Low Budget Filmmaking Tips For Beginners
A great filmmaker plans and executes their work when it comes to filming! That’s a phrase I use a lot when it comes to dealing with money and people, and in filmmaking, you have to deal with both.
Making a budget for a feature film, whether short or long, is crucial to a filmmaker’s success. Because in the film industry, if you don’t know how to manage your money, it might go in an instant.
Making a film, especially a low-budget one, is all about controlling the essentials as efficiently as possible. In this piece, I’ll go through what I believe are the eight most important low-budget filmmaking tips for beginners.
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Are you curious as to what qualifications I possess to offer this guidance to filmmakers? I hope I’ve been able to put your mind at ease. Working on indie short films for the past two years have been horrible, with everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
I’ve worked as an assistant director on four short films, a second unit director on two projects, and a feature and short film producer, and the following advice is based on what I’ve seen that can make or break a low-budget film.
Here are eight low-budget filmmaking ideas for beginners that every filmmaker should bear in mind when putting together an independent low-budget film.
Build Your Film Schedule Around Weekends
Low Budget Filmmaking Tips For Beginners – Start by getting engaged in a film co-op in your area, if one exists. Why am I saying this? I belong to a film co-op in Victoria, BC, that permits me to rent film equipment for a one-day cost on weekends.
For an independent filmmaker who needs to hire a whole filmmaking kit, this is a significant financial saving.
The day pricing for renting the Red Gemini 5K with a 35mm camera bundle from my film co-op, for example, is $500.00. I haven’t even discussed the lens kit, HDMI lighting kit, gels, and other items that might cost $1,500.00 per day for my project.
In comparison to other rental properties, this is a bargain.
You may minimize your equipment costs in half if you plan your filming schedule around weekends.
Keep in mind; each rental house may have different rates compared to my film co-op, but do yourself a focuser and call around. You never know what you may get.
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Scouts Motto “Always Be Prepared”
Low Budget Filmmaking Tips For Beginners – My teacher taught me a vital strategy to deal with anything that might go wrong in high school: put your hands in your pockets and shrug your shoulders, and then go on.
When it comes to film production, things can quickly spiral out of hand if you let them. However, things will happen that, even with the finest planning, may cause production to be halted. Accept the problem and move on to repair it if you are the film’s producer.
You should always find solutions to handle problems to keep the production moving, whether it’s a weather change for an external shoot or a vital crew member becoming unwell.
In my experience as a producer, you should never show your crew that you have lost control in any situation. You’re the captain of the ship, and if you show signs of losing control, the crew will be less confident in the project.
Nobody likes to see you suffer a nervous breakdown, so keep your cool and adapt to whatever scenario you’re in.
Production Software Can Save Your Production
Low Budget Filmmaking Tips For Beginners – To make your filmmaking life so much easier to manage, make sure that you have some filmmaking software programs to help you do all the dirty work.
If you are a screenwriter, pick up the industry-standard Final Draft scriptwriting tool to help you with formatting the screenplay. If you are looking for cheaper screenwriting software, Writer Duet and Celtx are great alternatives.
For planning a film production, Celtx has a great video production tool that offers script breakdowns, shot lists, budgeting, scheduling, and cost reports at an inexpensive monthly fee. If you are looking for the industry-standard budgeting and scheduling tool, pick up Movie magic scheduling and budgeting software as it will save you time and money down the road for future projections.
I love Movie Magic and have used it on four projects when I was the 1st ad as well as a producer, and it has saved me valuable time and lots of money.
Schedule Your Production Based on Locations and Availabilities
Low Budget Filmmaking Tips For Beginners – Break down the screenplay depending on the locations for each shot as well as actor and crew availability when arranging your film shoot. Also, and this is critical for every scene being shot, take into account timetable build-up and takedowns.
I’ll give you an example of what I mean when I say that you should split down your screenplay into locations. I was working as an extra on a major film that was being shot over four weekends.
To begin with, filming a feature film in such a short amount of time necessitates a great deal of planning ahead of time, even for such an ambitious undertaking.
Second, locate the shooting locations on a map and try to put them together on your schedule to reduce travel time. I also repeat the build-up and take-down of the timetable!
Why? Because the feature film in which I acted was shot in such a short amount of time, locations were dispersed throughout the city on certain shoot days.
The issue with the scheduling was that the driving times between each location were not taken into consideration as build-ups. As a result, when the director/producer requested a sunset shot in the fourth site, we were shooting at the third location at the time, and the sun was setting.
Scenes were delayed or never shot by the third weekend of shooting, and by the time the film was delivered to pre-production, there wasn’t enough coverage to make the film work. By the end, a picture that should have lasted 90 minutes had become a 70-minute jumble.
