I am going to condense a basic film class for you. (‘Cause let’s be real: school, even at its cheapest, is still expensive.) Of course, there’s a lot of technique not included here. So, research whatever the heck you’re doing! If you’re directing, read a book (or several) on directing. Same for editing, screenwriting, lighting, and whatevs else.
Super Simple Version:
Step 1: Get a camera.
Step 2: Get a script.
Step 3: Get peeps for both behind and in front of the camera.
Step 4: Shoot it.
Step 5: Edit it.
Step 6: Show it to people.
Step 7: Be a good person throughout this process.
Less Simple (but still pretty simple) Version:
Step 1 - CAMERA: Buy, rent, or borrow a camera. Read the manual/look up how to use it online/take a class. Assess how good of a camera it is, and regardless of the film quality, brainstorm clever ways to make it look good. Also check the quality of the camera’s built-in microphone. If it’s good enough for your purposes, cool, but it’s likely not. If it’s not, you’ll need to buy/rent/borrow a boom microphone.
Step 2 - SCRIPT: Decide what you’re filming, pick or write your script. Do something long or short, where ever your ambition leads you. You might want to save your “big ideas” for a larger scale project, but you don’t have to. Don’t be afraid to dive into something too big, you learn a lot that way. If the idea was your baby, and once you see the finished version, you decide it deserved better, you can always remake it. There’s a lot of wisdom in taking on a smaller project first, I know, but my personal philosophy is to be overwhelmed and love what you’re doing, rather than be too cautious and consequentially, not passionate about it.
Step 3 - PREP: Create a shot list, and storyboards. Stick figure them if you have to. It will save you lots of time and pain. Not a bad idea to sketch out your basic ideas for set design and possibly costumes.
Step 4 - BUDGET: Look at what you’ll need to shoot what you’ve got; props, costumes, locations, sets and such. Figure out how much of it you can do for free. Then figure out how to pay for what you can’t get for free.
Step 5 - PEEPS: Find yo peeps. Crew and cast. This means you get to hold auditions, one of the most nerve-wracking things ever! (Don’t forget you’ll need a location to hold auditions at. Local community spaces are good!) Figure out if you’re paying them, or if this is copy/credit only. Post your notices, there’s a ton of places that host audition notices and crew calls. See if your state has a film office and try there. And Craigslist ain’t the worst place in the world to post. It’s free.
Step 6 - MORE PREP: Schedule the shoot a reasonable amount of time from finding your crew and cast, to give them and you time to prepare, but not so long from then that everybody forgets they committed to it, and pull all your props and costumes together. Tell your actors to memorize their damn lines. Tell your crew not to show up drunk/stoned, or if they do, to hide it well enough that you don’t notice.
Step 7 - DO’S AND DON’T’S: Be responsible! Don’t show up drunk/stoned yourself. If you do, everyone will hate you. Don’t shove everything off for your crew to do, especially if you’re not paying them. Communicate clearly and often. Don’t expect anyone to psychically know what you want. If you’re not sure if someone got it, double-check, even if it makes you seem OCD. Also, feed your crew and cast during the shoot, whether or not you’re paying them. And not horrible food either. If you’re a crappy cook, you might wanna budget some sort of catering (even if it’s ordering pizza). I recommend learning how to make good pasta or something, because if you hand someone a slice of bologna on white bread, they’ll be fully in their rights to slap you with that sandwich. If it’s a morning shoot, you probably want at least coffee and bagels, if you expect everyone at their best.
Step 8 - SHOOT: Shoot this mofo. Allow for fun (You want a good blooper reel, right?), but stick to the schedule. Follow your shotlist. Accept that you’ll probably end up changing a few shoots, because once you’re there, they just don’t work. Don’t forget lighting! It can make even crappy footage look better. Look up three point lighting, and go from there. If you’re directing, don’t be afraid to tell your actors what it is you want them to do. If you’re looking for something different in a scene, just say so.
Step 9 - EDIT: If all you’ve got is iMovie, than that’s what you work with. However, Final Cut Pro (FCP X is like an advanced version of iMovie), Avid, or Adobe Premiere are better. You can get a 30-day free trial of Premiere through the Adobe Creative Cloud, enough time to edit your film if you hustle, and a monthly subscription is $49.99, $19.99 if you’re a teacher or student! (It costs hundreds of dollars to purchase.) There’s tons of great tutorials online for all these programs. Figure out your program, and then edit you heart out. Color correction makes everything better. Learn what cutting on action, not crossing the line, J and L cuts, eye trace, and continuity mean. Also learn that none of those things is as important as getting the emotion of the film across.
Step 10 - PREMIERE: Show your masterpiece (or if far from a masterpiece, hopefully a truly epic failure). If you’re confident, and actually want people to see it, market! Actually, if you really want anyone to see it, you better market the heck out of it. Cut together a trailer and write up a press release, and send it to any blogs/news websites/film sites you think would be interested. See if they’ll do a feature, mention, or even interview. Post in forums. A production blog can be fun. Submit it to festivals if you want.
BONUS STEP - MOVE ON: Assess. Figure out what worked and what didn’t. Repeat from step one, altering process to suit you.
A couple neato film tumblrs to check out:
http://directingfilm.net/: Great blogs and insights.
http://fuckyeahbehindthescenes.tumblr.com/: Just random behind the scenes trivia for films. But it can give you some good ideas, and who doesn’t like behind the scenes trivia? Nobody, that’s who.
http://celtx.en.softonic.com/: You can download Celtx here. It’s a free scriptwriting software, and it’s pretty awesome for the price. You can also go to Celtx’s official site, but I honestly had a hard time finding their offline version download link there.
http://www.adobe.com/products/creativecloud.html: Adobe Creative Cloud. There’s a link to subscription plans on the right, including the free trial.
I also recommend checking out ‘The Bare Bones Camera Course’ by Tom Schroeppel. It’s just basics of camerawork, complete with diagrams.
I’ll blog more resources at some point! (: