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Mustaches, Title Cards, and Damsels: Creating Your Own Silent Movie

Mustaches, Title Cards, and Damsels: Creating Your Own Silent Movie

In the old days, films were a lot simpler than they are today. But, that doesn’t mean that you have to conform to modern sensibilities and tastes. If you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, consider writing a short film. Old silent movies were usually pretty simple. They had simple story lines, physical comedy, and clear hero and villain characters with a damsel in distress. Here’s how to make your own silent film without actually using 8mm stock.


Writing The Script


Writing the script for the movie shouldn’t be too difficult. Basically, you’ll be writing a storyboard. A storyboard is nothing more than “clips” of the movie that you draw out on large pieces of paper, sections of white cardboard (or some other high-contrast material), or a large piece of poster board that you divide up into squares – each square containing a drawing.


The drawings illustrate the story, almost like a comic book. You don’t have to plan out every single detail. And, you don’t have to write out any dialog, because there is none. In a silent movie, the actors don’t speak.


Choosing Music


Choosing music that will fit your movie is going to be a bit harder than it sounds. First, you don’t want to use any copyright-protected material without a license from the rights holders since that’s illegal. You also need to sync the length of the movie with the length of the music track – not always an easy feat.


Choosing A Camera


The camera you use actually isn’t as important as other factors like music and storyline. If you’re going for an authentic look, it might help to have a very average camera. Still, if you must have one, a DSLR camera is very capable – it’s probably overkill, but it will also do a nice job.


Using Sets


Keep the sets simple. In the old days, sets weren’t very sophisticated. Try to film on location, if possible. So, for example, if you’re shooting a movie about hiking in the forest, opt for shooting the film in the forest rather than trying to build a cheesy set of paper trees in your home.


The Acting


Get actors who are someone melodramatic. Why? Because this is how old silent films were done. Because there was no sound, actors had to act out their emotions – they had to accentuate or sometimes even over-react to situations. It would be awful by today’s standards but, given the context, it’s going to work well for your film.



Try to use a tripod or a moving rig to shoot all of your scenes. That will keep the camera still, eliminate jitter, and make it easier for people to follow the story.


Import The Raw Footage


Import the raw footage into something like iMovie or Windows Media Player. If you want advanced editing tools, you’ll need to upgrade to Adobe Premier or, better yet, Final Cut Pro X. All these programs allow easy importing, but there’s a steep learning curve to both Adobe’s and Apple’s advanced editors.


Add Finishing Touches


Silent movies would often use title cards for dialog or to let viewers know what was going on. These title cards can be added to the film in the post-production phase (editing). Also, you might want to consider washing all of the color out of the film, making it black-and-white – it’ll add to the authenticity.


Save The Movie


Save the movie by converting it to a file format suitable for playing on a computer or uploading to the Internet, depending on what you want to do with it.




If you want to use P2P file sharing for your movie (for ultimate control over who you share the end-product with), then go with a P2P file sharing client like Vuze. You’ll have to familiarize yourself with torrents, and how to download and share them but, once you get the hang of it, it’s easy.


Your other option is to share via social networking sites like Facebook or video sharing sites like YouTube or Vimeo.


Robert McDermott is a creative videographer who loves a challenge. With years of experience creating artistic and beautiful projects, he enjoys inspiring others to create and share their own memories.


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