Here’s a query that has shown up a lot lately:
“How do I make my own silent movie?”
Well, kids, there are hundreds of ways this could go wrong but here goes.
Instead of focusing on filmmaking techniques, I am going to focus on the most common mistakes modern moviemakers trip over when trying to make a silent film.
1. Sound is not something that is missing.
When you listen to podcasts, do you feel that they are incomplete because there are no visuals? Of course not. We recognize that podcasts and radio are very different from television.
Well, you need to bring that perspective to silent films as well. It is a visual art that tells its story (gasp!) visually.
2. Cool it with the title cards.
Too many modern silent films fall into the trap of jamming in title cards wherever possible. Real silent films trusted their audience to get the point without too many titles. Plus, silent movie fans knew to read lips. Some of the best dialogue never made it to the title cards.
3. Lay off the gimmicks.
That jittery, sepia “silent film” effect is cute and all but it’s a cheesy way to get your point across. Also, you can try writing your title cards in highfallutin’ English to make things feel old-fashioned but actual silent movies often kept things simple.
4. Put thought into the music.
Silent movie music is a huge part of the experience. Don’t just lay a track of some bozo pounding out ragtime.
5. Watch as many silent movies as you can.
It’s amazing how many people ignore this advice. You see, the popular conception of a silent movie has almost nothing in common with real silent movies. You need to watch the real deal to get the details right.
And finally, here is a little video I made about common pitfalls.