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How (And Why) To Make a Short Film: starring Amy Heidt

July 14, 2015
Today we’re taking a dive into the wonderful/stressful/overwhelming/gratifying world of short film making with a Q&A featuring my friend Amy Heidt – the talented writer/director behind the recent short film THE LAST ONES and upcoming short film THE WAITRESS, which just started its Kick Starter campaign.
Confession: I have always wanted to write and direct a short film but am wildly intimidated by the process. I thought some people might feel the same, ergo this post. Enjoy! And as a thanks to Amy for helping you feel like you can totally make this happen for yourself, why not donate to her brand new project, THE WAITRESS – a darkly comic love letter to anyone who’s worked in the service industry.

How (And Why) To Make a Short Film

1. You’ve done almost everything there is to do in the entertainment industry (acted, written, produced, directed). So why the short film “world” as your latest endeavor? 

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 10.28.39 AM

This is Amy! I swear you have never heard a laugh so cute…

I started acting when I was a kid, but I always maintained an obsession with filmmaking and filmmakers. I was the weird kid in junior high with a stack of movie magazines in her closet (Movieline & Premiere, RIP). I wrote and directed stage things here and there, but it took me a long time make the cognitive leap that I could be a filmmaker, that I was just as worthy of it as these people I idolized. The Last Ones was my first foray into filmmaking, and it was written specifically to be made simply and inexpensively. With The Waitress, the production values are significanly higher, and the production itself promises to be much more complicated. And I’m also acting in it, which is going to be a very interesting challenge!

2. Say I want to write and direct a short film, too? What is the very first step I should take? 

Research! Read screenplays, watch short films online, and listen to podcasts–I’m a fan of John August & Craig Mazin’s Scriptnotes; its focus is on features, but there’s all kinds of useful information on story and structure. Find an idea that you’re passionate about that you can tell completely in a short format. Ask some trustworthy and knowledgable friends to read your drafts and give you notes. And be prepared for lots of rewrites! For The Waitress, which is an 11 page script, I’m on draft 12 or 13.

3. Hardest part of the process? 

My biggest personal struggle has definitely been asking for help. Historically, it’s not something I’m great at. But filmmaking is by definition a collaborative process, so I’ve been forced way outside of my comfort zone. It’s been challenging, but also hugely rewarding. Launching the Kickstarter caused me all kinds of anxiety, but the process of getting over myself and letting people who genuinely want to help me help me has been an inspirational and humbling experience that I’ll never forget.

4. Easiest part of the process?

On The Last Ones, I did a lot of work in pre-production so that on the day of the shoot, I could be present for my crew and actors as a director first and foremost. And it was magical. The day wasn’t without its little stresses, but I felt a sense of flow and ease with my brilliant cast & fearless crew that confirmed that all the stress and work was worth it.
5. I know that you worked with great and talented friends on your first project. Are you still friends? And if so, to what do you attribute the fact that you do not hate each other after your first experience working together?
We are still friends! Casting is a huge part of the director’s job, and if it’s done well, you can really make things so easy on yourself. I happen to have an incredible number of talented friends, so the only challenging thing was narrowing the list for this project, and figuring out which actors would have chemistry with each other. I’m only interested in having a relaxed, fun set, so if you like your friends, I’d highly recommend working with them.

6. Does this make you want to direct a feature film? 

Absolutely! I’ve got a feature I’ve been hammering away at for a couple of years; hopefully someday I’ll get to bring it to life.

7. What one thing to you want to say to the short filmmaking youth of america about making a short film?

DO IT! Be willing to fail. Celebrate small victories while keeping your eye on the prize. This industry is changing so quickly, and the digital revolution has been an incredible equalizer, that there’s no reason not to get out there and make your voice heard!
You heard the lady. Make it happen, and then report back!

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