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Raindance's 21 Minute Film School


21 Minute Film School

Have you ever had a desire to make a movie? If so, set 21 minutes of your hectic life aside and read on!


1. The Idea for a film 

Ever have a great idea for a movie? Sit down and see if you can decide which character’s eyes we see the story from (the point of view aka P.O.V.) This is likely the main character, and the one we connect with the most – the Hero (the screenwriting term is Protagonist).  - then see what this characters main driving force, their goal is (also called the desire)  - then see if you can identify one person who contradicts or opposes the Hero – the Opponent (Antagonist).  - then  add two or three characters whose stories intertwine with that of the Heros (sup-plots).  Finally, decide where you want the story to end up, and Presto: - you now have a solid story idea! Raindance hosts the legendary Live!Ammunition! panel, where you can pitch your ideas to a panel of industry experts. The evening costs £100 but is free to members of Raindance. Click here  to find out how to join Raindance  


2. Treatment 

The next step is to write out the story in a 3-5 (double spaced) page essay or story outline called a treatment. The first page will start with the summary of the story. Follow this with a third-half page of each of the main obstacles the Hero needs to overcome (also called plot points or story beats). The last page should summarize the ending and tie up all of the various sub-plots. When you have completed this step, you will have completed a basic treatment for a feature film. You might want to consult the book, Raindance Writers Lab for more details on scriptwriting.  

3. Copyright Protection


 To raise and secure finance for your project you will need to protect yourself from intellectual property theft. Send  a copy of the treatment to the Writer’s Guild  of America (New York or Los Angeles)  along with $20 (you do not have to be a member) and  register it. Then, for extra security, send another  copy to the Library of Congress ( with  $30 and Copyright it. They will send you a notice of registration, a birth certificate if you like, and you can  now prove the precise day that your idea  became real and a property that you actually own. Or, you can register your script with Raindance. Non-Members £20/ Members £6.25.

4. Screenplay

 You now need a screenplay. Either hire a writer to write the treatment in script format and sign a deal where you get two drafts: (1st draft in 5 weeks and 2nd  draft in 3 weeks, paying £250 - £500 a week) over  two months. If you can’t afford to hire a screenwriter  then you will either option an already written (aka:  Spec Script) screenplay for a nominal sum or write the script  yourself. Raindance has many excellent screenwriting courses. The best introductory course in Europe is the Write and Sell the HOT Script class with Raindance founder, Elliot Grove.  

Write the Hot Script

5. Low-Budget Scripts 

Your first movie will typically be one where you have a very small or low budget. Make certain you have the following elements that mean a low-budget script: a)The finished script should be about 90 pages long (one page of properly typed screenplay = approximately one minute of screen time. Thus your finished film will be approximately 90 minutes long.b)Try to avoid special effects and CGI shots, unless you know a special effects wizard who can create these shots cheaply on a lap-top using low-budget software like After Effects, Shake or Combustion.c)Keep locations to a minimum. Moving locations costs money. Films like “Clerks”, “12  Angry Men”, “Reservoir Dogs”, “Panic Room”, “Phonebooth”,  are all shot in limited locations. Raindance publishes dozens of free articles every year on all sorts of topics. Read how to write a low-budget script,  

6. Budget


Remember the easiest way to not make a film is to procrastinate, and a sophisticated way to procrastinate is to set a budget that is unrealistic for you to raise. It may impress friends and neighbours  for a few months that you are making a two million film, but after you have tried and failed for a few months, their patience with you will filter, as will your own motivation. 99.9% of Independent Filmmakers,  on their first shoot, only have access to somewhere  between £5,000 and £300,000. And most money for first films is raised from friends and family. Budget accordingly. Raindance founder Elliot Grove presents an intensive weekend masterclass Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking which was taken by Guy Ritchie, Mathew Vaughan and dozens of other up-and-coming filmmakers. Don’t miss out. This course always sells out.  

7. Chose a Start Date 

Pick a date that will allow you enough time to get the finance in place (however ridiculously small the budget is) and announce that is the date you are commencing principle photography. It is amazing how a firm date focuses everyone’s attention. If you run out of time, you then postpone to a new date a few weeks later. We should know. Raindance Founder Elliot Grove has produced using this principal. Check out his stats at 

