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November 12, 2022

5 Reasons you should make a short film now

by Tony Gapastione

In September 2022, I volunteered as a crossing guard at my kids’ school. It wasn’t because I wanted to but they were in need as the school was short handed (seems like too many of them are). The street that my kids and hundreds of others had to cross daily was extremely busy and dangerous. And what Dad can resist keeping his kids safe (and wielding the power to do so)?

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So I marched into the school office and offered my services.

Can I call them that? Services? The school was desperate so they said yes and allowed me to step in, despite the lack of experience on my resume. I’ve never been a crossing guard before– but how hard can it be to stop traffic when all you have to do is hold up a stop sign?

Um. Hard. Take it from me.

(See a quick video on my IG of my attempt at impressing my kids with my abilities).

On my first day an older gentleman, (let’s just call him that) cussed me out in front of all the kids and parents because I wouldn’t let him exercise inside the campus during school hours. Say what? Calm down, dude.

On my second day two cars went through the crosswalk WHILE I stood there– with the stop sign IN THE AIR and kids walking across. I was dumbfounded. How are these cars NOT STOPPING?!

On my third day, a dad on a moped deliberately ignored my request to stop and slipped through the edge of the crosswalk to make his way out of the school parking lot. I know you saw me dude, don’t lie. Can I make a citizen’s arrest?

I had to laugh, while keeping my dad rage at bay in order to keep these kids safe. My neon yellow vest had now become a superhero costume. But the best part was my filmmaker brain was instantly engaged. Lightbulb moment!

I had an idea.

“Write what you know” they say.

It was time to make (write and direct) another film. Yahoo!Since it had been almost six months since I was on set doing my last short film (Dinosaurs and Bumblebees) and over a year since I had been on set doing my feature film film, “Last Chance Charlene,” I was motivated. (Last Chance Charlene comes out on VOD February 28, 2023).

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Last Chance Charlene. Photos by Micheal Dwidaja
L-R Actors: Allison Ewing, Justin James Hughes, Maral Milani

I also am currently in all sorts of development phases on my next FOUR feature films (33 Days, Go Veronica Go, The Thorns We Live With and Eyes on Dino). It’s quite a waiting game to get feature films into production. It takes money, (a lot of it) most times to make a film. So I figured, how can I make a film WITHOUT A TON OF MONEY in a short amount of time?

Here’s how I made a short film in under two months:

I got the idea in September 2022 to make THE CROSSING GUARD. A story based on my real life experience. I knew it had to be a comedy, although horror would work, too.

I wrote the script in early October 2022, ten pages, a mockumentary short like ABC’s “Abbott Elementary.” Since I also want to write and work in TV, this was a perfect opportunity to play and explore in this style and tone.

I did a table read in mid October 2022. I gathered actors on Zoom to read through the script. They asked questions and gave notes. I edited and polished it up.

Late October 2022, we raised a little money…$155 (with the help of our great high school intern and blog writer Jessica Cohen).I cast the film with mostly BraveMaker connected actors and hired some key crew members with a ton of volunteers (over 50 people will be credited in this short movie). I also used our social media and the San Francisco based site: castingnetworks.com.

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Filming Bay Area actor Rosalinda Oropeza Randall with BraveMaker crew.
L-R Eugene Kremleff, Diquan Richard, Jerome Stolly, Gabriel Perez, Devin Altman, Ella Satterwhite.

On Saturday, November 5, 2022 we filmed it in one 10.5 hour day. (We’ll have a behind the scenes video soon from our intern Tommy).

I spent about $400 in food for the cast and crew.

We rented some camera gear for $300. Huge props to our props master Siena, who sourced a majority of our needs for free, including the faux bird poop. Yes, bird poop. You’ll have to watch the short film to find out.

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L-R DP Jerome Stolly, Assistsant Director Devin Altman, Props Master Siena leans on the ladder, Production Assistants and BraveMaker interns Skye and Jessica wait to pelt me with the dodge balls. A lot going on here.

I paid about $2,500 for some key crew all out of BraveMaker’s pocket which mostly comes from our 28 monthly donors and other generous givers.I also always bring on young and emerging filmmakers to pair with experienced, professional filmmakers to mentor the next generation. This is part of the mission, vision and values of my company, BraveMaker, a nonprofit film charity. (I’m still looking for someone to underwrite the expenses if anyone would like to see their name as EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF THIS FILM, hit me up asap, tony@bravemaker.com).

