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  • Writer's pictureViknesh Silvalingam

3 key takeaways from making my first feature film

Updated: Mar 22

In 2011, whilst I was still a film student in San Francisco, I produced and directed my first feature film, True Love. As a Singaporean, I often romanticized the notion of my first feature being set in my hometown. So during that summer break, I flew back to get this film made on a shoestring budget of $7000 ($9,300 now when adjusted for inflation)

Now, I'm embarking on my next project, (a sci-fi short film. More to come on this), here are 3 points that I learned making True Love.

Figuring out what crew members are essential.

This could be subjective to how the director is running the set, but I found out that I couldn't make the film without them:
  • Director of Photography

  • Makeup/Hair

  • Location Audio

  • Gaffer/Grip

  • Production Designer

  • Family/Friends/Co-workers

Finding free/any locations
  • Make a list of locations you already have for free

Sit down with your crew and cast, the people most involved in the planning and organizing of the shoot, and make a list of all the locations you already have available to you for free.

  • Transformation of existing locations

You'd be surprised how a little bit of furniture rearranging, creative production design, and a slightly different camera angle can turn one room into a variety of seemingly other locations.

  • As for forgiveness instead of permission

As long as you're careful, out of the way, and not blocking traffic, crowds, or other activities, you can film basically anywhere.

Start a social media presence for the film early... way early.

  • Your Audience Can Be Mobilized

Are people talking about the film? Are people searching YouTube for behind-the-scenes footage and interviews? Are people in forums discussing the possible plotlines? The level of social media presence is an indicator of the film's success.

  • Increased Viral Potential

Think about how many short films screen at festivals every year, but never have a life beyond a few small in-person engagements.

  • Draw Inspiration and Learn Something New

Connecting with Other Filmmakers is a big part of filmmaking. Even if you’re not looking to hire crews through the platform, someone might reach out to you.

True Love got a decent reception having played in a few festivals before it got picked up by a distributor for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Google, Play, and Apple TV.

Now it's playing exclusively on a new subscription streaming outlet specializing in South Asian films, TV shows, series, and documentaries.

Watch the film here:

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