Photoshop & Low Budget Short Films

July 2, 2010 at 2:16 pm

17 West Productions Independent Film Toronto

I woke up this morning with little to no energy. So instead of breaking new ground on some of my current projects, I decided to spend some time cleaning up my system.

It’s a nerdy way to pass an hour or so.  I went through old files, deleted, moved and reminisced.

One of the biggest folders I have on my PC is the ‘Graphics Department’.

Note:  My computer is organized by ‘Department’.  Ex. Video, Visual FX, Sound, Screenwriting etc…

Inside that folder are thousands of images and designs that I’ve created over the years.  It really is a large collection of memories.  Looking back at the progression of my Photoshop skills gives me a sense of accomplishment now. Mostly because I was pretty awful back in the day.

Here’s a look at the evolution of 17 West’s logo.

It’s proof that Photoshop is a skill that can be LEARNED if you’re willing to put in the effort.

Now, I don’t claim to be a graphic designer by any means.  I’m not formally trained in any way.

In fact, I have enormous respect for those who can draw.

I’m genuinely jealous of every single talented designer out there.

Dear Talented Designers…  Feel free to introduce yourself!

I may not be an expert but I have learned that if you are an aspiring independent filmmaker, Photoshop skills can go a long way.

Low Budget Film Marketing Tip: Learn Photoshop

When we first started 17 West Productions, I was relatively new to the graphic arts world.  I knew back then that good design doesn’t come cheaply and we simply couldn’t afford it.  So I doubled my efforts in order to do some of the work myself.

In today’s social networking environment, you HAVE to know how and where to market your films.

That’s the first step at least.  You also have to have the materials necessary to promote your work and it HAS TO BE GOOD.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on myself.

Thankfully, there are billions of resources, tutorials and courses online to help bridge the gap between the professionals and the beginners.  I started devouring every single resource I could find.

To name a few…

Just about every skill you need to produce quality images can be found online.  I highly recommend checking out the blogosphere as well. There are literally thousands of good designers out there who are willing to offer tips and techniques for free.  All that stands in your way is a little spare time and a quick Google search.

Tip: YouTube is another great resource with tons of video tutorials ready to watch.

Taking some time to learn the basics can go a long way when you don’t have the money to hire a pro.

Take a look at the poster for Playing Through below.

It looks like an ordinary picture that I simply added text to.  Incorrect.  I made a lot of subtle changes to improve the image using techniques I learned online.

  1. First off, I didn’t want the actors centered so I cloned the background to allow more space on the left.
  2. The actor in the yellow shirt ISN’T actually holding that golf club in the original.  It’s leaning on the bench and didn’t look right so I moved it.
  3. There were two Gatorade bottles underneath the bench that had to be painted out.  Actually, if you look hard enough you can see the smudges they left behind.  (Like I said, I’m no pro.)
  4. There were about 10-20 imperfections that I painted out as well such as leaves, rocks and sticks in the water.
  5. I put 5-6 filters on it to manipulate the color because the original image was far too saturated.
  6. I masked out the actors and desaturated the background even further.  (Masking is hard.)
  7. The glare on their faces used to be a lot stronger.
  8. Finally, there must have been 10-15 different variations of the text positions.  It took a while to really nail down a look I liked.

Playing Through Short Film 17 West Productions

That’s just ONE poster! (Hopefully it’s not hideous.)

There are also banners, ads and stills that needed to be done.  It sounds like a lot of work but it pays off in the end.  We now have an assortment of graphics ready to be sent out and used to promote our film.

Photoshop & The Athletic Nerd

I’ve also applied my growing skills to this blog.  Whether it’s banner ads or logos for recurring features, I find that knowing at least a little about graphic design can go a long way.

But don’t take my word for it…  Look around the internet or even advertisements on the streets and tell me graphic design ISN’T a vital part to promoting your work.

Warning: Once you start paying attention to graphics and marketing campaigns you’ll never look at advertising the same way again.

Photoshop quickly becomes an addiction if you are willing to give it a shot.  It certainly helps save you money because we all know that producing high quality low budget films is extremely challenging work. You’ve got to make every single dollar you spend count.  So why not save a little cash and teach yourself a new skill in the process?

Good design isn’t easy but if you put in the effort, it doesn’t have to be ugly.

I still have a lot to learn but thankfully I’ve got new films to promote and plenty of opportunities to practice.

PS: Photoshop cures writer’s block too?

Photoshop Cures Writer's Block