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Experienced DP Jerome Stolly and Sound Recorder Darcel Walker and SF Bay Area crew staples. They both took on mentees during
THE CROSSING GUARD SHOOT

And THE CROSSING GUARD is currently in post-production, being edited right now, by one of my go-to editors currently living in Los Angeles. This all happened in under two months.

So….what are you waiting for?

Can you write? Can you produce? Can you direct? Let’s go!
If you can’t do it all, do one and find others who can to partner with you.

Here are five reasons I make short films and you should too.

  1. You can’t call yourself a filmmaker if you are not making films. Sorry. I don’t make the rules. But if you haven’t made a film, you’re not a filmmaker. And if you haven’t made a film in over a year, it’s time to stop waiting and make something soon. We made THE CROSSING GUARD in one day. A ten page script, shot in ten hours. A huge feat, but we did it. (Thanks to our great cast and crew for collaborating). One day you’ll go from not being a filmmaker to being a first time filmmaker, then you’ll make your second and your third and so on. But you have to start somewhere. Get on it. (And yes, films on your phone count. Don’t wait for fancy gear and big budgets).
  1. Making short films is important to improve (and prove) your craft. If you have any desire to make a feature film someday, you need to start with short films. Sure, not every feature filmmaker has done so, but if you are waiting to make a feature film, short films are a great way to learn storytelling, work with actors, practice your art, work with a crew (hugely important skill see # 5) and keep yourself sharp as a creator. Every short film is an opportunity to learn something and get better. I will always make short films. They are fun, short term commitments that act like a film school experience and make you better. Short films have certainly been my film school and cost less than most film schools. Sorry not sorry, film schools.
  1. Short films help you try out different actors you might want to work with in the future. Think of it like a long audition. A lot of the actors I cast in my short films end up being cast in my other projects. When I made my feature film, “Last Chance Charlene,” a lot of those actors didn’t have to audition for me. I already knew their work and set personalities from previous short films I had done with them in the past so I was able to write and cast specifically for them.
  1. Short films can open up opportunities for you to make more films. If you want to make your second film, you have to make your first film. In order to pave the way, or as we say at BraveMaker, “BRAVE YOUR WAY” into a filmmaking career, momentum is key. You have to start. It’s like the snowball effect. Once you make one film, you’ll be able to make another. As I seek funding and producer partnerships I have to show I can do it. Making a film and completing it is a feat that is undeniable to prove you have what it takes. Wow them. Potential partners are more willing to watch a short film and take ten minutes of their time but if you have nothing to show them, it can be hard to open that door. Short films show your potential partners you can actually make something and are more likely to contribute to your crowdfunding campaign. And, even if no one shows up to support you…YOU HAVE TO FUND IT AND MAKE IT YOURSELF. Give up a gym membership or Netflix subscription to start saving money and make your film. Money is the worst excuse. You can make a good short film for free if you have to. It’s all about the script. Write a story with one location and a few actors. Then make it!
  1. Short films help you sift through and find your best collaborative partners. Read through the IMDb credits of most experienced filmmakers and you’ll see a lot of times they are working with the same crew from film to film. Steven Spielberg consistently works with writer Tony Kushner, Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, Composer John Williams and editor Michael Kahn for most of his films. I value talented creatives. I want to work with the best of the best and I also want to work with the kindest of the kind. When I do short films I am looking to see how people work on set, and how well we can create and problem solve together. There’s nothing like a good crew who brings a vision to life, who can take the words on a page and make it a reality. You can be sure a lot of the cast and crew from THE CROSSING GUARD will be on my next project. (In fact I’ve already booked a few of them for another paid project in December).
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I was so proud of this crew!

So get on it. If I can do it, so can you.

And you don’t even have to wear a ridiculous yellow vest or risk your life standing in the middle of the street to make it happen.

If you have been wanting to write and make a film, have no fear! We at BraveMaker can help you.BraveMaker is hosting another screenwriting class in the first quarter of 2023. Reserve your spot here: REGISTRATION.

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Tony Gapastione

Tony Gapastione is a screenwriter/producer and director living in Redwood City, California. He founded and executive directs BraveMaker, a 501c3 nonprofit arts charity dedicated to educate, entertain and create community experiences around justice, diversity and inclusion. He and his wife Wendy have three daughters, one labradoodle and two guinea pigs...all of which end up in his movies in some way. Connect with him on Instgram: @tonygapastione
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