8. Schedule  

If you have access to £150,000-£300,000 you will most likely be a 3-week (18-day) shoot. With access to £80,000-£150,000  you’ll be a 2-week (16-day) shoot. Finally,  if all you have is £5,000-£80,000 then you only have  enough money for a 1-week (9-day) shoot. (remember that you pick up all of the equipment on a Friday afternoon and return it Monday morning after the shoot, meaning that on a one week/nine day shoot you shoot SSMTWTFSS = 9 shooting days) Next you decide how many pages per day you are going to shoot. If you have a 90-page screenplay and a 18-day shoot will have a 5-page per day shooting schedule. Finally, decide how to arrange the schedule to make the most efficient use of the actors and locations. You might decide to shoot all the hotel room scenes on one day, and bring the different actors in for the day; or; you might decide to shoot the hotelo scenes over several days because it might be cheaper to work to the actors schedule. You need to decide this. Other film schools charge a fortune for their scheduling class. Raindance courses are all taught by working industry professional, including the Budgeting AND Scheduling class – a one night stand covering the essentials.  And if you want to know how a nine day shoot is actually only one week, send an email with the Subject  Nine Day/One Week Shoot and we’ll whiz over the answer! 

9. Format  

It is important to choose the right type of camera for your budget. The three principal formats for capturing images are: 35mm/16mm film stock (expensive), HD(hi definition digital tape – quite expensive), miniDV (digital tape- cheap),  The budget and schedule will help you determine which format you are able to use.  With £150,000-£300,000 you can afford to shoot 16mm or 35mm for three weeks.  With access  to £120,000-£150,000 you can shoot 35mm/HD for two weeks or 16mm for three weeks. At a budget of £80,000-£120,000 the options are:-     
a one week/9 day 35mm shoot
a two week/16 day 16mm shoot
a three week HD shoot Budgets under £80,000 dictate digital video formats: either HD (relatively expensive, or minDV (relatively cheap). And you can shoot for one – three weeks. 

10. Resources



Get your local film directory (phonebook for film crew & equipment)  from your respective film commission or the UK Film Council  Get your paperwork (forms, agreements, checklists,  contracts, storyboards, etc) and get organized from  the following books: (Raindance Producers Lab, Contracts for Film & TV, “Complete  Film Production Handbook”, “Independent  Producer’s Guide to Film & TV Contracts”, “Film  Scheduling”, “Film Scheduling & Budgeting  Workbook”, “Film Director’s team”, “Storyboards: Motion in Art” and “From Word to Image”)  

Get your software (screenwriting, budgeting or scheduling) from any of the numerous screenwriting sites

 The Raindance website has a huge resource section. Just go to Raindance Resources and look around. 

11. Equipment

 Rent 16/35mm CAMERAS from (Arriflex  or Panavision) and a DOLLY (Fisher or Chapman) on a “2-Day” rate of about £2,000/week.  Film LIGHTS & GRIP equipment will come from a company like AFM. MiniDV and HD lights will most likely come from the company that hires you the cameras ( Mini DV kits including dolly, lights and tracks cost about £500 per week from video hire companies.  Hire a sound recordist with their own equipment (Recorder, Microphones & Mixer),  at £500 - £1,500 per week  

12. Location(s)  

Be sure you get a signed  release (needed for E & O Insurance) from the owner/tenant of any location you use. Members of Raindance can download these forms for free. 

13. Direct


1st Cast Your Actors: During pre-production, hire a casting  director £200/day) or advertise in PCR and SBS to get 4-6 actors to read per  part.  2nd Rehearsal: have one reading (aka: Table Reading) at the location with your cast.  Shoot: With the cameras and actors at the location select shots in this order: first get a Master Shot, then  two Medium (Over-the-Shoulder) Shots, and then  a Close-up with a couple of Cut-aways.  This is  five to six shots per scene or page. With a 3-week shoot (5-pages/day) resulting in 25-35 shots/day schedule, allows just 20-25 minutes/shot. Raindance excels in directing courses.  You may want to specialize with Directing Performance, or Hands-On Directing, or take an introductory course, The Directors Foundation Certificate. 

How to make a short film

14: The Shoot  

Stay on schedule 5-pages/day (3-week shoot), 25-35 shots/day  as you stay on budget and get excellent coverage. Arrive at the set at 6:00am shoot until  7:00pm (its dark), spend 2 hours of wrap and planning  for the next day and at least 1 hour at late-night dailies. You will start at 6:00am and finish each  day at 10:00pm-12:00pm. This is a 16-18 hour workday. Do this everyday for 3-weeks and you have shot your movie. If you want to experience the rhythm of a low-budget HDV Shoot, try out weekend HDV Shoot class.  If making a short film is more your thing, How To Make  A Short Film weekend might suit.  Or, perhaps you what to Direct Commercials?  

