How to improve to quality of your no-funded film

Advice for getting your script produced

Advice for getting your script produced
By Saranne Bensusan

I am a writer/producer who has written four short films and two features that successfully went on to get made. I have produced 11 films in total, including eight short films and three feature films. In the 2015/2016 year (starting at Cannes in May 2015) I have had 15 international film festival screenings of my work, with a future screening of ‘Mano a Mono’ at Carmarthen Bay Film Festival in May 2016 (a BAFTA Cymru qualifying festival) and ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ being screened as part of the Toronto Film Week, which runs alongside the Toronto Film Festival in September. I have also picked up six awards at festivals in that time.
If you haven’t made anything before, start with something that won’t be expensive to make, such as a short film, as this will be attractive to film makers. It is likely that as in the majority of cases of short films, there won’t be any money available to make it, so things like the number of people you need and locations really play a big part. Most of this will be the producer in me talking, but it is the producer in me that has led to my writing better screenplays.

1) Can you reduce the number of characters in your story? Ask yourself which characters don’t do anything to move the story along and eliminate them. This will not only reduce the number of actors that need to be paid for, but will bring your remaining characters into focus. A film with decent screen time, action and dialogue is attractive to actors as it means decent show reel material that could help them get other work. Too many characters with too few lines will dilute your story and you may find it hard to get good actors on board. The same goes for having extras.

2) Keep locations to a minimum, and avoid external locations. ‘Mano a Mono’ was shot on one internal location, and we made use of the different rooms to break up the monotony. This practice eliminates travel time between sets and means you get the best out of the day. It also means that whoever produces your film does not need to go through local Council red tape in pre-production to get permissions for outdoor locations.

3) Shoot in one day. This goes hand in hand with number 2. If you shoot in one location there is no reason your short cannot be filmed in one day. With my film ‘The Shoe’, we filmed at two different locations in London, meaning that we needed to schedule two days of filming just for a six minute film. When it came to ‘Mano a Mono’, we filmed a 12 minute film in half the time because we shot it in one location.

4) Keep your short film to 10 minutes or less. There are a lot of good quality festivals that accept films 15 minutes or less, but there are some that only accept them if they are 10 minutes or less. There are very few decent festival opportunities for films that are between 15 and 40 minutes long, and you should always have festivals in mind as this is where you will get recognition.

5) If you can, hook up with a producer who lives in London. This will open up the opportunity for your film to be funded through the ‘London Calling’ short film programme. From there, you will find it easier to get a more experienced director on board. Also, as this is Film London funding, having success with ‘London Calling’ will really doors for your next project. Their ‘Microwave Funding’ programme is a low budget feature film development and production programme, so if you have a feature up your sleeve this could be the next step. There are also funding opportunities in London for young, as well as LGBT filmmakers. There is a very useful Film London Facebook page where you can connect with people:

My film short film, ‘Mano a Mono’ here


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