” is up on the web.  And here are a few random thoughts I have about the process of making a short film.

Why a short film:

1.  A CREATIVE DISTRACTION:  I find when I get stuck on something that if I just put it down for awhile, do something else, voila, the answer to the original “block” comes to me.  In looking for a little creative break from my current feature length screenplay, yes, the same one, the thought of making a short film seemed the perfect idea.  At least at the time it did.

2.  LEARNING PROCESS:  I don’t know how you learn things, but I learn best by doing.  Not so much by reading.  I can recall as a youngster putting together my first model airplane and having many parts left over when the plane was finished, or more accurately, when I was finished with it.  It only follows that when I purchased my Canon Rebel T2i that I jump right in.  Sure, I could read the manual, but I do better putting in the battery, filming away and then checking the manual when I run into a problem.  When I purchased Final Cut Express 4 I just input some video, start editing away, and when I run into an issue, consult the manual.  But all that being said, thank the Good Lord for youtube.  There must be a tutortial for just about anything you might want to learn about.  There are plenty of great ones for learning the latest and greatest for the Canon and Final Cut Express.   “Manuel Shmanuel” I say.   So, what better way to learn how to use these great tools than to just start making a short film.

3.  STORYTELLING:  I love a good story and good story telling.  Whether in book format, short story, novels, mysteries, film format, documentaries, news…just a good story told well.  Not saying this qualifies as a good story or told well, but we got to start somewhere!  Oh, my favorite type of story, in case you’ve missed it in past blogs…”Dude with a problem”.  So with that genre in mind, this short film is about a dude with a problem.

A few lessons learned along the way:

  1. The first draft is never, ever, the best draft.  It seems the creative details come  in 3rd, 4th, 5th and later drafts.   And in this particular experience, writing was never really done till the film was in the can.
  2. Make a storyboard.  As crude as it may be, a storyboard will save you so much time in filming and editing.
  3. If possible, have a large screen monitor to see the filming you do on location.  You might be surprised at what seems in focus on the small led screen on the camera only to discover on a larger screen….not so much in focus.
  4. When plan “A” doesn’t’ work, no sweat, go to plan “B”.  Like, when Michael doesn’t show up to be the delivery dude, take Laurie from behind the camera and make her the delivery gal.  When you want to film on a sunny day and it’s raining, I found it easier just to change the script to “Rainy Day” than it was to change the weather.
  5. As obvious as this will seem, make a production list.  All the things you need for the “set”.   Surprising what you find you don’t have when you start the actual filming.
  6. Editing:  It can just flat out take a long time,  and I’m never really done with it.  I just get soooooo tired of it.  I have to call it done before I kill myself.
  7. I would prefer to be behind the camera, but it turns out I’m very inexpensive and available.

Few Fun Fact:

  1. Filmed over three days.
  2. Don’t even want to know how many hours in editing….but chalking much of that up to learning.
  3. To many things to tell what I would do different, but hopefully they will be put to good use on the second short “The Gate Keeper”.
  4. All filmed with a Canon T2i with EF-S 18-55mm and 50mm
  5. All natural light…all I have access to at this point.
  6. Edited in Final Cut Express 4 and with Magic Bullet color correction.

One final shout out of thanks to all you wonderful people who put tutorials up on the web.  I am still in awe that one minute I can be getting invaluable tutorial information from a dude in Finland (Anders Overgaard/www.axp.no), and the next moment, from a more than talented “bro” (Neumannfilms.com) in Lebanon, OR.  I actually considered putting a tutorial on using “Magic Bullet”, but it would pale in comparison to what these guys and others have already put up.  Truly…..Thanks.

And of utmost importance to me….thank you Laurie for all your work behind that camera, the outtakes will make for a great comedy someday.  To Freddy R….thanks for your editing ideas and laughter along the way.

Any thoughts….any suggestions, please feel free to share…and for heaven’s sake…Have Fun…….Fred!!!

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3 Responses to A short film…”The Last Gift”

  1. ksenia says:

    Look at you! You want to learn something new and then… you do it! That’s awesome and inspiring. Thanks for sharing. The ending definitely caught me by surprise.

  2. Freddy R says:

    I just can’t believe this is your “teach myself how the camera and software works” experiment. So, so good. You already know what I think of it (and you!) so I won’t bother trying to list every synonym for awesome and amazing. 🙂 Thank you for letting me in on the process a little bit — makes it all the more impressive to have watched it evolve. I’m very much looking forward to the next one. Well done, my friend!

  3. Christina says:

    Lovely and inspiring. Just that. 🙂

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