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The Task

At HIGHER LEVEL, the Practical Portfolio has three components:


 - A short film of 6-7 minutes,made in groups of up to 4 people

 - A  trailer made individually by each students

 - A 1750 word commentary written individually by students


At STANDARD LEVEL, the Practical Portfolio has two components:


 - A short film of 4-5 minutes,made in groups of up to 4 people

 - A 1250 word commentary written individually by students


Students' performance as filmmakers is individually assessed in one skill set:

 - Director

 - Writer

 - Cinematographer

 - Editor

 - Sound Designer





You need to watch a LOT of short films. (Think dozens or hundreds, not four.) Some useful sites:


Short of the Week

The Smalls

Films Short

Critic's Favourites

Nobudge awards


Try to be a focused viewer. Once you have a rough idea of what you want to do, actively seek out films which help you along that road. (Many of these sites are organised by genre - that can help.) Focus on your role - if you are a cinematographer, be active in seeking influences for your cinematography. If you find a film you like, seek out others by that cinematographer, that director, in that genre, using that narrative structure or whatever. (Note -very little of the focus is on plot! Lots of students focus on plot to the exclusion of everything else. Avoid this.)




A large part of your mark is for pre-production, so make sure you are keeping a production log. Anything you expect to be given marks for needs evidence, so you really need to be building up that portfolio.


Production schedule

Treatment - A quick summary of the plot.

Script - Use Celtx and present it properly. Break it down properly.

Storyboard - Prepared by the cinematographer. Both the script and the storyboard would usually be copied and annotated by everyone in the group. It is important, for example, that the editor annotates the storyboard before shooting in order to make sure all the shots he or she needs are actually being planned. The sound designer would need to note what kinds of sound would be needed where, and so on.

Shot list- the actual shots which will be captured. Often more useful on set than the storyboard (but not a replacement for a storyboard!)

Location Scouting - actually go to your location at roughly the time you will be filming and check that it is appropriate. Take photos. Check the sound, light, access, busy-ness and so on. 

Production Notes - actor choices, clothing, set designs, props...

Set photography - while you are working on set, make sure you are taking photos as proof of the things you do.


The key thing on set is organisation; all you rcreative thinking should be done in advance so you can focus on being efficient (though of course, if ideas come up on set, go with them.) Everyone in the group should be there and helping; the protocol outline on the left will help you to be efficient and to minimise mistakes and re-shoots. Check what you are doing as you are going along and hold each other to a very high standard.


The editor's first role is as quality control; they need to check that the footage is sufficient to the task of making the film. So, first they need to go through all the footage (with the director, perhaps) and log it - that is, sort it out. Here's one log sheet you can use; if not this one, there are many others available online.

Although the editing is (obviously) primarily the editor's job, there should be input from all members of the team. The sound designer and editor will work very closely together, sending films and soundtracks back and forth until they fit.

It would be unusual if no additional footage or pick-up shots were required at this stage. You should have planned one more shoot for this.


Sample Portfolios

The Trailer

First, note that every single assessment criterion refers to the trailer as well as the film; it is a common student error to misunderstand the importance of the trailer (and the commentary) to the portfolio. That means you need to show the planning and pre-production for your trailer and to chart the production process just as you do for your film. Next, understand the purpose of the trailer; it gives an individual component to the practical portfolio, allowing students to show what they can do when they are allowed to work alone. As such, it is often the most idiosyncratic and creative part of the whole project. It is also often what actually decides a student's individual grade.


You need to be familiar with what a trailer is, what it does and what it usually contains. There are some thoughts on trailer production and several examples of mainstream trailers here and here.


But you are not limited to making a mainstream trailer of 'the best bits' of your film. You can go much further and be much more creative than that. You can see some student examples in the links above; the document below might give you some ideas to think about. Note that none of them limit themselves to simply rehashing parts of their film. You might get some slightly alternative ideas from the trailers here.





Two trailers for the same student film: here and here.

The Commentary

Commentary (cinematography)

Commentary (editing)

Commentary (sound design)

Commentary (director)

Commentary (screenplay writer)

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