The film industry is about money. That is, after all, why it’s called the film industry. It’s the case at every level of filmmaking, although it is perhaps most keenly felt by those working in the independent/low/micro budget sectors.
It would be nice if the obstacles to making that great script into a great film didn’t include money, but the reality is that it does, especially if you aren’t playing with much cash to start with. With our film Runner, it’s feeling like a delicate balancing act, where spending money in one area means having to make savings in another.
However, whilst making a low budget film is challenging, I’m discovering that it also brings with it a number of opportunities, as well as being a great way to learn more about the art of filmmaking. I’ve tried to break down some of the most important things I’m continuing to learn below. Hopefully, they will be of some use to you as you pursue a career in filmmaking. As always, please feel free to leave any comments : )
- PRIORITISE: Whilst it’s true that the greater the funds, the greater the options available. Bigger and better equipment, ideal locations, more adventurous shots, plus a greater flexibility in choosing cast and crew are just some of the things that increase with more money. However, these things can sometimes be a distraction from the story and the characters, to the point where they get in the way of the story, rather than enhancing it. There is nothing quite like having a smaller (though no less creative) range of options that a small, micro or non-existent budget will bring. It forces you to focus on what really matters – the story- and how to tell that story in a way that is exciting visually.
- USE WHAT YOU HAVE: When money is tight, you obviously want to watch those purse strings. So look at what skills your cast and crew have that might be useful in saving money. For example, you might have a producer who knows a thing or two about film make-up, so can also fill the role of make up artist. You may also be able to reduce the budget for the costume department by having the cast provide their own costumes, or maybe you know someone who knows someone who can help secure a certain prop. Whatever, it’s a great chance to dip into your contacts book, or turn to family and friends for help. Just remember to thank them in that awards acceptance speech!
- BE PREPARED TO SACRIFICE: This is closely linked to the first point. It might feel like it’s polluting your vision, but sometimes the brutal reality is that it’s better to tell a slightly pared down version of your story than none at all. It’s about recognising that point when commitment to the material stops and naivety begins. Are all those expensive props really needed, or could they be made more cheaply? Or cut entirely? Ask yourself what your story is about, and make sure that everything you have in front of and behind the camera serves to tell that story.
- CROWDFUNDING: There are a few options out there, and there is a chance that not every one will be suited to your project, but they are worth exploring.
- LEAVE IT TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE: In the industry, it’s the producers/executive producers who have to concern themselves with finding and providing funds. Don’t entirely wash your hands of it to the point of ignorance, but make sure that concerns over money don’t distract you from making your film. This is supposed to be your career one day, and you don’t want to waste it by worrying about the money.
- BE SENSIBLE: Again, it’s linked to priorities. Use the resources wisely, and always remember that work on a film doesn’t stop with the finished edit, so leave sufficient funds for promoting your film.