Shoot, Direct and Write a Short Film All By Yourself – Interview with Ian Wittenber

Have you made a short film lately? Why not? Perhaps you don’t think you can pull it off? Perhaps you think there are just too many moving parts for you to handle.

Minimalist Filmmaking in Action

Todays guest, Ian Wittenber, made a powerful short film called “Turtle” (video below) which embodies the spirit of minimalist filmmaking. He’s a Director, Writer and Cinematographer all wrapped in one. I was floored by his achievement and even more floored as he shared what went into producing this masterpiece.

There are so many lessons to be learned her:

One – go out and make a movie – no excuses!

Two – visuals must be dictated by your story.

Three – you don’t need expensive equipment to knock a film out of the park.

Four – Five – Six . . . it’s all in the interview below.


Watch Ian’s Short “Turtle” Below

The lighting and film gear used here made me one happy camper because it reaffirmed to me that all that matters is your vision and your tenacity to go and get it done! Actually Ian referred to my Minimalist Filmmaking post as something he especially related to.

The Viewer’s Experience

Ian is clearly an astute student of film. A graduate of film school and studying the art of story telling are clearly his weapons here. I think he would agree that film school isn’t necessarily necessary, but in any event, his focus on doing WHATEVER is necessary to tell his story in the most impact full way, and a CONSTANT mind on the viewer’s experience to ensure delivering his message in the strongest fashion, are the keys to his success and the success of this short film.

If you need some inspiration on what can be done with a go-getters attitude and are curious to the efforts that went into making this type of short a success – this interview is for you.




  • This was such a great movie and I had so many questions. So glad to be able to see this in-depth interview.

    • coachaviv

      Thank you Micah. I quite enjoyed hearing some of the details of how Ian pulled this off. One man crew and in 3 days!

  • Eli

    Truly inspiring! I wanna go out and shoot something!

    • coachaviv

      Eli – my thoughts exactly! Note that he does mention he spents a few months working with the characters – meeting with them and developing their backstories.

  • Wayne

    Enjoying this series, keep it coming – learning a lot!

    • coachaviv

      Will Do!

  • nice to see someone going out and just doing it.

    shows what you can do in three days.

  • Thanks for the interview, Aviv! Great work!

    • coachaviv

      Everybody loves your film and are very greatfull to hear your input on the process of making it. Thanks for sharing!

  • Love the interview, it was really pleasant to watch 🙂

    Ian- one thing I was wondering was about your decision to delay the payoff, even after the setup. What I mean is, once we know he’s going to become a turtle, I’d expect to see more of the transformation and sooner. But by delaying it and not showing or even really mentioning the actual word “turtle” much- you’ve hooked me into the emotional bond of the characters based purely on their relationship. That’s brave of you, since the “strange attractor”/hook/whatever you want to call it of the actual turtle transformation is far less common and one might think more interesting, but it really worked here so well to do it the way you did… was that a conscious move, were you tempted to bring in the transformation more overtly?

    • Great question. Like you said, I wanted the audience to focus on the characters’ relationship and the emotional impact of the story. Delaying the transformation forces you to think primarily about the characters while also providing suspense and curiosity for the viewer. It was a totally conscious move from the start. Doing it another way isn’t necessarily wrong, but just changes it into a different story.

      Also I wanted to make a movie with no practical or visual FX. Mostly because (again) I just really wanted people to get invested in the story/characters. Also, doing any sort of FX is time consuming and expensive, haha!

      Hopefully this answers your questions! Thanks!

      • Chris Parkes

        I think that was the right choice. At the start of the film I laughed at the idea of a guy turning into a turtle, by the end I was crying with loss at the demise of this beautiful relationship. I didn’t feel I needed to see the transformation, that wasn’t what I was emotionally invested in by the end of the piece.

        It’s intimidatingly good…

        • coachaviv

          Great points Chris!

  • Loved it. Interview was interesting! Thats so crazy a one man crew, dealing witha ctors and locations and whatever. Very nice!

    • coachaviv

      Makes you wanna go out and make something right?!

  • Really enjoyed his film and the interview. I think people get caught up in the gadgetry of filmmaking and forget about content and having a good eye. Well done!

    • coachaviv

      Thanks Eric. I think your point is dead on!

  • Rishi

    I’m from india
    Evn ‘m intrested to do a film with you

  • Reuben

    I realise this is a cinematography site but after watching this short and interview the biggest question I have is how, as a one man crew, did Ian go about capturing the audio. Was it lav mics, a shotgun mounted to the camera? And what audio recorder was used? This is kind of a general best practice question for filming on your own.

  • Oishee Chakraborty

    Well, I have seen the video. But I am a high school student and I aspire to become a screenplay writer. In my country no one can study screenplay writing in the undergraduate level. So I wanted to ask, if I can study after my graduation and in that case is a degree important (though we are not provided with one here). Still if i want to pursue this as my career, what options do i have?

  • Herb Polsky

    Wow, this was for me the best info yet. Thanks Aviv. Check out the 3 min. short “Roshambo” by Free People, It’s a fashion film but the images and the editing give a similar intimate feeling that I think are tailor made for small handheld cameras.

  • Fred

    Aviv, an excellent interview which brought out many important details on the shooting of this film – thank you very much. Summarizing from your own point of view some of the things which Ian spoke to worked very well. I’m looking forward to the follow up interview with Ian.

    One question I would have liked answered, if there was more time was this: a lot of the impact of the film results from shots having a different look: some shots were very pretty, others not so. I was wondering to what extent the various looks were created in camera (by adjusting color, contrast, etc before each shot) and to what extent they were created in post-production.

  • Doug

    Awesome interview Aviv! Thanks for this!