The past, as we see in period films, is mostly an unfamiliar place for us, since we have lived and grown up in an entirely different era. However, our understanding of this world is based around what we have read, seen and learned about the said time period. From an audience point of view, watching a period film instantly evokes certain emotions as our brains try to connect what we already know with what the filmmaker is presenting.
Any period movie’s portrayal of an era gone by largely depends upon the physical, cultural and behavioural details of that particular time period and geography. From a filmmaking perspective, working on a story that is set in a different timeframe in the past is a massive challenge. That is because it involves being authentic to not only the story at hand, but also getting the audio and visuals right.
If ‘how to make a period film’ is something you are curious about, here are a few important things to consider.
5 Tips for Making a Period Film
Wondering what makes a good period movie? Here are some pro tips for new filmmakers who wish to make their own period film:
1. Use green screens
Green screen technology is a wonderful tool that filmmakers can use extensively, especially when working on a period film project. You can place green screens in front of parts that need to be recreated using CGI/VFX in order to make the visuals look as authentic and true to that era as possible.
2. Gather info and get in touch with experts
Interview people, historians and experts who have conducted research or dealt in literature from the era you are trying to capture on screen. Gathering information about the geopolitical scenario and events is another key step in the process. Newspaper articles, historical pieces, books, biographies, pictures and previous material made on a similar subject can go a long way in helping a filmmaker design storyboards and plug in authentic information in his or her story.
3. Design the look of the film
It is important that you recreate physical spaces, character costumes, signage and other relatable material that is suggestive of the period the film is set in. Apart from the story writer and screenplay writer, the director, cinematographer and production designer have an important role to play on this front.
4. Avoid exteriors
Those dreaded exterior shots can be quite tricky to film, since situating the content in a historical setting means getting every little detail right. Accuracy is a major concern for the production team, so stay away from the exteriors as far as possible. In an indoor setting (or on set), you can carefully plan and design the environment.
5. Use archive footage
From your opening titles and introductory sequence, to intercutting within the film itself and adding value to those important exterior shots, the judicious usage of archive footage can add a whole lot of authenticity to your film.
Language, dialogue, architecture, props, makeup, costumes – the list is almost endless when it comes to ensuring that the representation of a particular era is believable and immersive.
Watch period films like Troy, Django Unchained, Gladiator, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 300, Sherlock Holmes, Gangs of New York, Titanic, Pride and Prejudice, Jodhaa Akbar, Mughal-e-Azam, Bajirao Mastani or The Legend of Bhagat Singh to analyze and understand the level of detailing that goes into making a film that is set in a different time period in the past.
Are you an aspiring filmmaker? Does the prospect of making a period drama or historical film excite you? Learn the art of filmmaking from Seamedu School of Pro-Expressionism and kick-start your film career now!