5 Tips for Making a Short Horror Film

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By Fun Size Frank,

Hey there, Fun Size Horror community! We’ve come across countless helpful tips, hints, and advice that have been invaluable in our movie making pursuits. After producing dozens and dozens of horror shorts, we wanted to share our own 5 Tips for Making a Short Horror Film.

If there is anything we know it’s that the internet loves itself some lists (it also loves cats and corgis but that’s not relevant for this*) and if there is something we love it’s makin’ us some horror short films. So we put our filmmakers in Dr. Brundle’s teleportation device….

Teleportation Device

And here it is! Our list of five tips for producing a delightfully dreadful horror short. This is by no means a definitive list.  Add your own tips and reactions to ours to the comments below.

1. KEEP IT SIMPLE

- Write for what you have access to. Do you have a full scale Satanic Church with goat emblazoned alter in your studio apartment?....Really? You Do? Can we come over?...ahem...for those of you not so lucky, you should stick to writing what you have access to with relative ease. You would be surprised what dread you can create with something as simple as a closet.         - During production, make creative decisions based on the best, simplest way to tell your story. Don’t show off camera moves, visual effects, or lengthy takes, unless it’s appropriate for the film you’re making. Most likely your cast and crew are working for free or very little. They’ll work much harder and buy into your vision the happier you keep them. And, if you tell a good story your film will be better received. Trust us, we know.

2. GORE IS NOT THE POINT. FOCUS ON THE STORY.

We all love practical and visual effects but there is nothing exciting about a horror short that feels like an FX reel. Telling a compelling story with characters that feel real should always come first. Get your audience to love your characters THEN rip them apart with starving zombie Sasquatches.

3. TWIST YOUR TWIST!

Be unexpected. We have a saying here at Fun Size Horror when developing our  films and that is “It needs bloody boxes.” We learned this from two films in Volume One, find a way to punctuate your short with an added twist. An extra gut punch to get a belly laugh or stomach turn.

4. BUILD A FILMMAKING COMMUNITY!

Are you a director who knows how to edit but needs a cinematographer? Find a cinematographer who wants to direct but needs an editor, and so forth. You’ll find yourself with a crew more invested in your goals if you are just as invested in theirs. Your work will benefit from healthy collaboration that comes from working with people you like.

5. REMEMBER: It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie.

Make films you're passionate about whether you just want to scare your friends or explore deep dark emotions. Don’t get wrapped up in waiting for Sundance acceptance letters and fortune and glory.  Make films because you enjoy it. Make films because it’s fun. Show them to everyone even when you think they suck. Then, make more films. Soon, you won’t need Sundance.

Bonus tip: Watch other short films. Lots of them. See what works and doesn’t work for you. Now if only there was a site where you could have easy access to an ever growing supply of horror shorts….

For technical filmmaking tips check out nofilmschool.com. Follow them on facebook and twitter; they post the best no-budget production how-to videos on the web. 

Share your thoughts on our tips in the comments below!

teleportation 2

*In the interest of fairness we did try to add cats and corgis to Dr. Brundle’s teleporter but the results were...unfortunate.