Making my first film ‘Moving On’, guest blog by Holly Jacobson Aged 10

Hi I’m Holly and I’m a ten year old filmmaker and actress. Ive recently made my own “proper” short film and Chris was kind enough to let me come to the Guerilla Filmakers’ Masterclass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is how it all started:

Ever since I knew that acting existed I knew I wanted to be an actress. I started when I was about 7 – it would have been even earlier, but I had to overcome the obstacle of my parents!!! Acting when you don’t live in London is a huge commitment and my parents just thought that it was all too much – but little by little I managed to do more and more and when they realised it wasn’t a fad and how much I wanted to act, they supported me.

Acting really led on to filmmaking – I think I was just really curious to try being on the other side and I wanted to tell stories and make them into films. I love how an idea starts in my head and then I can make it real (hope that makes sense!)

I really wanted to make a film of my own (properly – not just with my friends) for a long time and I spent about a year and a half working on script ideas. The main story I came up with though, my parents thought was too ambitious (read too expensive and too much work) for a first film. So I wanted to make something that didn’t require too many actors or special locations or props.  I wanted to tell a story about something that was fairly personal to me and so I decided it would be about this time in my life when I’m just starting to grown up – and about friendship!

“Moving On” was in part inspired by the song “Puff the Magic Dragon” (I love that song!) – because I thought about how when Jackie Paper didn’t think about Puff anymore, he just kind of disappeared. I always felt really sad for Puff the Magic Dragon and I wanted the film to be as much about the imaginary friend as about Lilac’s journey growing up.

I thought the script was hard until i started the rest!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There are so many things to organise! Im lucky I’m home educated because this became a full time project for few weeks!!!

I thought that one of the best places to start would be with a fab casting! I put out casting calls on a few websites and lots of people applied – I also asked around for recommendations too (which is how I cast the mother). When writing the script I was very mindful that there is so much more female acting talent out there (there are ten times more girls/ women wanting to act than boys/ men) and so as I’d written  only female roles,  I really met lots of talented actors who wanted to be involved!

I really wanted to avoid some of the things that I’ve found annoying as an actor, so I didn’t just audition everyone who applied (and make 50 people turn up from all over the country) – and I was humble and grateful that the actors wanted to be involved! As an actor I’ve had my fair share of emails congratulating me on being selected for an audition!!!! LOL

I managed to talk the local arts cinema into lending me a room to audition people in for free (and then again a second time when I hadn’t found what I was looking for). Thanks, Phoenix Square in Leicester. I’ve been to sooooo many auditions over the last few years and since after the first couple I’ve never been nervous (I quite enjoy them) – but I was VERY nervous auditioning actors myself though! I felt very aware that they had come a long way and learned a script already and I wanted to not be quick to dismiss someone who might just be a bit shy or nervous. I spent about 20 minutes or so with each person and recorded the auditions too, so I really got a good idea of what they could do. I’m actually still in contact and friends now with some of the people who auditioned and maybe they will be right for another role for me sometime (or a playdate over the summer holidays even)!!!!

I decided to cast the supporting roles from my local drama group. Even though for the smaller roles I didn’t feel I needed to audition people (and I had of course already seen them acting) I felt it was very important to meet with them all ahead of time. I have been on so many film shoots where an actor has failed to show up and the chances of this seem to be so much higher when the filmmakers hasn’t auditioned or met with them specifically beforehand and this is something that I really wanted to avoid!!!

When I put out my casting call I felt I had to mention that I was a very young filmmaker (although I never said exacting how young – it was said on my profile). I knew that people might assume because of my age it was just a bit of fun rather than a serious project so I really sold myself in the casting call. I mentioned that I had already won prize for a video I’d made (true) and I said that I had a professional crew working with me (hoped for). With my film cast, I then had to find said professional crew – and living in Leicester that can be tricky!

My daddy was always going to be doing the camera work for my first film and so that role was already filled. I definitely needed someone to do sound though, a 1st AD, a make up artist and someone to do behind the scenes photography and posters. I have met a lot of filmmakers over the years and so I thought really carefully about who would be best to ask. The crew I had in the end were amazing! They all had to travel a long way to be involved and I felt really supported by them all. I also got a couple of home ed teenagers I know to be involved as runners and they really helped us out so much. I also got some great advice from a set designer I know who lives fairly locally.

