Create a Jump Scare

If you’re looking for fun half term or Halloween activities, we have a great new filmmaking project to try out. Below, we’re exploring a favourite workshop technique… jump scares! Ideal for horror movie making, or just for fun, jump scares are a great technique to try out at home. 

In this project, you’ll create your scariest, most creative jump scare moment to include in a Halloween-themed horror movie!


How Jump Scares Work

A jump scare is a sudden moment, usually in a horror or thriller film, that takes the audience by surprise (it’s literally designed to make them jump).

It can be an abrupt change of sound or image, a sudden ‘crash cut’ in the editing.

Your moment should take viewers by surprise and give them something they aren’t expecting. You can build up tension using suspense, or use some misdirection to lead your audience’s expectation somewhere else.

Take a look at our examples for ideas, or imagine your own jump scare moment to create. 

What you’ll need:

  • A camera device of any kind, e.g. phone, tablet or camcorder
  • A spooky Halloween costume
  • Editing software or editing app
Jump scare spider

Example idea: the camera zooms in on a piece of the scenery, misleading the audience as to what the expect. Suddenly, a huge spider suddenly drops into the shot from above. Even better if you can include some scary hissing sound effects. 

Step 1:

Plan and Rehearse

First, think up what your scare will look like. What happens? Who is involved? What are they doing? Where is set?

Initially, you’re just filming one moment, but if you want to add to your scare later on, then you can create more of a story around it. 

Once you have planned your scare trick out, think about how you’ll shoot it to make sure it’s sudden and surprising.

‘Block’ it out with your camera and with any actors. Practise it as often as needed until you’re happy with how it’s coming across on camera.

Jump scares are typically well choreographed and rehearsed. Remember, acting and camera placement is going to be very important for this technique to work well. (Long, static takes work especially well.)

It’s really important you consider camera angles and shot sizes. You might want to do some close-ups or some POV shots, this is entirely up to you, but make sure to rehearse it beforehand.

Step 2:

Prepare your set and costumes…

Once you have your idea and a plan for your jump scare, it’s time to prepare any production elements that will help enhance the horror. 

Consider costumes, makeup, props and any extra horror you can add. Get everything ready for filming. 

Jump scare hands

Example idea: we hear heavy breathing over a point-of-view shot, as the character we’re with approaches glass panelled doors. The breathing goes quiet, all is silent. The breathing starts again… Suddenly (accompanied by a suspense accent or shrill sound) hands press up against the glass. 

Step 3:

Shoot your Jump Scare…

Once you’ve rehearsed, it’s time to capture the moment on camera.

Remember, successful jump scares build up lots of suspense so take your time and choose your moment. 

It’s also important that you make sure that you are your actors are filming safely. Check that the set you are using is appropriately ready for the scene and there is nothing getting in the way of your shot.

Video Editing

Editing in some sound effects can make a huge difference to your sequence. Look out for suspense building, discordent sounds and horror movie classics – creaking floorboards, doors, footsteps…

Step 4:

Edit your Footage

Editing can play a huge part in making a jump scare seem even scarier.

Play around with effects, see what works for your setup. Some tense music and/or sound effects can add a huge amount to the tension. You can also be clever with timing and pace to really make the most of this technique.

You can edit with any programme or app. You might need to download something, but you may already have iMovie or Windows Movie Maker on your device.

Take it further…

Once you’ve made your jump scare sequence, you can either…

1. Make some more and create a medley of jump scare moments

2. Extend your sequence into a longer horror movie. Can you build a story around your scare? Think about introducing your characters, or showing us more about the set. Think about what happens before and after your scare moment. If you have the time, see if you can make it into a longer film with a beginning, a middle and an end. 

Share Your Movies

We’d love to see what you come up with!

Once you’re done post your creation on Instagram or Facebook using the #SparksMovieMaking.

Good luck! 

If you’d like to try out more movie making projects, take a look at some other ideas here.

You can also find tons of projects, skills and techniques in The Movie Making Book (by Sparks founders Dan and Donna), which is available from Amazon here >>>