So you want to make a film?

<strong>Gavin Sturgeon</strong> gives a quick introduction to making a student film.

Feature by Gavin Sturgeon | 01 Sep 2009

Across the land, obligatory Reservoir Dogs and From Dusk Till Dawn posters are being unfurled in preparation for a new term. They look pretty on the wall, but they also provide inspiration to a handful of budding filmmakers. If you've ever had aspirations to try your hand at making a short film, your student years are the perfect time to do it. Student filmmaking societies can give you access to equipment and a place where you can learn from those with a little more experience in the game.

Here's our handy guide to biting the bullet and taking that first step into the world of celluloid (or should that be DV?).

Why make a short?

Well, for a start, it's fun. And for those hoping to get into the industry the experience of putting a team together and overseeing the production process from start to finish is more than valuable. It’s also an opportunity to make a future calling-card of your own work. What better way to sell yourself than let your film do the talking.


The advent of cheap video cameras in the late 90s paved the way for allowing would-be filmmakers to realise their dreams on the big screen. Whilst early Mini DV cameras were cumbersome affairs, best used for news gathering and documentary filming, the advent of hig definition video means that a cinematic look can be created on a shoestring.

Described by director Stephen Soderbergh as “the camera I’ve been waiting for my whole career”, the Red One offers all the benefits of analogue 35mm filming, in a lightweight, digital camera. It’s become the camera of choice for adverts and shorts across the land due to its high quality film-like image which is also affordable. Red kits are available for hire for roundabout £250 a day, but the end result looks like it was shot for thousands more. For cheaper options it's worth talking to your university filmmaking society or local amateur groups. Prices can be as little as £20 a day.

When you've finished shooting you'll want to edit your footage. Knowing your software inside out is key, and if you are serious and want to invest in developing your skills there are loads of courses on offer to teach you how to get the best out of your software. Apple run a series of One-to-One tuition classes in their retail stores, and Final Cut Pro guru Larry David regularly visits Glasgow and Edinburgh for affordable day courses.


While the availability of equipment and filmmaking courses has seen many more people having a go at making a film, it has also highlighted the necessity of being able to write well. There are a number of resources available for helping with writing. Dale’s Scirpt-o-rama ( contains hundreds of Hollywood scripts to peruse, and The BBC Film-Network ( contains a number of free guides on writing. The Scottish Screen Writers group hold regular meetings at the CCA on Sauchiehall Street, as does Write Camera Action, which gives screenwriters a valuable opportunity to see their work enacted on stage before it is filmed.

There are also a number of initiatives supporting short filmmaking, for example Digicult ( and GMAC ( In Edinburgh Pilton Video ( provide access to equipment, training and production initiatives. For a more comprehensive list of filmmaking support see

So that's our handy guide. But the real lessons come from doing it. So off you go and grap yourself a clapper board on the way. And we'll see you at the BAFTAs, yeah?