This post is not to bash film schools. There are many great film schools out there. And many great filmmakers came from film school. The knowledge one gains and the hands-on experience with the many aspects of filmmaking is a huge advantage of going to film school.
But, until you get the practical experience of actually making a film, you really can’t appreciate the effort it takes to oversee a project from start to finish. It’s like watching a workout video, doing a few reps to get a feel for them and then never going to the gym. The muscles will atrophy if you don’t work them out. Filmmaking is much the same.
Making a short film
The good thing is that making a short film is so much easier than ever today. Equipment can be minimal in both cost and size—some short films are made using nothing but an iPhone. As always, a good short film starts with a script. It’s best to write one or collaborate with someone.
But if you’re not a writer and want to produce/direct a short film only, there are plenty of places to find scripts. Word of mouth among fellow filmmakers is the best way to find a script. But there are also groups on Meetup, Facebook, etc., with film and screenwriting groups. Many writers want that first credit as much as you do, and would be willing to offer a screenplay for free, if not a nominal fee. Whatever the script is, it needs to inspire you to a vision that you passionate to create.
Once you have the script finalised, you’ll want to break it down in terms of a schedule. This will help determine your budget, which you want to keep as low as possible. While programs like Movie Magic Scheduling and Budgeting do the job much faster, starting with a simple spreadsheet and breaking down the script by location, day/night, props, actors, effects and scene length is where you want to begin.
Determine how many days you have to shoot it based, not only on the script, but the availability of personnel (actors, crew) and locations. By arranging the schedule accordingly, you’ll optimise your time and budget.
There are a lot of steps along the way both in pre-production, shooting and post-production. They are all addressed in film school. But there is no better way to learn the ropes than by doing it yourself. And having a good, experienced team behind you will make your chances of producing a successful short film even better.