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The Brief

Scenario: You are a student filmmaker. In groups of no more than three, plan and create a 3-5 minute short horror film for entry into the school’s film festival and/ or to send to commissioning editors. You need to produce preproduction of your own role; you can shoot the film as a group; you will edit the film independently. You will need to review your own film and contribution at the end.


Desk Research

Obviously, you need to watch some examples of the type of film you are planning to make. If you are serious about scoring high grades, you need to watch several examples APART from those that are shown in class. (Class examples are below.)

Remember that you are making SHORT films - they aren't the same as full-length features so, while watching longer films is helpful, it's not the only thing you should be doing. There are several sites online which curate collections of short films: one of the most useful is Short of the Week. You are already being assessed, so make notes on any films you watch. The template below might be of help.

You can familiarise yourself with the genre (or, even better, your chosen sub-genre) in other ways - looking through these posters might help you with the conventional iconography.

Audience research

A basic requirement of any media project is to find out what the audience want or are likely to prefer BEFORE we invest lots of time in making something which then might not work. You need to carry out a minimum of two pieces of audience research - one qualitative, one quantitative. More information here.

Idea Generation and Writing

Start the creative process (before, after or during the audience and desk research!) by producing mind-maps and moodboards. Keep all the materials from this stage- it can be assessed, and you may well need to return to it later.

Write a treatment and get it checked. If it's ok, produce a screenplay. More information here. You'll be able to pitch your product now.


You need to start the process of turning your screenplay into a film. That means storyboards, shotlists, dubcharts.


This is where a lot of students mess up! The actual process of making and delivering a film demands many organisational skills. You need a production schedule, location scouting, evidence of equipment booking, notes of any production/ cast meetings you have, permission to shoot in locations if necessary.


By now, you should be ready to shoot - screenplay, annotated by all members of the crew for their particular role, actors rehearsed, locations scouted, equipment borrowed and tested, weather checked, production schedule consulted, test shots executed... so first, remind yourself about how we actually behave and act on a film set. And then do do it! Remember, the single most common problem with student film is that we don't shoot enough. Film everything from multiple angles - overwhelm the editors with footage.

You can shoot in crews of up to 4 but everyone must have a defined role and they must be able to evidence their execution of that role. You can be the cinematographer, the lighting designer, the sound designer or the director.

One aspect of filmmaking which younger students often neglect is lighting - not acceptable this time, because it's nearly impossible to create that spooky environment without good horror lighting. Look here for some pointers.

SUPER-ambitious students will go and learn about the original horror film makers - the German expressionists. They will learn that this is where many modern horror films get their defining aesthetic- the extreme angles, close ups, low key lighting, manipulation of shadows and canted angle shots. Have these students captured any of this style?

Sound is also of vital importance. This is the time to think about it; obviously, record your dialogue and ambience cleanly, but also start thinking about foley, scores, Voiceovers, whatever else you think you need. You need to get all this stuff sorted and recorded before you start editing - it's really difficult to sort out the sound once the edit is underway.


Perhaps more than any other genre, horror is all about editing and sound - the scares need to come at precisely the correct moment and they are generally emphasised by sound. Have a look at Wes Craven's Scream and see how much of the effectiveness depends on sound and, especially, well-timed cuts.

If you're going to edit well (and remember - you can shoot in groups, but you each edit your own version of the film) then you need to get organised, That means LOGGING YOUR FOOTAGE - go through your footage - all of it - and decide what is usable, what isn't, and what needs to be done again. Make a record of this - it's part of your assessment.

After your rough cut has been checked, you may want to do a little bit of work in colour correction. Horror lends itself to a high-contrast style, so you might want to work towards that. Most importantly, though, you need to fine-tune those cuts; horror is all about timing the scares!

How does the editing help with this film?



Other Student Examples

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