Filmmaking Resources

To make a good film or documentary, you need more than a good story and dialogue.  You have to shoot your film in an interesting way, record quality sound, add music, and put it all together in editing and post production.  Follow the steps below to learn some building blocks of shot composition, camera movement, sound, music, and editing.  Good luck and have fun!

Learn About Shot Composition and Camera Movement

Below are some videos illustrating some basic camera shots, angles, and movements.   In addition to those, check out this terrific video about planning  and scripting your film through storyboarding .

Basic Camera Shots

Shot Examples from Hollywood

Camera Movements

Household Hacks for Camera Movement

The Rule of Thirds

More Shot Composition


  1. extreme wide shot
  2. wide shot
  3. full shot
  4. medium shot
  5. close up
  6. extreme close up
  7. cut in
  8. cut away
  9. two shot
  10. over the shoulder


  1. pan
  2. tilt
  3. dolly zoom
  4. hand held
  5. tracking
  6. arc
  7. follow


  1. eye level
  2. low angle
  3. high angle
  4. dutch angle
  5. point of view
  6. birds eye view
  7. rule of thirds
  8. symmetry
  9. dynamic/leading lines
  10. head room/foot room
  11. nose room/lead room

See Shot Examples in Student Films and Documentaries

Now that you know about some basic shots and camera movements, see if you can find and name them in the films below.   Notice what each shot reveals and how the image moves the story forward.  Notice the framing, shot angles, and action.  See how the camera moves, how subjects move in and out of frame, and how establishing shots are used to set the scenes.  See more PYFF entries on our Gallery Page.

Main Street


Easter Fairy

The Library

A Tribute to June Ficker

Portland’s Walking School Bus

Practice Videography

Got all that?  Now it’s time to practice videography with this PYFF Challenge!  Create a scene of 1 minute or less without words using as many of the shots above as you wish.  Make it simple.  For example, you could shoot a family member or friend doing something ordinary like walking down the street, shopping, or making dinner.  Make the scene interesting by telling a visual story about what the subject is doing.  Add music if you want. Don’t fuss over it- spend no more than an hour getting your shots and another hour editing them.    See the links below for variations on this exercise.

The Boring Room Challenge


To record decent sound you need a microphone close to your subject .  Using the microphone that is embedded in (or attached to) your camera or smart phone should work fine if your subject is within 3 feet, but if the subject is farther away (such as in a wide shot) the sound will be faint, hollow, and noisy.  In those cases, it is best to place a separate microphone close to your subject while hiding it from view of the camera.  Here are some options:

  1. Record sound on a separate cell phone or portable audio recorder placed near the subject and synch the sound later in video editing.  (Very easy and works well)
  2. Connect the camera or portable audio recorder to a lavalier microphone hidden on your subject. There are some inexpensive lavalier microphones on the market.  Wireless options exist as well but may be more expensive.
  3. Connect the camera or portable audio recorder to a shotgun microphone mounted on a boom and put it near the subject but out of frame.

Use a Cell Phone as Microphone

Microphone Basics

Music and Copyright

Music can be a powerful part of your film, setting the mood you want and engaging the audience more deeply.  Learn about copyright, royalty free music, and how to make your own music easily.

About Copyright

As films submitted to PYFF are for public display including on the internet, we ask that you not use copyrighted music in your film without permission of the copyright holder.  That means you should not use just any song from your music collection in your film. To learn more about copyright, see the website Copyright Kids.

Try these alternatives for adding music to your film:

  1. Write and record your own music.  Need help?  Garage Band (for windows, mac, and ipad) is a program that can make it easy!
  2. Use  royalty free music.    Royalty free means the copyright holder makes the music  available to filmmakers and others to use in their projects. Sometimes there is a fee, but a lot can be used at no cost.   In either case, you do have to list the source in your credits.

For example, if you wanted to download and use the song  Summer Day from the Incompetech site below, you could pay nothing  and simply copy this text from the website and put it in your credits:


Summer Day, Kevin Macleod (

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License


These sites offer public domain or royalty free music at no cost.  There are many others out there. Remember, each song may have its own requirements of how you can use it and how you should list it in your credits.

Stop Motion Animation

Stop motion animation can be fun and easy, especially if you learn some basic priciples.   The videos below spell out some beginner and advanced principles that will help you take your animation to the next level. These videos depict lego animation, but we recommend being original- like making your own clay figures, animating people, objects, or whatever else you come up with.

On the practical level, click here for an article recommending 10 stop motion apps for android and ios that can make animation easier, and here for a helpful video about using only a digital camera and imovie.

Stop Motion Basics

Stop Motion Advanced

The Documentary Interview

Interviews are a great way for your documentary audience to hear from people directly involved with your subject matter.  Often they are more interesting than a narrator reciting lots of facts and research information.  The videos below can help you to plan and shoot interviews that are compelling and that move your story forward.

Planning Interview Questions

  1. Ask open ended questions.  Encourage succinct answers in full sentences.
  2. Ask the subject to repeat the question before answering.
  3. Prepare your questions, but don’t give them out ahead of time.
  4. Improvise to follow up on interesting themes.
  5. Ask short questions.  Stay quiet while they are talking.
  6. Give them the final word.

Shooting an Interview

  1. Basic equipment is okay.
  2. Choose a good location.
  3. Consider how lighting affects the shot.
  4. Choose a background that establishes the scene but is not distracting.
  5. USE A MICROPHONE such as an inexpensive lavalier.
  6. Consider using the rule of thirds.
  7. Shooting from multiple camera angles can be interesting.
  8. If the interviewer is in the film, you can film and edit in their reactions.
  9. Keep rolling after the interview.

Video Editing

Video editing can be easy to learn if you watch a tutorial and start experimenting on your own.There are many video editing programs available.  Some, such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker may come preinstalled on your computer.

iMovie Tutorial

Windows Movie Maker Tutorial

More Websites about Filmmaking