How Big Should My Short Film Be?

How big should a short film production be?

It’s a tricky question, not just when planning a shoot but when writing and creating your work. It affects everything. From locations, to talent, to lens choices.

So my current dilemma is this: Should the narrative short film I am writing be kept small and achievable with my own kit and resources? Or should I write for a bigger production with funding, crew and more advanced kit?

The correct (and logical) answer of course is to write without constraint and change to fit the production when you get to it. It makes sense. It allows you to chop and change the creative to suit your production when it comes to it.

But (and here’s the crux of this piece) it is SO TEMPTING to write big, aim high, and never actually make the film you wanted to make.

I’ve been through the funded and commissioned shorts route a few times and it brings with it a set of expectations that demand a certain type of production. You have notes and sign off and schedules and budgets to stick to, which is all extremely helpful, but there is always the nagging feeling that the film you are tying to make could be made quicker, smaller and without the apparatus of a production team around it.

So, what have I decided? I think, in this case, I’m going to keep things small and do things my own way without funding. That gives me scope to experiment, try things, and essentially prototype something bigger much more quickly. I feel it’s an experiment worth conducting, and I’m sure it will be a learning experience too.

I’ll keep you posted and hopefully share some of the process along the way.


7 Common Mistakes When Breaking Into TV

This week I got involved in assessing the new batch of BBC Production Apprentices hoping to start their career in media with the beeb. It was a fascinating couple of days, seeing a range of people hoping to get their first step on the ladder.

I saw some great talent and some real potential over the tasks we observed, but one thing has been nagging me since we wrapped up. The basic mistakes we saw over and again during the process of interviews and group assessments.

Here’s a quick list of 7 things I think are essentials that sadly, a lot of hopeful candidates lacked but needn’t have.

  1. Research. The volume of candidates that hadn’t looked up the channel/team they were aiming for was staggering. Do your homework!
  2. Smiling. Not appearing approachable is a problem when you’ll be working in teams and with the public. The very least you can do is smile.
  3. Passion. I get it, you want to appear ‘professional’, but the people who shone were the people who were enthusiastic and excited about working in TV.
  4. Engagement. Research alone isn’t always enough. Immersion and engagement with the content, subjects, and practices is really important.
  5. Experience. You’re not expected to have professional experience. But doing anything you can off your own back is key. Keep it simple and share it.
  6. Teamwork. In group assessments, you really have to be a team player and show it. That means building on others’ ideas, not just showing why you are great.
  7. Expectation. You’re starting at the bottom. That means being useful and flexible. You’re not Scorsese yet.

I don’t think any of the above is unachievable for someone at the start of their careers. You can forgive a lack of technical knowledge or high-level hands on experience – that’s expected – but the points above are basic errors that ultimately cost people places on these sought after schemes and may scupper a career in media altogether.

The good news is, they’re super easy to fix.