Movie Making Tips

Here are some thoughts on producing your entry to Ten Scary Minutes – the online horror movie making contest.

There is a big difference between scary and gory! Gore by itself isn’t very scary, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have gory when it can add to the suspense – just don’t make the movie depend upon gore. Alfred Hitchcock was one of the most successful horror movie directors and he never relied on the use of excessive gore. Some of his movies are scary and not gory. Suspense!

It’s proven that a sudden moment of suspense without graphic bloody violence is more scary because the watcher’s imagination finds the scariest possible outcome that they personally can imagine… much scarier than even a realistic gore fest… think De Niro’s Hide and Seek… Scary because of the suspense, not because of the blood and gore.

Right before the scariest part, have a normal or calm scene. Then out of nowhere have something scary happen. It will be much more unexpected and scare people more. Don’t try to make it too obvious though, for example “the young is walking in the woods then the masked killer jumps out from behind a tree and kills her”. Let the moment grab your audience suddenly by the throat, like, have a tree suddenly come alive and eat her OR have the masked killer waiting back at home, disguised as someone she knows, then get her.

You can try a “Blair Witch” or “Paranormal Activity” approach and create a “shockumentary” or “found footage”, acknowledging the presence of the camera and with no music in the background to create suspense through a realism approach, which can be effective in drawing the audience into your movie.

Or try the approach of  making something completely ordinary the center of the drama, (paper bag, telephone, toilet, doorbell, TV, videotape, a doll or picture). If you do it well, it will be scary!

Make sure not to make it unrealistic. The more realistic, the scarier the movie could be.

Try not to allow the audience to get comfortable when the movie is supposed to be scary. “Insidious”, was scary up until the middle when they showed the demon which resulted in me becoming “comfortable” as the suspense of what the demon was gone. In this case the audience’s own imagination was scarier and what helped bring the audience into the story.

Find an awesome place to film the movie. Good ideas are in the woods (especially at night), cabins, wooden buildings, abandoned houses, etc. Make sure that you have permission to film at the location before you start. Be careful not to trespass or film in a hazardous place.

Have a plot twist (at the end or middle end). Add a strange twist to it can help to bring the audience deeper into the story. For example, kill off the person that seems least likely to die. Turn the sweet, innocent child into an accomplice of the murderer, luring people to their doom. Do something that no one will ever see coming. Don’t have too many plot twists; that’s not scary, it’s just confusing.

A good plot technique is to make it seem that safety is available (at the moment), but have a *believable* event that makes it not come. Like the police having to respond to another call just as they pull up and could possibly save the victims.

Sometimes, a quick or sudden ending is good. Leaving elements unresolved, retaining some audience tension leaving the “what would have happened next?” feeling. We are looking forward to seeing you horror movie in the 2014 edition of Ten Scary Minutes!

There are some interesting YouTube videos to help jumpstart your horror movie making process. Here are a few we have watched and thought were very good.

How to Make a Horror Short Film

Published on Sep 13, 2016
By: MasMash Films
In this tutorial you will learn how to make a horror movie. I’ve made several short films for this channel and for other purposes so I’ve made a lot of dumb mistakes that led me to knowing a good amount about horror films. I give you 5 basic horror movie tips that hopefully will help beginning filmmakers.

How a Director Stages and Blocks a Scene

Published on Apr 4, 2016
By: Filmmaker IQ
How a director stages a scene dramatically affects the story – in this experiment at YouTube Space LA, we take a boilerplate police detective script and shoot it five ways with five different types of blocking to demonstrate how direction and acting can really change the feel of a scene.

3 Tips For Making A Good Horror Movie with Guillermo del Toro

Published on Feb 21, 2013
By: CineMovie
The Mexican director gives his top 3 tips to making a horror movie. The “Hellboy” and “Blade II” says he prefers old-fashion scares over just “killing off” bodies. He also tells Cinemovie why his horror films always include children.

The Psychology of Scary Movies

Published on Oct 23, 2013
By: Filmmaker IQ