So, the advice I give you is to plan ahead and schedule to ensure you have a finished product that you want.
Related Article: 5 Best Skills Filmmakers Need To Be Successful In The Film Industry
Never Borrow Money
Low Budget Filmmaking Tips For Beginners – There was a film festival I attended a few years ago, in which a filmmaker went on about the troubles of completing his film, and the last thing he mentioned was don’t declare bankruptcy because of your film.
This is key for any filmmaker that is looking to start a film project. Never let your film get out of hand that it causes you to go into debt.
That’s why you have to think smart while you are in pre-production.
Start with a checklist of the basics to make a film and find ways to film a great project with those basics.
Also, if you are funding your picture, never let your department heads take control of your spending.
For example, if you have a director of photography who thinks that you need to rent expensive lens and lighting kits to film the project, think about getting a new DOP.
Find a resourceful wardrobe team, that can make miracles happen by shopping at a thrift store.
There are so many ways to control spending on film production, that you should never go into debt for making a film.
Get Your Crew Involved
Low Budget Filmmaking Tips For Beginners – A big thing for me when I am trying to find all the filmmaking necessities to make a film project is getting the crew involved as much as I can.
What do I mean by this? Well, making a low-budget film takes money and resources to complete a project.
And when it comes to money, you can only ask your rich grandma for money before she starts thinking you are using the money for drugs. That is a true story for me.
So when money is extremely tight, you have to be resourceful and think of anything that someone can add to your project to get the film completed.
The big thing for me is getting the asking the actors to bring his/her clothes to the shoot to minimize going out and buying clothing for your actors.
Another thing I do by getting my crew involved is to have them call friends and family to see if there are anything funding possibilities like product placement sponsors, free locations, free food, etc.
Just getting the crew involved in the shoot, makes them feel they are making a difference to the production.
Related Article: 15 Amazing Gifts For Filmmakers At Any Skill Level
Feed Your Crew!
Low Budget Filmmaking Tips For Beginners – To have a happy crew, you need to feed them.
Food is one of the major filmmaking necessities that can make or break a film.
Why do I say that? Because if you are shooting a very low budget feature, you probably are not paying them.
Sure they are working on your project because either they believe in your vision, or they are looking to pad his/her credits to add to IMBD, but if you don’t feed them properly, they won’t help you on the next project.
What do I suggest for you to bring to your set in regards to craft services that will make a happy crew?
First, make sure you have water and coffee on the set. You don’t want to have your crew be dehydrated throughout the shoot, because that causes your crew to not function 100%.
Plus, the coffee is extremely important because you want an awake crew if you are asking them to work 12-14 hours a day for your shoot.
When it comes to food, try having many packaged snacks available throughout the day for your crew. The reason I say packaged foods is because of COVID, you want to minimize the number of hands reaching for food.
So at this point, avoid boxes of donuts and muffins, unless you have a trusty craft services crew member who is protected with gloves and a mask that can hand out items like baked goods to your crew.
Oh, speaking of COVID, make sure you have plenty of hand sanitizer and masks, and make your crew read this health and safety post that I use all the time.
It’s better to have a safe and prepared crew than a crew that is in the hospital for weeks.
Also, when it comes to food before production, do a call out to find out any dietary concerns as well as allergies.
This will save you hugely during production because you don’t want someone not eating because of his/her sensitivities. Be prepared the best you can!
Side Note: ask your crew if they know anybody that does catering and see if you can get a deal. This way you are employing a professional to make food, as well as you can give them a credit in your film.
Keep An Eye On Your Budget
Low Budget Filmmaking Tips For Beginners – The key to a successful film project is always to know your budget. Your budget is one of those filmmaking necessities that will carry you through to the end.
The key is keeping track of all your film expenses so you don’t get thrown a curveball of running out of funds with one week left of filming.
For every film I have helped produce, I have gone over all the potential expenses that can occur during production, and make sure the director is aware of it.
If you are thinking about shooting a film soon, just keep in the back of your mind all the Low Budget Filmmaking Tips For Beginners needed to keep your production under control
Being a filmmaker is an amazing experience, and if you are shooting an ultralow budget film, it’s still doesn’t have to look it.
The key to being a successful filmmaker is to pay attention to your budget and plan around it.
Just remember that stuff happens during a film production that is out of your control, and the more you prepare for it, the less stressful you will be during production.
Just do yourself a favor and don’t panic, communicate with your crew constantly, and keep them well fed. If you can do that, your future as a filmmaker will be extremely bright.
Now, get out there and start making movies!
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About the author: Trent (IMDB | Youtube) has spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.