Go back even 30 years and the idea or concept of low-budget (or no-budget) filmmaking was kind of unheard of, revolutionary even. Yet now it has become very common in the indie filmmaking community – in fact, it may even be the best way of making a statement and launch your career!
Diamonds can only be made under extreme pressure, so whether it is out of choice or necessity, here are 7 low budget filmmaking tips for turning your compromises into ways of making the most of your situation:
- Story first, everything else second:
Before you even start production, you have a story. With a low-budget film, there are three things to consider about the script before starting; firstly, the story needs to not only be feasible on a small budget but also suit the budget, there is no point in trying to create a blockbuster on just £3000; secondly, the story needs to be optimised for your budget, you can always change scenes to reduce the budget but preserve its essence; thirdly, the story needs to be good, unlike huge big-budget films, it can’t hide behind special effects and an elaborate production design, doubly so because the audiences which watch low-budget films are usually more astute about films generally.
- Find cameras for cheap:
The cameras used by big studios are expensive. For example, the cost of the 8K RED Weapon, which has been used for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Gone Girl, can range from $49.500 to $79,500, with options of leasing it for less.
However, it is highly likely that you or someone you know owns a DSLR or mirrorless camera capable of shooting HD or even 4K. If not, the app and site Fat Lama allows you or others to rent their valuables for a nominal fee, allowing you to rent out a camera for the duration of the shoot, rather than splashing out and buying one.
Of course you main focus should be on how to best use the equipment you have, as no expensive camera can replace talent. Here are some of our articles with filmmaking tips and tricks to help:
- Choose to shoot in free locations
A key part of pre-production is in location scouting. If you’re restricted by cost, then you can adjust your script to be in free locations. Also, use your network! It is highly likely that someone may own just the right kind of house or land to shoot your scene. If outside, consider public locations.
- Use Natural Lighting
Lighting can get expensive, so you can cut costs, save time and reduce equipment needs by simply using natural light – whether that be the sun, moon, or streetlights. Look for locations outside, choose sunny days, and consider using darkness – it’s always cheaper to create darkness than to avoid it.
This is a classic among low budget filmmaking tips, and that is evident in the overall style of indie cinema – where there is an abundance of using natural soft light, and if done well it can look even better than studio lighting.
- Be over-prepared:
A very detailed production script and schedule will help cut costs by helping you foresee and avoid unnecessary costs. However, as with any film, there will be unforeseeable setbacks you can’t prepare for, and will undoubtedly face. Which is why the right approach is so important and will help you cut-down costs in the face of dilemmas; this can be fostered along by over-preparing for the project and by having the right emotional intelligence to make flexible decision-making.
- Share ‘your baby’ to cut costs
With personnel costs being the largest costs for indie film productions, this is where it may be best to cut costs. This isn’t to say sacrifice the quality of your film for the sake of money, but working on favours, goodwill, and mutual benefits, (i.e. making it a collaborative process) can be the best way of dramatically reducing your overhead costs.
If this is the route your go, put your pride to one side, whilst this film might be “your” baby, there is no shame in sharing as much credit as possible. This can even create a much greater sense of ownership for everyone involved, increasing the quality of the work produced.
- Don’t lose sight of why you are a filmmaker
And finally, this shouldn’t need reiterating, but in this incredibly tough industry, we often lose sight of why we even do it. You can have all the filmmaking tips and tricks in the world but get lost in it all and don’t forget to make your project fun, honest, and significant. You’re creating art, and it’s either a break from reality or a reflection of it. If you can keep that idea running through your production then it’ll make the entire collaborative process much more enjoyable, as well as help your crew give their 100%.