How To Make A Fan Film: Part 1

Published on October th, 2011

So you’ve just been watching –insert a horrible show/movie- and you’ve just cried out the last tears of sadness left in your soul.  You think to yourself, “God, when did this show get so bad?   It used to be so great!  I bet I could do better!”  Now at this point, most would just go watch something else and shove that thought to the back of their mind.  You however, are not most people.  You stick with that idea.  You think, “My gods, I COULD do this better!”  Hell, maybe you just have a favorite show or movie that’s actually good and you just want to make something out of love for it.  Whatever the case may be, a burgeoning fan filmmaker is born and thus a trail of blood sweat and tears has begun.

Now you may be wondering, “Well how hard can this be?  I see people put up YouTube videos all the time that look they have TV level production values.  I have a YouTube account, I CAN DO THAT TOO!”   Lets not beat around the bush.  Making a fan film is not easy.  It takes time, it takes effort, and it will take more then just you in your back yard with your Iphone video recorder.    So, I’ve outlined a few areas that will get you started and help you avoid some of the huge bit falls of fan films I’ve seen over the years and made myself.  Lets do this shall we?

Before we begin I will give this disclaimer.  This guide of sorts should not be the be all end all.  I don’t cover every single little aspect of production.  One could write several long novels on that.  Lets just think of these as short overviews.  If you want to know more, I highly recommend taking some sort of film class, or watching some good DVD documentaries.  They give you some idea of what goes into all this in a way you may better relate to then a textbook.

But what are we waiting for?  Lets start this.

See these guys? Without them and so many more, you do not have a movie. But they'll be giving you fun visual aides for this series of articles.

Equipment/Crew:  Before even thinking about making a fan film, ask yourself something.  Can this actually be made?   And by that I mean, “Do I have the equipment/ crew to make this happen?”  If the answer is no, go back to writing fan fiction, because one man film crews 99.99% of the time never work out.  You need a crew to shoot, hold boom mics, edit, and god knows what else.   You also need equipment for the crew to actually use.  You don’t need a professional level camera (But the better the equipment, the better it will look/sound) but you need something better then the camera on your phone.  Once you have at least the baseline of these in place which include a good camera, boom mic, and editing equipment, plus the crew to operate those, you can move on to the next step.

Did you know that your script can double as a white balance? True story.

Story:  So you know you have a shot of actually filming this thing.  GREAT!  Now WHAT exactly are you going to film?  First off, I could go on for pages and pages about good story structure, character development, and things like that, but there are much better sources out there to teach you those things.  So I am going to give you some VERY broad tips.  First, try and tell the best story you can.  It would be awful if you put all this time and money (we’ll get to that soon) into this project but then have everyone tell you your story sucked.  Believe me, not matter how slick your film looks, no matter how well edited it is, no matter how good your actors are, if your story is awful, people won’t remember any of those things. So whatever script you put together, get others opinions on it.  Not just your friends either.  Find someone else well respected in your fandom to proof read it.  Just because you think your great and you get nifty reviews on does not mean your story will be perfect from the get go.  Also, and this may seem obvious to some, but if you are making a fan FILM, write it in a SCRIPT format.  Do not give your actors a BOOK to read.  They will hate you.  So much.

Often in Hollywood they tell you to write without thinking of a budget.  This is great to do, but in all honesty, and ESPECIALLY with a fan film, that had better be first and foremost on your mind.

Budget? Matt has apparently never heard of such a thing.

Budget:  Often in Hollywood they tell you to write without thinking of a budget.  This is great to do, but in all honesty, and ESPECIALLY with a fan film, that had better be first and foremost on your mind.  If you only have $500 for your budget, I highly doubt you can afford a chase scene through New York City.  So think small.  Think character drama.    Think what will use the least amount of characters in the least amount of locations.  The “smaller” you make it, the more likely a chance you have of actually finishing your project.  As nifty as explosions and lots of fight scenes are too look at, unless you have prior experience with such things, its better to stick small, especially if this is your first attempt.

If you think you’ll be making money off a fan film, you need to stop right now.  Fan films are non-profit endeavors.  So you had better LOVE whatever you are making, cause you won’t be seeing a cent from it.  But yes, the budget for a fan film all depends on what you are willing to put into it.  Not every fan film needs a budget, my fan series 21 JSR has only cost us around $200 so far, but your budget will determine what you are able to do.    I would strongly recommend however that you don’t break the bank.  I know you love your show terribly, but its not worth becoming bankrupt.  No matter how much you spend, leave enough for you to eat and pay your bills.

So you’ve got your equipment, written your script, and budgeted everything out.  Think you are ready to film?  NOPE.    Now get someone else to look over what your doing.  Once again, don’t just ask your friends.  Ask someone who will give you real advice.  If you have a TV or film teacher at your school, get their advice and ask them to be honest.  You do not want to proceed any farther if these first three steps aren’t in place and as best as they can be.   Next week we’ll be back with the next few steps.  Till then, good luck people.


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