Planning on making your first short film? Don't
Now before you get turned away by the title, just listen for a minute. I am not saying you lack the ability to make a short film, everyone can do it if they have a camera. What I mean is, do not be so anxious to make your first short to upload online or to make for an audience. I made this mistake when I shot Priceless for an audience.
As I was editing I started to realize how bad my shots were and immediately began to feel discouraged from making any more films afterwards. I managed to get lucky and Priceless received some good feedback and did make it to an international film festival so I kept going. Truthfully, none of that was due to the quality of the film, rather it was just the story I was able to tell.
Looking back, I wish that I had taken the time to do microfilms for practice that I would keep to myself and use to learn the craft before jumping in headfirst. The first film you release is also the first impression you make on the film world so it is important to get the best quality you can out of it first.
Making microfilms not only gives you practice in telling stories but also, leading actors and crew, composition, lighting, sound, editing, and just about any aspect of making a normal film. As you make these microfilms, analyze them and take notes on things you still need more practice on and things that you feel you did well so you can improve on those items in the next film. Since microfilms do not require much pre-production (mostly just about ten minutes to plan the story and a brief idea of the shots in your head) and shooting/editing typically takes 3 hours at most together it is not beyond reason to be able to do one a week to hone your skills.
Keep in mind while making microfilms that they are less than two minutes so there is not much opportunity to tell a story, especially one with dialogue and complex characters. It is best to keep your stories, characters, and lines simple. This is just for practice so it will not have a large budget either, this is a good way to get used to coming up with creative solutions for gear you may not have like jibs and gimbals. This is good for getting to the bigger shoot so you don't have to panic about not having that type of equipment, you simply know what to do to achieve that look without it.
Also, start watching YouTube videos from channels like Film Riot, D4Darious, and DSLRGuide as they all have great tips for people just starting out as aspiring filmmakers on a tight budget along with some pro tips that can be used as you advance in your craft. I have found some of these videos invaluable to helping me improve my techniques and even getting inspired by some of them to do some of my films. You never know how or when an idea will come into your head. After all, creativity cannot be forced, only generated through freedom of mind and experience.
To summarize, practice, practice, practice, and study. It is a time consuming grind but one that you will find greatly enhances your overall quality and allows you to find your strengths and weaknesses to showcase to potential clients in the future. I hope this has helped you.