Filmmaking Necessities – When it comes to filmmaking, a great filmmaker plans his/her work and works that plan! That’s a saying that I use a lot for anything that revolves around money and people, and with filmmaking you have to deal with both.
When it comes money, making a budget for a feature short or full-length, is a filmmaker‘s key to success.
Because in the film industry, money can disappear in a heartbeat if you don’t know how to control it.
The focus on making a film, especially a low-budget film, is trying to control the necessities in the most efficient way possible.
In this post, I will break down what I believe are 7 low budget necessities for filmmaking success.
Beginners guide: 8 Low Budget Filmmaking Necessities
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Wondering what qualifications I have to give this advice to filmmakers?
I hope I can ease your mind. I have been through hell over the past two years working on independent short films, with anything that can go wrong, did.
I have had the privilege of working as an assistant director on four short features, second unit director on two projects, and I have produced a feature film and short film, and the following advice is from what I have seen that can make or break a low-budget film.
Here are 7 low budget filmmaking necessities, that every filmmaker should pay attention to in order to keep costs down on an independent low-budget film.
Build Your Film Schedule Around Weekends
Here’s a tip right off the bat, get yourself involved in a film co-op in your area if one exists.
Why do I say that? The film co-op that I belong to in Victoria, BC, allows me to rent film equipment on the weekends for the price of a one day rate.
That is a huge cost saving for an independent filmmaker that needs to rent an entire filmmaking kit.
For Example, if I decided to rent the Red Gemini 5K with a 35mm camera package from my film co-op, the daily rate is $500.00.
I haven’t even mentioned the lens kit, HDMI lighting kit, gels, and so on which could set my production back around $1,500.00 per day.
And that is cheap compared to other rental houses.
So, if you build your filming schedule around weekends, you can cut your equipment costs by half.
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.
Scouts Motto “Always Be Prepared”
I remember in high school; my teacher taught me a valuable tool to deal with anything that may go array, put your hands in your pockets and shrug your shoulders, and then move on.
When it comes to film production, situations will happen that can be out of control if you let it. Mind you there will be things that will happen that even with the best preparation could stall production.
If you are the producer of the film, just accept the situation and move on to correct it.
Situations like a weather change for an external shot or a valuable crew member coming down with an illness, you should always find ways to solve the problem to keep the project moving.
From my experience as a producer, never in under any situation show that you have lost control in front of your crew.
You are the captain of the ship, and if the captain shows they have lost control, the crew will feel less secure about the project.
Nobody wants to see you have a mental breakdown, so maintain composure, and adapt to any situation that comes at you.
Production Software Can Save Your Production
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.
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 Product Based on Locations and Availabilities
When you are scheduling your film-shoot, breakdown the screenplay based on the locations for each shot as well as actor and crew availability.
Also, and this is key for every scene being shot, schedule build-up, and takedowns into account.
I will give you an example of what I mean about breakdown your screenplay based on locations.
I was acting on a feature that was being shot over the course of four weekends.
First off, shooting a feature in such a short time frame requires tons of preparation in advance, even to attempt such an ambitious attempt.
Second, find the locations where you are shooting on a map and try to group them on your schedule to eliminate travel time. And I repeat schedule build-up and takedowns!
Why? Because on the feature that I acted in that was shooting in such a short time frame, locations on certain shoot days, were scattered all over the city.
The problem with the scheduling was the driving times between each location as we as build-ups and were not taken into account.
So, when the director/producer wanted a sunset shot at the fourth location, it never happened because we were shooting at the third location that day, and the sun was setting at that time.
By the third weekend of shooting, scenes were delayed or never shot, and by the time the film was sent to the pre-production, there wasn’t enough coverage to make the film work.
By the end, a film that should have been 90 min long ended up being a 70 min mess.
So, the advice I give you is to prepare and schedule accordingly to ensure you have a finished product you are happy with.
Never Borrow Money
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 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 a film production, that you should never go into debt for making a film.
Get Your Crew Involved
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.
If it’s a larger production have a production assistant to put the clothes into individual label bins for easy access for each actor. This way at the end of the shoot, you can clean and sort them to give back to each actor.
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 by getting the crew involved in the shoot, makes them feel they are making a difference to the production.
Feed Your Crew!
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 to 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 crafty 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/er 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
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 filmmaking necessities 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!