If you’re interested to learn about filmmaking, we know it can sometimes feel like a lot to learn. There is definitely lots involved to making a film, as well as lots of different techniques and ways to go about it.
But it shouldn’t feel overwhelming or complicated to learn about filmmaking. Just like with any interest, hobby or developing a new career, how you learn about filmmaking can happen step-by-step, it’s just a case of taking that first step towards a brand new skill.
So, if you’re a complete beginner looking to learn about filmmaking, we’ve put together six simple filmmaking basics that can help you to start your journey.
Learn About Filmmaking: 6 Filmmaking Basics Everyone Should Know
1. Shot Sequences
Making a film is all about assembling different shots into a sequence that tells a story. If you’re new to making films and want to learn about filmmaking, this is the top basic filmmaking tip that we can share.
Try not to think of your film as a video that you’d make without thinking about it (handheld cameras, long takes), making a film is all about crafting a sequence from different, contained shots and using all the details of your sequence to tell the story.
You don’t need to shoot in sequence, or even chronologically, but once you’ve shot your film, you’ll need to edit your footage together into a sequence.
2. Tell the Story
On that note, our second of the filmmaking basics that we’ll share here is all about telling and serving the story. The story should be the king of your film and everything you do as part of your filmmaking should serve the telling of that story.
It doesn’t matter if you’re making a narrative feature film, a short film, a documentary or even an advert, it’s the story that your audience is interested in and everything should support that one simple aim.
Whatever stage you’re at in your journey to learn about film, never forget about the story.
3. Shot Types and Sizes
Just like we mentioned in the first of our filmmaking basics – shots are needed for sequencing. Shot sizes are also tools for storytelling; a Close Up can show effective emotion and character details, a Wide Shot can give contextual information, such as details on the setting.
One of the key things to learn about film and film production is how and when to use a variety of different shot sizes within a sequence. Always try to include a range of different shots to best tell the story on screen.
4. Show, Don’t Tell
Filmmaking is a visual art form and offers opportunities for storytelling that other media doesn’t have. Try to use these opportunities within your filmmaking. Always remember to show the story, or show the detail, rather than to tell it.
Though it might seem simple, this is one of those filmmaking basics that can easily get lost in practice, even for experienced filmmakers.
Try to find ways to tell your story visually through a character’s behaviour, actions or through the placement of scenery or props. Try to limit expositional dialogue, where characters needlessly explain things that you can show rather than tell.
5. The Three Phases of Film Production
Professional films are generally made in three different stages:
Pre-Production is all about preparation. It involves everything that happens in filmmaking before the camera rolls: the script, the schedule, casting, production design, location scouting… all the various preparations needed before shooting starts.
Production is the stage when all the shooting happens. Production takes place on set, with a cast and with a crew, usually to some sort of schedule or timetable.
Post-Production includes everything that happens after production has finished. This includes editing, sound work, special and visual effects production and mastering.
After post-production then comes Distribution, which depending on the nature of your film might include selling the rights to a distribution company and hopefully Exhibition, which means the sharing of your film in a cinema, through a streaming service or as part of a film festival.
If you plan to learn about filmmaking, having some knowledge of the different stages of a film’s lifespan, as well as the business of film, can be a good way to build on your knowledge of filmmaking basics.
6. Filmmaking Equipment
If you want to learn about filmmaking, then some knowledge of filmmaking equipment is a good idea.
You don’t need expensive equipment to make a good film, especially if you’re just starting out. Also, the stronger and more interesting your story, the more likely an audience will be to forgive lower production values. (This never works the other way round, a film can be beautifully produced, but without a good story, it won’t hold an audience’s attention).
The equipment you’re likely to need if just starting out includes:
Shooting on a phone can work well, see this award-winning film shot on an iPhone. Alternatively, a DSLR is a good option too.
A Tripod or a Stabiliser
Even if you’re the most steady handed operator, using a tripod will help make your life much easier! A tripod (or a stabiliser) will help you to film clean, steady shots without any distracting camera movements.
Sound equipment isn’t strictly necessary, as your camera will likely record internal sound, but having separate sound equipment can help you achieve a higher quality of sound production. A basic sound recorder such as this one can work well and make a big difference to your production.
Again, lighting isn’t necessary for starting out, but if you plan to shoot outdoors at night, then having access to some lighting equipment is likely to be useful. Some simple LEDs can work really well for beginner filmmaking.
You’ll need equipment to edit your footage and sound once it’s been shot. You can edit on a computer, on a tablet, or even on a phone (although this might be a struggle if you’re working on a big project).
See more about Filmmaking Equipment with our Equipment Recommendations here >>
There is plenty of other filmmaking equipment you can start to include as your journey to learn about filmmaking progresses, but this is really all you need to get started.
So there you have it, our six simple filmmaking basics that everyone should know about. Of course, there is lots more that we could add, but we’re also firm believers in the value of getting hands on and making, so why not give that film idea a try?
Short of ideas? Take a look at our collection of filmmaking projects and guides to get you started.