How To Turn Your Smartphone Into A Movie Production Studio In 6 Easy Steps

Gone are the days when you needed to hire a video production company to tell your nonprofit’s story.


Right now, right inside your purse or pocket, there’s a good chance you’re carrying an entire film production studio with you. Welcome to the world of smartphone filmmaking! Let’s walk through the process of making a film for your nonprofit with nothing more than a smartphone, an editing app, and passion for your cause.

Still wondering if you have what it takes to tell a story through video? Of course you do! As charities, we tell stories all the time—it’s how we show our donors their money is making a difference! By the end of this post and with a bit of practice, you’ll understand and have the skills to turn your story into a great video, from planning to shooting to editing to publishing to sharing, all on the smartphone you carry in your pocket!


Find your story.

Start with your audience. What do they want to hear? What motivates them? What is going to grab their attention? Once you’ve got this, summarize it in one sentence. This may sound hard, but a clear, concise, key message is vital to creating a successful video. Once you’re crystal clear on your message, it’s time to get creative! How can you convey your message on film? For this, think outside the box and watch other videos to get inspired.


Start planning.

Planning is the most important part of your video. The more time invested upfront, the less time wasted when shooting. Get your ideas down on paper so that everyone on your team understands the vision and the concept for your video. If your team doesn’t understand what you’re going for, neither will your audience! Try writing a script with a two-column approach. Use the first column for imagery and the second column for audio. This two-column approach will ensure you don’t miss any shots and you’re efficient with your time. Be sure to include time for staff discussion and consultation in your overall video project plan. What makes sense in your head may not make sense to others on paper. Like all good stories, your final script should have a clear beginning, middle, and end.


Assemble the right equipment.

Staying true to the concept that it’s possible to carry a film studio in your pocket, here’s a sample equipment list:

  • A smartphone (for filming)
  • A phone tripod or tripod app (to prevent shaky filming)
  • A video treatment app like Cinema FV5 or Movie Looks (to add color treatments to your video, if so desired)
  • Pixlr (for image editing, if so desired)
  • iMovie (for assembling all the pieces into a movie

Remember, smartphone imagery can easily be manipulated, but poor sound can seriously affect the perceived quality of your video. Film in a quiet space if you need to capture a conversation or monologue. Always pay attention to background noise. How loud are passersby? Is there traffic? We tend to block out these everyday noises in our normal life, but you will be surprised how loud and obvious they can be on film. Don’t let them drown out your message. If possible, film each shot a few times just in case there is a problem.


Film it.

You are now ready to go out into the world and film! Best practices for filming are very much the same as for photography. Here a few filming tips:

  • Stick to the rule of thirds.
  • Every shot should be landscape, so they can be seamlessly interwoven in the editing process and when viewed on a TV, computer screen, there are not ugly black columns either side of your video.
  • If you need to use subtitles, ensure there is enough blank/empty space at the bottom so the type will stand out.

Once you have all the shots you need, that’s great! Find a quiet place to watch them, and make sure you don’t need to do any retakes before you proceed.


Create your masterpiece.

First, you’ll need to import your clips into a video editor app like iMovie or WeVideo (for an android phones). A video editor app will allow you to trim your clips, edit them, and add sound. It also will enable you to turn your clips into a video that other people can seamlessly watch. For more detailed instructions, check out this iMovie app tutorial or this WeVideo app tutorial.

While you are editing your video, consider how you’d like to transition between video clips for a seamless storyline that matches the mood you’re trying to convey in your film. Apps such as iMovie and WeVideo allow you to choose whether you want to fade between clips. They also allow you to choose the speed of fades, which is crucial to get right, especially if you create title or caption cards to give your audience more information.

Once you have your edited clips assembled in the right order, it is time to make sure that your message is reinforced by sound in your video. Whether it’s a voiceover or background music, adding audio to your video can enhance your message and deeply effect the emotions of your audience.


Tell the world about your creation.

Congratulations! You have just created a video with the smartphone in your pocket. Now, you owe it to yourself to share your masterpiece. It is vital to have a separate sharing strategy for each social media platform that you use, as people use each social platform a little differently. Take a moment to develop a sharing plan for each platform you use. For example:

    Facebook’s currency is friendship and engagement, and your post will be ranked based on how many likes, comments, and shares it receives. Develop a promotional plan that will get your fans ready to talk about your video with you, hit that like button, and share your video with their own networks. In addition to sharing it on your nonprofit’s Facebook account, try to get everyone involved in the making of your video to share it from their personal Facebook accounts, too. A personalized approach will help broaden your reach.

    News and information is what Twitter is all about, and it moves fast! So one strategy (among many) related to sharing your video on Twitter is by jumping on already existing and trending hashtags. You’ll have to be creative, but if done right, this can get you the right exposure. For example #motivationmonday trends every Monday, so something like this could work: “Who would have thought making a charity #video using a #smartphone was so easy #motivationmonday!” Also, add the Twitter handle of organizations and influential people who are likely to be interested. This will broaden your audience.

    People come to Instagram for creative, authentic and non-commercial visuals. On Instagram, the storytelling aspect is the most important. Because Instagram has a limit on the length of the video (60 seconds), consider creating an abridged or teaser version of your video.

Cheers! You just learned how to make a video for your nonprofit with your smartphone.

Featured Photo: Using Texting to Increase Literacy in Afghanistan by Afghan Institute of Learning

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