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How to Make Your First Movie - Phase 7: Shooting

Shooting will probably be the most exciting part of making your first movie, and possibly the most challenging, too. Follow these steps to make the best use of your cameras.


  • Step 1: Make a shot list Make a shot list for your film. Trying to decide shots on the fly wastes time and money.
  • TIP: Storyboard each shoot—that is, sketch out the action and shots in each scene—so you know exactly what you want.
  • Step 2: Make a shooting schedule Make a shooting schedule so you know exactly what you are going to shoot when—and stick to it.
  • Step 3: Learn camera movements Learn the six basic camera movements: tilting and panning (aiming the camera up and down and side to side), trucking and dollying (physically moving the camera right and left and forward and backward), arcing (moving the camera around your subject in an arc), and craning (moving the camera vertically).
  • TIP: If you have room in the budget, invest in a small jib and a dolly to get a few special shots. No money for a dolly? Use a wheelchair or shopping cart.
  • Step 4: Use multiple cameras If you can afford it, shoot a scene with multiple cameras from multiple angles. It’ll make editing easier and allow for more compelling and varied scenes.
  • Step 5: Choose lenses and filters Choose lenses and filters that fit your scenes. Different focal lengths result in different depths of field and fields of view.
  • Step 6: Pick a depth of field Select the depth of field, or the distance around the subject that will be in focus. A large depth of field creates stunning details, while a small depth allows you to focus attention on the subject.
  • Step 7: Do multiple takes Once you’re ready, start shooting, and always do multiple takes of a scene.
  • Step 8: Experiment Don’t be afraid to experiment a little—the shot list isn’t etched in stone. If the creative impulse strikes you, try something new, like shooting from a different vantage point.
  • TIP: Be patient. Actors may not get scenes for several takes, lights may burn out—just take a deep breath and keep going.
  • Step 9: Guard your footage When you’re done, guard your footage with your life. Never leave film or tapes in a car—take it with you wherever you go. Now get editing!
  • FACT: On a film set, the last shot of the day is called the 'martini shot.'

You Will Need

  • A film or video camera
  • A camera tripod
  • Storyboards
  • A jib
  • A dolly
  • wheelchair
  • or shopping cart

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