It can be really tricky I think for any filmmaker to get the right crew on board. Being young could be my easy excuse – but I think if you are polite, persistent and passionate about your project, you will find people who will want to help. I won’t say that it was easy (it was very hard) but in the end I got the people I wanted on board.

There was one person in particular in my crew Daddy said not to even bother asking because he would never say yes. It was an actor I’d worked with years ago and stayed in touch with (Jon Campling Deatheater extraordinaire!!!) He was actually really happy to be asked though and he did come and do my photography for me (he is multi-talented) – my point is, if you don’t ask they’re never going to say yes!!!

I really had no idea going into this how much planning was going to be involved – I think I must have written about 300 emails!!! It was a full time job just getting all the actors and crew on board and then planning costumes and so forth. Near the shoot day I was busy going round meeting everyone in person again and dressing rooms ready for filming. If I could do one thing over, it would be to leave more time for pre-production!!!! Shot lists and storyboarding were unfortunately all a bit last minute and although it was all okay in the end I was very anxious about this at the time!

Going into the first day of filming my main worry was being able to take charge of all the people who were here to make it happen with me. As a little girl I’m really use to waiting whilst adults speak and not interrupting – but now I needed to be in charge and that was a bit of a challenge!!!! Although I had lots to organise on the first day of shooting I went off by myself for 10 minutes for some quiet time and I thought about the two days ahead of me. I thought about how much I’d already done and I told myself “I can do this”!!! At the very beginning of the shoot I also had some quiet time alone with my actors (I asked the crew to leave the set for a while) to talk about their characters and that was really great!

The shoot itself went really well and I think my confidence grew as I went along. To start with I was acting the part of the director, but in the end I felt I had become it! At the end of the first day when filming was finished the adults all sat downstairs talking and the two young actresses and I got time to play – We made a quick film together on iMovie to relax!!! haha

The actual film had all come about quite quickly (less than a month from idea to shoot), but the editing took forever!!! I really wanted to edit it all myself and I tried to but it did take several months!!! Editing is really what my Daddy does and probably he could have done it in one evening!!! I think it is only by doing things that you can learn them though and so that is what I tried to do.

I already knew and had persuaded some composers to write the score for my film and so that all went very smoothly (Michael and MaryAnn Tedstone are amazing!!!)

When I had finally finished my edit I wrote to a few of the directors I’d worked with over the years (and who didn’t know much about my film) to get some independent advice. I am really happy I did this and it actually led me to reshoot the final scene. It was really helpful hearing other people’s fresh thoughts and it was really kind of them to take the time out to watch it and give feedback. Lots of people have said nice things about my film and I really love that, but I really appreciate people who will give constructive criticism. It must be really hard to say something that isn’t all positive when I’m just a child, and I really appreciate people who will!

I definitely want to make lots more films!!!! “Moving On” was much more work than I thought though! I’ve been asked to make a music video for a local singer, so that might be my next main project, but I am also really keen to make a documentary about home education. I also want to keep on acting too. I’ve recently been cast in a super cool indie feature film (as the lead!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and I will probably be filming this in October so I’m really excited about that too!!!! I’d really like to get some more experience on the crew side on the sets of other people’s films.

You can watch my film entered into Virgin Media Shorts:

This week (until 28th July 2013), the 13th place on the shortlist will be chosen by the audience. If you like my film, then please tweet about it! (including “Moving On #VMShortsVote”). The easiest way to do that is directly from the link above.

PS I think exclamation marks are under used so I’m trying to make up for it 🙂 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


my website:

2 Responses to Making my first film ‘Moving On’, guest blog by Holly Jacobson Aged 10

  1. Stephen Pelly July 22, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Well done, and all the best (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).

  2. James Benet July 23, 2013 at 2:50 am #

    Wow so much talent and wisdom for such a young age. You must get this type of reaction a lot but I’m quite amazed.

    I know a few people that own cameras that cost more than a car which haven’t used them to produce anything lasting or relevant. You at 10 years old have out-shined them.

    Hope to see a lot from your acting and work in the future. It always helps to have such a cool dad but it also is about the character inside the person which it seems you are in excess of.


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