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How the internet can help you make films

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Charlie Swinbourne Charlie Swinbourne | 11:14 UK time, Thursday, 3 February 2011

When I first became interested in filmmaking, I felt intimidated by the amount of equipment I thought I'd need to get started. A film camera; monitors; lighting equipment; microphones; editing desks; miles of wire. Making a film seemed like a complex, time consuming, expensive thing to do.

Nowadays, you don't even need to own a camcorder as many mobile phones have a video recording feature. So it's relatively easy to get some friends together and get shooting. After collecting your footage, you can cut it together using editing software that now comes built in to most computers or laptops. Then you can upload it to a video-sharing website, and find out what the world thinks of it!

So where to start? First, you need to get inspired. The best way is simple: watch plenty of films! So look through video-sharing websites like YouTube, Vimeo, or check out the BBC's Film Network, which has a host of fantastic shorts by up and coming directors (I especially loved this one, Conversation Piece). Another great website, that does exactly what it says on the tin, is Short of the Week.

Before shooting, it helps if you write a script, even if it's some notes outlining what will happen in your film. The BBC's Writers Room website is chock full of tips and scripts, including this useful page on how to write short films. You can also find straightforward advice from websites like Wikihow.com. To keep costs low, think about stories that could be told in just one location, with only a few characters, saving the more ambitious stories (featuring explosive action sequences, or that all important dinosaur shot perhaps) for later in your career!

Once you've got a story, it's time to choose the actors. You could get a group of your friends together, giving them the roles they seem most suited to. Or you could go further than that. Raindance have a really useful site full of tips for indie filmmakers.

Once you're shooting, how do you choose the best angles for filming a scene? Microfilmmaker magazine has good advice on how to get 'coverage'– which means filming different angles and shots (such 'close ups') so that when you come to edit, you can create an interesting-looking scene.

Once you've got all your footage, download it to your computer before importing it into your computer's editing programme and start editing. Windows computers have Windows Movie Maker built in as standard, while Apple computers contain iMovie. Both programmes are easy to use, and once you've given them a try, you could look to invest in more advanced editing software.

Once you've finished editing your film, it's time to upload! You'll need to convert (or 'export') it into a file type that your video-sharing website accepts, often MPEG4, .AVI or .MOV files. If in doubt, look at the site's 'help' or 'support' sections. Then give your film a snappy title, add some 'tags' to describe what it's about, and you're ready to send it out into the great unknown!

To help more people see your work, you could add a link to your film on your Facebook or Twitter page, email the link to your friends, or post it to an internet message board!

It's worth remembering that you don't have to make a film that tells a conventional story with a beginning, middle and end. You could make anything at all. For example, one YouTube user made a film where he demonstrates 41 different facial expressions!

Once you've got some experience, you might be interested in more advanced filmmaking advice. Vimeo have just launched an online film school covering all kinds of filmmaking techniques. The New York Video School is also useful, with a range of videos covering every aspect of filmmaking.

You might be interested in getting further training, and if so, this BBC Film Network page has a host of useful links to training organisations, courses and film schools.

Making films isn't easy - there's a lot to think about. But once you break each aspect of filmmaking down, it gets simpler and you can find a way through the process. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, and learn from them. Good luck, and if you win an Oscar one day, don't forget to mention you read this article!

Charlie is a journalist and scriptwriter specialising in articles and films featuring deaf culture and sign language. He has written for the Guardian online and has contributed to programmes for Radio 4, while his films have won international awards. He also works in the arts, helping to make theatre accessible for deaf people.

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