Prompts To Keep You Filming All Year

It’s 2020, and it’s time for some serious and tenacious inspiration to keep all you independent filmmakers creating all year long. 

Tis the season for new year’s resolutions, a time when all the dreamers out there dream big dreams of what they want the year to look like. Independent filmmakers are no exception. If you’re like me, you’ve got goals and out of this world ideas you want to see come to life on screen, but like me, you know life can get in the way of those dreams becoming a reality. 

Well, no more, I say! No more! 

2020 is a year for those dreams to live. So, I’ve put together a few ideas to help you keep creating all year long so that when you look back at all you’ve done this year, you can be proud of your accomplishments and not just wishing you’d done more. Here are 12 realistic prompts to keep you active every month, before or after film shoots, or even during them. 

JANUARY

Create a short video of inspirational quotes for the creatives in your life. Or if you’re not a fan of quotes, then write your own inspirational piece, and use a bunch of behind the scenes footage from sets you’ve worked on. This will not only help you start the year off strong but will give you a little encouragement through the year when you’re feeling like creating stuff is taking too much work or you’ve lost the tenacity for it.

Two people in my office did this a couple of years ago, and I watch their short video all throughout the year to keep me motivated.

FEBRUARY

Create a short video about love. What does it mean to you? Why do you think it’s important? How does it affect being an independent filmmaker? Or for those cinephiles out there, splice together a bunch of your favourite films that revolve around the theme of love. For example, you could splice together shots from Love, Actually and When Harry Met Sally, and talk about how these films reflect and/or affected the way our western culture views love.

MARCH

Shoot a short film. From the beginning of the year, you’ll have had three months to plan, write, and cast a short film, so now it’s time to do it. Get a group of indie film friends together, and shoot something. It doesn’t have to be long or big, in fact, if you can think of a story idea that takes place in one room between two people, you should be able to shoot it and start the edit within the month. And this kind of minimalistic short film is easier to produce if you’re working on set. Sean Astin did this during the making of Lord Of The Rings. He got together a few of the filmmakers, some of the stand-ins and made The Long And Short Of It. Even Peter Jackson made a cameo in the film. If they can do that while shooting three epic blockbusters back to back, then we can do this. It’s time to push ourselves a little and see what more we’re capable of. 

APRIL

As the 22nd of April is internationally recognised as Earth Day, create a short video that celebrates what earth means to you. Or better yet, as we are filmmakers, create a video that showcases movies that have made you fall in love with our planet. For me, I’d definitely have to add The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty for its sweeping landscapes and love-letter aspects of cultures all over the world.

MAY & JUNE

Marvel’s Black Widow releases in May and DC’s Wonder Woman 1984 releases early June, it’s a good time to do a film review video. Create a comparison review on the different story styles, what did you like (or not like) about the choices the actors and directors made, what worked about the visual elements, what didn’t? Or do a character study on how these comic book heroines have changed through the years – in personality, costumes, etc. Or create a short video of how they’ve affected culture over the last few decades – Wonder Woman was created in the early 40’s, while Black Widow was created in 1964 – is there anything about this 20+ gap that changed the way writers wrote super heroine’s?

And because this subheading covers two months, my challenge to you is to take on two of these options or find another film released in one of these months that you can do a short video about. Like doing a “Top 5” comparisons video of Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick or do an explanation video of how/why the Fast & Furious franchise is still going strong with number nine!

JULY

Time for a 48! Take a long weekend off work and challenge a bunch of film friends to a 48-hour film competition. Make it an extra challenge by limiting everyone to shoot the short on their smartphones. Here are some guidelines:

Every film has to be under five minutes. Each needs to be written, produced and edited within 48 hours.

Before the challenge starts, grab a dice and roll for the genre:

1 – Drama

2 – Comedy

3 – Rom-com

4 – Your Choice

5 – Horror or Thriller

6 – Scifi/Fantasy or Western

And to keep it fair, here are the elements every team has to incorporate:

Character: Connor Stone, firefighter

Line of dialogue: This is where you live, how can you say that? 

Prop: Fairy Lights

If you follow through on this challenge for your year, we’d love to see the final product and may even highlight one within a short article. To be in the running send your short film to [email protected]. In the subject type: July Film Prompt. Please note: we like to keep TII a family-friendly place, so films with excessive nudity, swearing or adult themes will not be considered. 

AUGUST

This month consider writing or finding a poem or short story that inspires you and grab a bunch of b-footage you already have or find some on one of the many free resources out there and cut together a little inspirational video to inspire your friends and family.

SEPTEMBER

As we near the holidays, this is a great time to raise a little bit of extra cash. My challenge to you for these two months isn’t to create a short video of anything, but rather just to get out and shoot stuff. Go on a hike and get some epic drone shots, take a trip to the beach and shoot some action shots of surfers, grab a few friends and shoot them playing sports. The options are endless. For more info on how to make and sell stock footage, check out this post.

OCTOBER, NOVEMBER, & DECEMBER

To finish the year off super strong, my challenge is to write a feature film during these three months. Here’s my suggestion of the time table:

First two weeks of October: If you’re not already, get familiar with Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet, and plot out each point of your script.

Third week of October: Time to research! If you’ve got a character in a job you’re unfamiliar with, see if you can shadow someone in that field for a day, otherwise, research everything you can that has to do with that job and anything else in the story that you need to get familiar with.

Fourth week of October, first week of November: Write out a rough draft 

Second week of November: I know the holidays are coming fast and time is slipping away, but beg a friend or mentor who understands story to read your rough draft for plot holes, etc. and organise a time to meet up with them for coffee to discuss these points. (Good to plan this one in advance so they can be as prepared as possible.) 

Important note – during this week, give yourself a break from the script. Don’t look at it even once. It’ll give you a fresher perspective when you sit down to look at it later and you’ll notice areas that can be strengthened. 

Third & fourth week of November: make changes to the screenplay.

First & second week of December: Look for screenwriting competitions where you can submit your screenplay and keep making edits, tightening and strengthening the dialogue especially.

Third week of December: Rest. Enjoy time with family and friends. 

Fourth week of December: Read through the script again and make any changes you feel still need to happen. And just like that, you’ll be moving into 2021 with a feature-length screenplay that you can start raising funds for and shoot within that year!

Are you ready for the challenge? Let’s find out if we can keep being tenacious and creative all year long.

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  • Charis Joy Jackson

    Producer, Director, Writer, Actress

    Charis Joy Jackson is a writer, director, producer and teacher working with The Initiative Production Company. During the day she makes movies and in her spare time writes short stories and novel. She's a self-proclaimed nerd who wishes she could live in Hobbiton. You can follow her on Instagram @charisjoyjackson

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