How-To Create a Cheap and Cheesy Horror Movie

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How-To Create a Cheap and Cheesy Horror Movie

This Halloween you could throw a boring old party or hand out the same old candy. Or you could gather your friends and family and create a cinematic masterpiece.

Follow us as we lead you to the summer camp that is The Mac|Life Guide to Creating a Cheap and Cheesy Horror Film.


Do your homework:

Before you start filming the next slasher/romantic comedy, you'll want to bone up on your favorite horror films. Observe the subtle nuances of the horror genre: The moral compass and how it pertains to a character's ability to survive. The art of misdirection. The inability to run faster then a guy with a limp. Study these techniques and then shamelessly steal them for your own short film.


The Classics

Story time:

Create a story based on what interests you and can easily be created onscreen. A 90-minute horror film set in space with a herd of intergalactic beasts chasing your hero through a city of the future? Might be overreaching. A three to five-page script set in a location that's easily accessible would be your best bet. Zombies are easy to create, while monsters with six heads are not. Fake weapons are easy to get at a toy store, while full-size tanks are difficult and somewhat pricey to rent. Know your limitations and keep it simple.



Sketch out some of the key scenes before shooting. Getting your ideas on paper before setting up the camera will save time and keep your friends/crew happy. Don't worry that you're not an artist -- stick figures are more than adequate.


Here is a blank storyboard PDF to help get you started.


Shooting party time:

Contrary to popular belief, a movie set is not a fun place to be. Gathering your friends or family together to shoot your short film can be like herding cats. Folks tend to shy away from anything that seems like work on their day off. Instead of having a boring movie shoot, throw a fun shooting party. Serve food and drinks and keep the energy going. At the end of the shoot, challenge your friends to edit their own copy of the film.


If all goes well you may soon be hosting parties for a Thanksgiving film, a Christmas film, or maybe even an Arbor Day action thriller.



Just because you don't own a DV camera doesn't mean you can't shoot a film. Almost every digital still camera on the market has a video function, and keep in mind that the image quality you'd get shooting with your cell phone could add a whole new dimension to your masterpiece. Your only real constraint with these low-tech approaches is the amount of movement you can have onscreen. Low-end video tends to blur, so keep your shots as static as possible. Once you have your film shot and imported into your computer, Use the freeware program MPEG Streamclip to encode your clips for use with iMovie, Final Cut Pro, or Final Cut Express.


Launch MPEG Streamclip, drop the video clip into the program window. Choose file>Convert to Quicktime, use the settings below and click make movie.



If you do own a DV camera, you're ready to rock.






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Car squeals are NOT Foley. Creaks, clanks, and footsteps, yes. Car squeals would fall into effects editing. Post-production sound is a big field with lots of categories. Foley is pretty much reserved for footsteps, cloth movement, and small props.

Otherwise, this is a nice little guide. Hopefully it'll inspire someone to make a cheapy movie.

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