Tips for Film Production

For students who are creating a film for their Media class, below you will find a list of tips to help you avoid common errors that are often made by student filmmakers.

Some of this list was initially created by the Australian Teachers of Media in Victoria – huge thanks to them for the ideas and inspiration.

    1. Shield your microphone from the wind. If you don’t have any technical equipment to really help with this, take along a cardboard box or a couple of manilla folders to place on either side of your mic.
    2. Be careful of and aware of other sounds that are around you – the mic does not discriminate and will pick up all sounds equally.
    3. Use headphones if you have them – they are more powerful than your ears and you will be able to immediately know if wind or other noises are being picked up by the camera.
    4. Do not have music, the tv, or the radio playing while people are talking in your film.
    5. Make sure all dialogue is spoken to camera or into the microphone.
    1. Make sure you can be confident that your actors are going to take your production seriously. This includes learning their lines before your shoot.
    2. If your actors don’t know their lines before your shoot, don’t have them read the script while they are shooting. Even if you keep the script out of shot, your audience will still know that your actors are reading.
    3. As you expect such preparation from your actors, also ensure you know the order of proceedings before you arrive to shoot. Use a shot list or a clearly marked out storyboard from your Production Design Plan.
    1. Do not shoot into the sun or shoot people who are backlit by sunlight or windows, unless you are specifically wanting them to appear as a black silhouette.
    2. Ensure your lighting is consistent, especially if you are shooting the same scene on different days. When shooting inside, try to make sure that the lighting is easy for you to replicate in case you need to re-shoot part of the scene on a different day.
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    1. Do everything you can to avoid using the zoom while the camera is rolling. Use the zoom to set up the shot and then leave it alone.
    2. Only break rule (a) in an extremely special case.
    1. However stupid you feel, have the camera running for at least 5 seconds before you say “action” and at least 5 more seconds after you say “cut”.
    2. Don’t be afraid to use other phrases such as “Quiet on the set”.
    3. Remember, you are the director, not an actor. However, sometimes your instructions won’t be easy enough for an actor to understand. When that happens, show them what you want them to do instead of just telling them.
    1. Do NOT forget your tripod. You might think that no-one will notice if you don’t use one, but you’re wrong.
    1. Watch for continuity errors – be aware of drinks, clocks, or clothes that might be in the background of your shots.
    2. Take care to ensure that you as the cameraperson are not reflected in any mirrors or glass in your shots.
    3. Be aware of everything in the shot – is anything present which should not be? Is everything in the shot appropriate for the time period in which you are setting your film?
    1. If required, take spare batteries with you on set in case your microphone’s batteries run out.
    2. If you have an easily recognisable prop in your film, have two of them on set, just in case one of them breaks or is lost during production.
    3. Immediately back up your footage in at least two places once you have finished a day’s shooting.


To download a copy of these tips, click here.