15. Edit & Post


 Hire a picture editor to give you six edits (aka: cuts) over 2 months. Then hire a sound editor (create an additional 10-20 sound tracks) over 1 month. Next, rent a post production sound facility for a couple  of days of ADR (lip syncing and voice overs), then  Foley (footsteps and clothes rustling), procure your M&E (for foreign sales) track and contract for your original music score. Then combine all these  sound tracks during a Re-recording session. Raindance offers a basic editing class using Final Cut Pro software.  

16. Lab & Print  

You’re almost done! Have the lab make an optical sound track, then cut the negative to conform to your workprint’s edit list, then color correct the cut negative and  strike an answer print with the titles, dissolves, fades and sound track included. You’re done! You’ve made your first movie! 

17. Publicity


Now let’s make money! One month prior to the shoot have your  film listed in the trades’ (Daily Variety & Hollywood  Reporter) film production charts. Handle the phone calls from distributors (Acquisition Executives)  who want to screen your film. Be sure that you get  action photos of your film being shot during production  and create a slick looking press kit during post-production. 


18. Distributors


 There  are 6-7 major distributors (Warners, Paramount, Disney,  etc), 6-7 mini-major distributors (Miramax, New Line, etc), 10-12 independent distributors (Strand, Lionsgate,  etc) and 15-20 foreign sale distributors (Curb, Concorde,  Troma, etc). When these 35-45 Distributors (Acquisition  Executives) call to screen your film (never give an exclusive showing) notify them at what festival  you will be premiering.Raindance also hosts the prestigious British Independent  Film Awards attended by all the top distributors. A limited number of tickets remain.  


19. Festivals


Of the 200- 1,500 film festivals each year you must get your film accepted in one of the 10-15 major (Sundance, Toronto, Telluride, Tribeca, Berlin, Rotterdam, Cannes etc) festivals that these 35-45 Acquisition Execs  attend. Have your premiere. Hopefully the theater sells out, with a clearly  defined audience demographics, that love the film and applauds loudly at the closing titles. You proudly leave the auditorium and enter the theater’s lobby where, if you’ve done proper publicity, there are at least 7-10, of the 35-45, Acquisition Executives who want to procure distribution rights.We sure know our festivals. The Raindance Film Festival has become one of the most important independent film festivals in Europe. Click here for a free list of distributors and sales agents that attended Cannes last year,  

20. Distribution  

Negotiate, during the next 12-18 hours, with the 7-10 distributors who want to pick up your film. Don’t be by  yourself. Have an agent, a producer’s representative or an entertainment attorney with you. Negotiate  the major 25 “deal memo” points. Such as: How much money up front? North American or Foreign  deal? What’s the P&A (Prints and Advertising) budget? What’s the Distribution Fee? Who’s got each of the “Windows” (PPV, VOD, Cable, Video/DVD, etc) and for how long? Who has  each of the foreign nation (Italy, Germany, Japan, Brazil, etc) sales? What about Profits? 

21. Profits


Now get an accountant ready to audit and an attorney ready  to sue and enforce the contract. However, prior to your accountant and your attorney you will now have an agent (ICM, CAA, UTA, APA, etc) who is readying you for a "3-picture deal", a house in  Malibu, meetings with stars and a humble acceptance speech. Along the way there will be wonderful salaries, super and massive profits garnered from Box Office Grosses, Foreign Sales, Video/DVD deals, Cable Sales and ancillary revenues from music album, merchandising  and licensing. 


One Year+

It has taken 12-18 months, but you have launched your career with your first no-budget feature film that you either wrote, produced or directed that garnered a lot of  press and publicity at a major film festival. You  have just received a solid foundation of filmmaking information from which you can build on to launch  a successful career. At Raindance, my motto is “The  most information in the shortest period of time”.  Thus, to get the full lesson and launch your career, then take one of these intensive film school programs: Write and Sell the Hot Script – Weekend MasterclassLo-To-No Budget filmmaking – Weekend Masterclass99 Minute film School – One night crash courseBreaking Into The Industry – One night crash course Details are at Here are some movies made using the principles taught at Raindance

Clerks - Kevin Smith's first film, one-location  shoot, filmed in a convenience store.

Sex Lies and Videotape - A movie with five-locations, filmed in a small town, launched Steven Soderbergh's career. 


Blair Witch Project - 3 kids, one tent, 5-acres and $150 million gross, you can do it!

Reservoir Dogs - Quentin tooks 10 actors to a garage and demonstrated his talent...can you? 

Pulp Fiction - Quentin's second film, truly demonstrates a career launched. 


My Big Fat Greek Wedding - A stage play converted into a film, grossed over $250 million. What will your film do? 

Easy Rider - 3-guys, 2-bikes and the independent film movement is launched.