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How to Make a Short Film: An Introduction to Filmmaking

Do you have a passion for film? Learn the key skills of filmmaking in this practical course from the BFI.

4,840 enrolled on this course

Woman operating a phone filming her friend

How to Make a Short Film: An Introduction to Filmmaking

4,840 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 4 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Kick-start your filmmaking practice with simple techniques and basic equipment

Film is the ideal medium for telling stories, communicating ideas, and entertaining friends and family, so why leave it to the professionals? This course has been specially designed to help anyone interested in filmmaking to master the essentials and start making their own work.

Each week, our step-by-step guide will help develop your skills and enhance your understanding of the medium. Starting with the significance of a single shot, you will find out how films tell stories, consider how to show movement, and use sound. You will also discover how to script and storyboard, organise a shoot, choose what to film, and plan and polish your work in the editing process.

You will learn by interrogating a wide range of British films including student work from the BFI Film Academy, archive titles from the BFI National Archive, and videos specially created by your course leader. There will also be plenty of opportunities to learn from each other as you are encouraged to share and discuss your ideas, experiences, and what you have made.


  • Week 1

    First positions: the basics of film

    • Introduction to the course

      Hello and a warm welcome to this BFI course - How to Make a Short Film. In this activity, you'll meet your tutors and find out more about what you'll be learning over the next four weeks from Tom Barrance, course leader.

    • How films tell stories

      We begin by looking at the building blocks of film and how you can create a narrative by using the continuity system.

    • How pictures tell stories

      Next we explore how shot size, camera angle, composition and light can help tell your story. You'll then be asked to use what you've learnt to examine a short film clip.

    • Filming a basic shot

      In this activity you'll focus on getting ready to film a shot. We'll look at what you need to do in advance and how to get the exposure and focus right. You'll then share three shots with other learners on the course.

    • Week 1 conclusion

      Here you'll take a short quiz to check what you've learnt so far, then we draw together some thoughts about this week and look ahead to Week 2.

  • Week 2

    Mark it: what makes film unique

    • Sequences

      Welcome back to How to Make a Short Film. This week we will look at what makes film such a unique medium by examining sequences, sound, movement and time.

    • Movement and time

      In this activity you'll learn about basic camera movements, the significance of screen direction, how to show a journey in separate shots, and how film can depict the passing of time. You can also practice the techniques.

    • Sound

      Next we turn to sound and how to best use it to tell your story. We'll learn about the different types of sound used in filmmaking and the best techniques for recording it well. You'll also put into practice what you've learnt.

    • Week 2 conclusion

      Take our short quiz which helps test your learning from this week and let us know how you're finding the course so far.

  • Week 3

    Action: filmmaking challenge

    • Short film essentials

      In this activity, we explain the filmmaking task, provide some tips and ideas for making short films, and look at story structures. We also provide a handy timeline of tasks to tick off to help plan your filming.

    • Plan your film

      How do you plan your story? In this section we help you plot your film, and give plenty of examples of how to script and storyboard.

    • Film your shots

      Next you'll move on to filming the shots you need for your film. This stage includes organising your shoot, preparing with your actors, and filming.

  • Week 4

    It's a wrap: finishing your film

    • Get ready to edit

      Editing can appear complicated so where do you start? In this activity we help guide you with an editing workflow, advice on editing programs, and how to work through and evaluate your clips.

    • Editing your film

      This activity takes you step-by-step through the editing process from rough cut to adjusting colour and adding text. You'll also be provided with external links to relevant tutorials in case you want to explore in greater depth.

    • Finishing touches

      In this final activity we help you make any final improvements to your short film. We then consider where and how best to share your work with others.

    • Wrapping up

      What have we learnt this week and over the duration of the course? And where do you go next for more filmmaking resources, to become part of a filmmaking community, and to share and show your film?

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Apply filmmaking techniques and concepts learnt on the course in a practical way
  • Develop an understanding of the basic skills required to make a film
  • Engage with and learn from a wide range of films from archive titles to student work
  • Practice a range of filmmaking skills such as framing a shot, using camera movement and editing a sequence
  • Demonstrate the ability to read a film scene
  • Describe the different ways that film can show the passing of time
  • Identify the different types of film sound and think about how to apply them to your own work
  • Create a short film, from the initial idea to a finished video

Who is the course for?

From absolute beginners to those wanting to refresh their skills, How to Make a Short Film is designed for anyone with a passion for film and filmmaking.

You might be a student or filmmaker at the start of your career, a professional who wants to incorporate film into your work, or an educator - such as a teacher, youth worker or arts practitioner, who needs the skills to support and develop the work of others.

You might also want to try filmmaking as an expressive activity in itself, experimenting with different techniques, and using the activities to discover the creative potential of the medium.

What software or tools do you need?

To take part in the course, you will need something to film with and something to edit on. You could film and edit with just a smartphone or tablet, but using a still camera or camcorder provides you with more creative options. It is also easier to do more ambitious editing on a computer, particularly if you have access to a program like Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro.

The course requires you to have a video editing program or app. You could use a free program like iMovie, VN Editor or Hitfilm Express. Pro options include Adobe Premiere Pro CC or Final Cut Pro.

Using a tripod, handle/filming case (for a smartphone) or a stabiliser will help you film steady shots. A basic clip-on ‘lavalier’ microphone and headphones helps improve sound quality, but are not essential. To make the most of natural light you could also use some affordable folding reflectors.

Last but not least, you will need one or two friends or family members who are happy to be filmed!

Who will you learn with?

I've been a film educator and trainer for over 30 years. I run the site learnaboutfilm.com and I've created resources including an ebook, an interactive kids' guide, and films for learners to edit.

I'm a producer and educator at the BFI specialising in working with our archive collections and cultural programmes. To date I’ve made over 60 short films which explore the UK's rich film heritage.

I've been working at the BFI in London for over 20 years, looking after a range of education programmes and projects. Before that I taught in schools in south London as an English and Media teacher.

Who developed the course?

The British Film Institute (BFI)

The British Film Institute (BFI) was founded in 1933 and is a charity governed by a Royal Charter. It has three priorities – education, supporting the UK film industry and unlocking film heritage.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$69/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 13 Aug 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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