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Keeping kids occupied over summer can seem a never-ending challenge. Tech-savvy and streetwise, it can be hard to find something new and exciting to do.
Making a film together has all sorts of benefits, from putting mobile devices to good use for once to giving them ideas about future career options. Films don’t just happen in a vacuum, they’re created by a dedicated team of skilled professionals, and there’s no reason why your youngsters shouldn’t join their ranks if they feel the passion for movie making.
Get them started with these top tips for making a film at home.
Gather Your Gear
No, you don’t need a lot of professional-grade photographic equipment, although if you have the odd Hollywood movie camera lurking in the loft, by all means, dig it out.
Failing that your trusty mobile will do the job or any digital camera with video capabilities.
As well as a camera of some kind, you’ll find pens and paper handy for capturing ideas, scriptwriting, and making general notes such as for continuity purposes. This is so your character doesn’t get on a bus wearing a red T-shirt then get off a couple of stops later wearing a yellow one.
Find Your Genre or Story
This sounds easy but actually isn’t, unless everyone has very clear ideas from the start about what they want to do, and they manage to somehow agree. Some might fancy a documentary, some a costume drama, others a ghost story or natural history.
For a family movie, you need a story big enough to give everyone a role (whether it’s behind the scenes/camera or acting), and this can be tricky. You might need a couple of days of family boardroom talks to nail it.
Sketch Out a Storyline
Once you’ve got the idea, try and brainstorm a story progression. Make a storyboard with a few sheets of paper and quick sketches of the main action. If it helps, include a line of relevant dialogue to help the scene stick in everyone’s mind.
If you make one picture for each scene, it’s easy to move them around to see what order works best, and it can also help with the next ‘todo’ on the list, which is finding your locations.
Unless you’re making a silent movie (and there’s nothing wrong with that) people will need to talk. If an older child is a budding screenwriter, give them the job of scripting. You could also enrol for an online screenwriting workshop to help hone their storytelling skills. You might not need every word scripted, but at least make sure everyone knows what’s supposed to happen and how the characters are feeling so they can interact appropriately.
Have rehearsals, and film these too. People won’t be as nervous when it’s a dry run and you might get some good footage.
Decide Where to Shoot
This can be a fun aspect of filmmaking. You could shoot the whole thing in your kitchen or scout out locations further afield. Maybe the local graveyard for a ghost story, or the middle of town for modern, urban storylines. Bear in mind if you shoot somewhere public, you might end up with an audience.
Or how about using a location where a favourite film or TV series was shot? You can scout out filming locations near you here. The search might make for some interesting family days out.
Make Editing Easy
After all that hard but enjoyable work, there’s more to do before you have a film you can watch. All those scenes, which may have been shot out of order, need stitching together to make the film come to life.
A word here about shooting in order, you don’t have to shoot your scenes chronologically as long as you pay some attention to your continuity. If your film starts and ends at the coast, say, but the rest of it is shot inland somewhere, shoot the beginning and the end scenes at the same time. Take a change of clothes with you and whatever else you need to indicate the passage of time in the film, even though not much time in real life will have passed. This can be challenging because it demands your actors switch their emotions quickly, but it’s worth bearing in mind.
When it comes to editing, have a look online for free movie editing apps that are aimed at beginners. All you need is software that will let you insert scenes where you need them, trim or cut them if necessary, and add some sound effects and music for the atmosphere.
If you decide you want to make more movies, you can investigate more professional editing software later. For now, you just want to get started and have a go. It’s a great family project that could see you through the whole summer and could even propel youngsters into studying for a filmmaking career.
At the very least, it’ll give you all something to look back on and laugh about for years into the future.
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