I Made a Sci-Fi Short Film With a $46 Budget
Pick a time. Pick a day. Press the light. Pass it on.
In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.
But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends.
Do the last two paragraphs sound familiar? They should because I stole them from Anton Ego in Ratatouille. You may be wondering why I began this article with a monologue from a popular children's animated film. Well, let me tell you why.
I'm a film critic. It's my job to watch movies and analyze them while advising you, the audience, on whether you should watch them. I love my job, but my perspective on it is very similar to how Ego views the role of a critic.
We have the easy job. Our job may not be as simple as most people think it is, but compared to the career of a filmmaker, a film critic's role is one without much risk or pain. I believe to understand how to criticize films, a critic should have an idea of how film production works.
So I made a short film.
Movies are my entire life. I live and breathe the art of film, and in the past, I've only made one short film. It was a stupid stop-motion film about two paper birds fighting over food; it was all I could do with no budget and no actors.
But the film was accepted into a local film festival, so I wanted to do it again. This time, my friend wanted to play the lead role, which let me focus more on the directing. This would be a live-action short film with a bit more production value than my first short.
After a failed initial shoot and a few months of rewrites, another friend let me borrow his DSLR, and I began to shoot. However, we started in March, and as you know, this is when the world began to shut down.
I was able to walk into a café and coax them into letting me film a few shots near the front of the store before they closed for the day. We got a few shots there and got some more shots in other locations for another few days.
During this time, the coronavirus cases began to increase more and more. This was late March, and at that point, I decided that for our safety, we should suspend production. It was a crazy life we were living in, but I needed to finish this movie.
May arrived, and I decided to resume production. It wasn't easy, but we filmed an exterior dialogue scene, the two actors being him and me (I had a supporting role). However, when I edited the film, the result was unwatchable; the audio quality kept changing, and the lighting altered drastically between each shot.
The next day, I gave the script a significant rewrite, writing the new script around the usable footage we had, and the next day, we filmed our new scenes. And we finished it.
I wanted to make this movie because I wanted to prove to myself that I could make a film. Our budget was very minimal, and the fact that I wrote, directed, edited, and produced a short film under extreme circumstances like this (with a mask and a lot of social distance, of course) was a major accomplishment in my career.
Hopefully, we'll all be back to normal one day, but until then, watch my sci-fi short film. It deals with time travel and paradoxes while also exploring the theme of fate, and it's only six and a half minutes. Because not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.