30 Days of Directing a Short Film

Maida, left, with script editor Truls and production assistant Ada

Name: Maida Hals

Occupation: Videographer

How we met: Maida gave me my first job in Norway. I was a lighting technician on her film. It was a rather strange decision on her part given I had zero experience in lighting but she was desperate. Her original choice had been injured just hours before shooting commenced and I got a call up. Maida and her colleagues were one of my first introductions to Norwegian people and culture and one of the reasons why this fjord-filled Scandinavian country will always hold a special place in my heart.  

Say halla, hva skjer’a? (hey, what’s up?) to Maida:

Coming from a career doing camera for documentary, news and reality TV, I wanted to try out directing fiction. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to shoot a little story written by myself, and based on my own experiences.

Directing a low-budget short film includes so much more than actually directing. It is all those little things that happen.  It is impossible to draw a line between what is directing and what is just dealing with issues and people, because all these little things will influence you as the director, the crew, the actors and everything – and therefore it becomes part of it.

The story:

The script is about a girl hitchhiking. It’s also about judging people before you should. And about how your own fear can become your worst enemy.

The idea came to me several years ago while I was hitchhiking with a man – a stranger – who in my mind was a scary guy. As we were driving I desperately tried to figure out what kind of person he was. My mind drew quick conclusions and I decided he was dangerous. My own fear of him made him dangerous for no real reason. Of course I was wrong – he proved to be a very nice guy. The script is this story, just a bit exaggerated.

The crew, and how I met Christie:

When working on a low-budget short film you need a crew willing to work almost for free, but with a lot of enthusiasm. I loved my crew. A mix of friends, colleagues, and new people.

The problem is that when you can’t pay people very much they can, in theory, pull out of the project at any time. I felt quite happy and confident with the people I had gathered, but some things happen that you just can’t control.

The night before we were leaving Oslo for the shoot I got a message from the lighting guy. He’d been hurt at his part-time job – he got boiling water spilt on him – so he was in hospital, in lots of pain! I felt sorry for him, but I was also panicked because we NEEDED him, and we were leaving in only a few hours.  Then, luckily, I found Christie on a website (underskog.no). To my surprise she was actually able to join us for the shoot with only a few hours notice.

The location  –  Sigdal by night:

Suggestions from a friend brought us into the woods a few hours outside Oslo, to a place called Sigdal. This place has long, deserted roads with almost no traffic – the perfect area for a scary short film.

The house we needed for the last scene was an old, abandoned farmhouse deep in the woods, where it was almost impossible to get to by car. But with help from a local guy we managed to transport everyone and everything safely there.

Another problem was electricity, which there was none of. We solved this with a generator, which was so noisy that we had to place it as far away from the actual shoot as possible. Sometimes the generator ran out of diesel and stopped, which made the entire place go completely dark. Annoying, but magic moments!

Production, sleepless in Sigdal:

We were in Sigdal for four nights of shooting. Our accommodation was simple wooden cabins.

Every night the cars were rearranged and equipment for the night’s shoot was organized.

I briefed the crew and talked to the actors.  We needed darkness, so as soon as it was dark enough we rolled the camera, and as soon as the sun raised we went to bed.

As most of the film actually takes place inside a car it was important to find the right car.  And because the film is a scary film, the car needed to add to this. A friend of mine knew a guy with the perfect car, a dark blue volvo from 1985 or so. Most importantly it was big enough so that we could shoot inside it.

The actors sat in the front seats, and most of the time the camera operator, the sound guy, the script editor and myself were all stuck together in the little trunk of the car.  It was cold outside, but we kept warm – very warm –  in the trunk.

Most of the time I chose to let the actors go through with the whole conversation, or at least large parts of it, including the lovely, awkward silences that always appear between strangers.

The fact that we were actually filming the scene at night, whilst driving complicated the shoot, but more importantly it added to the acting. It simply made it more real.

In general the nights were filled with great acting, great ideas, not that great acting, not that great ideas, corrections, energy, enthusiasm, tiredness, frustration, joy, surprises, almost-accidents, lots of challenges, even more challenges and so much more.

The result:

My short film is far from a perfect film. However this short film was a big step for me. I learned so much about scriptwriting and directing fiction, and psychology. And I also learned that I have so much more to learn. I think the most important lessons we learn in life are when we make mistakes.

One of the most lovely things with art is that even if you feel that you make mistakes, a piece of art can still be wonderful for someone, as the mistakes I see might not be mistakes in other peoples eyes. And a ”mistake” might sometimes even be what actually makes something good, and human.

I’m forever grateful for all the amazing friendships and experiences that resulted from this shoot.

Important things I learned, or got reminded about, during this process include:

Things take time – Be patient, but also know when to hurry



Be specific

Safety first

Make (good) priorities

Eat and drink (water and coffee)

Trust yourself

Trust everybody around you

Know what you want, cut the rest

Don’t worry

Always let people know that you appreciate them

Dare to follow your intuition

Be humble, but strict


Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Enjoy – if not why are you doing it?


For a sneak peak at Maida’s film click here or here 🙂

Kai-Kenneth – the male lead. He’s not scary in real life at all 🙂

The lead actress covered in (fake) blood!



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