How to Film a Movie in the First Person

By Rianne Hill Soriano

Things Needed

  • Script
  • Script breakdown
  • Storyboard
  • Shotlist
  • Camera and its accessories
  • Tripod
  • Tapes or memory cards
  • Batteries for the filming equipment
  • Props
  • Sets
  • Lighting equipment
  • Grip equipment
  • Sound equipment
A first-person movie uses the point of view of the storyteller.

A first-person movie uses the main character or the actual filmmaker to narrate the film in first person. Thematically, it also uses the point of view (POV) of the one doing the movie narration. In some cases, it can use purely point-of-view shots of the person telling the story. This type of first-person movie shows the main character only through mirrors and other reflective surfaces. However, more first-person movies still use many variations of shots other than POVs.

Read the script and confirm the genre of the movie you will shoot. Examples of genres include horror, action, drama, comedy, science fiction and musical. Each of these genres utilize distinct looks and treatments. The movie's sounds and visuals are carefully planned according to how they would match its genre. For instance, action movies generally have more dynamic camera movements than dramas.

Complete the production documents required for the shoot. Make a storyboard to plan your shots. Some people actually skip creating a storyboard because of the effort required to make it. But the storyboard is helpful because it features a chronological order of every shot from the start to the end of the movie. This typically shows thousands of drawings separated into frames for a full-length movie, which is usually about 90 minutes to two hours long. When not using a storyboard, you may use a shotlist, which can work like the text version of a storyboard. You also need a shooting schedule and script breakdown because these documents provide the list of actual time, location, actors, props and other information needed for each scene you will shoot.

Confirm all the camera, lighting, sound and grip equipment you will need for the shoot. Base your technical requirements on the actual shots to be filmed during the shooting day. Since most first-person movies use POV shots, it is possible that you have minimal lighting requirements or your film equipment should not be too big and conspicuous to avoid being seen on camera while filming. Some lighting requirements would be ideally rigged, especially if shooting in a studio. Meanwhile, the camera is usually handheld instead of being locked on a tripod or placed on a crane or dolly. This provides more realistic POV shots that reflect what the character sees.

Start shooting each shot based on the production's shooting schedule on a per-shooting-day basis. Since a first-person movie is told by the main character, have the camera move similar to the character's actual emotions and reactions during filming. Some first-person movies don't copy the exact movements of the character for aesthetic purposes. However, even such shots still focus on the character's viewpoints. For instance, instead of an exact POV shot of a character looking at an object from a distance, the shot can show the object being seen nearer the camera -- even to the point of becoming a close-up shot. Make sure that the camera moves in a way that the audience would feel like they are seeing what the character sees and even what he feels or thinks.

Tip

Depending on the story and workflow preferred by the director and the rest of the production crew, you may record the voiceover narration before the shoot, which can serve as guide during the production. Or, you can do it the more conventional way where the narration gets recorded during the film’s post-production stage. Aside from the visual aspects of depicting a character's POV in a movie, the manipulation of sound and music are also typically used to emphasize a character's first-person viewpoint effectively.

About the Author

Rianne Hill Soriano is a freelance artist/writer/educator. Her diverse work experiences include projects in the Philippines, Korea and United States. For more than six years she has written about films, travel, food, fashion, culture and other topics on websites including Yahoo!, Yehey! and Herword. She also co-wrote a book about Asian cinema.