The Film Industry may pose many roadblocks to the fresh stories and perspectives of budding filmmakers. These problems may range from lack of creative control to not being able to stand out in this daunting field. But the major problem that aspiring filmmakers have in the process is created by budgetary constraints. One can find dozens of solutions to these problems created by low budgets online, including creative solutions and DIY resolutions to certain “high budget” requirements in the filmmaking process. Though several factors may affect the type of path taken by filmmakers with a low budget, the following are a few start-up points, one can keep in mind.

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Behind the scenes for the movie El Mariachi (1993), which had an initial budget of $7000 for the entire movie_https://alcalde.texasexes.org/2014/06/the-road-back-to-film-school/

1. Planning

When initially setting up the process of filmmaking, all details of the entire project must be settled beforehand, to avoid any last-minute confusion and further delays, which may cost the team in the end. Schedules, itineraries, and lists can help to arrange the entire process, from the initial storyline to ‘wrap up’ time, and help with this planning. Proper and constant collaboration with the other team members of the film is necessary to make sure all the variables; cast and crew calls, location bookings, home base, etc., are solved well beforehand to allow for a smooth journey.

2. Screenplay

The script acts as the main foundation for the entire film. Filmmakers need to study and include as many details, within the script, as possible. Details of sets, costumes, props, etc. should be thought of and decided on, before the filming process begins, to assure a smooth shooting period with no wastage of time and an easy execution of the filmmaking process. It is also important that the script not be too adventurous, in terms of the story. One should realize the constraints present at the time, avoid overachieving and compromise in various elements of the script whenever needed to.

3. Casting and Crew(ing)

The casting choices may be the most influential of decisions made by the filmmaker, as the actors cast for the film are the most visible element of the movie. When casting it is essential to choose actors who are either accurate extensions of the characters of the film or are natural-born actors who can carry the story easily. The casting process must be rigorous and extensive, to produce the best effects in the final product. One can find actors for their film through talent agencies, open casting calls, social media, etc.

Furthermore, one must try to find local talents in various ‘behind the scenes’ parts of filmmaking. Film school students, movie buffs, technical experts etc., who have great interest and talent in various professions required for the proper execution of the script, in terms of cinematography, editing, set design, makeup, etc., should be scouted for. Finding people who have the talent and want the exposure to help in the film can contribute greatly to the final product.

4. Location

Though it would be easy for a filmmaker to use a single set or location for their entire film, the result might be quite bland. The ulterior option is for them to choose open locations that are easy to book, instead of more expensive sets that may cause a dent in the budget for the film. Furthermore, choice of location must be done keeping in mind local conditions, weather, traffic, etc., with backup options or ways to work around sudden problems that may arise.   

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Behind the scenes of Rear Window(1954)_ http://www.polpettas.com/behind-the-scenes-hitchcock-rear-window/

Movies like Rear Window and the more recent, ‘The Father’, use a minimal number of locations throughout the film, relying on experimenting with different scenes within the same space, in different styles to constantly engage with the viewers.

5. Tools and Technique

On a high budget set, one finds that the process heavily depends on expensive equipment like cameras, microphones, and more technical gadgets that may take up a sizeable chunk of the initial budget. A filmmaker on a small budget though, might not have the access to these expensive tools, and so must find creative solutions using more affordable gadgets, with new and innovative techniques that will further enhance the scenes in terms of lighting, sound, cinematography, visual effects, etc.

The Blair Witch Project directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez only had $20,000 to $60,000 as its initial budget but ended up making $250M in the box office, globally. It succeeded in creating haunting and unnerving scenes, using only cheap consumer cameras, with excellent, “genre appropriate” technique. 

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Behind the scenes of The Blair Witch Project _https://www.thethings.com/the-blair-witch-project-movie-facts/

6. Looking to Old movies

An easy way, filmmakers can carry forward with their films is to look for inspiration of techniques and styles in previous movies. One can find, online, the budget breakdown of many films that translated a small budget to a blockbuster hit to understand more on the budgeting process to set themselves constraints. Directors like Spike Lee, David Lynch, Christopher Nolan worked on films with a very low initial budget, before they rose to stardom. 

In addition to this, understanding different techniques from films of a previous era can help substitute high-fi equipment with different innovative methods of capturing a scene and story. Creative solutions can be found plenty in old-age films, where the technology didn’t exist, but the execution was just as mesmerizing.

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Alfred Hitchcock on the set of Vertigo (1958)_ https://monovisions.com/vertigo-1958-behind-the-scenes-alfred-hitchcock/

Alfred Hitchcock is often regarded as “The Cameraman’s Director,” and worked closely with the cinematographers, editors, and production designers to craft haunting, suspenseful scenes, focusing more on crafty techniques than on complete dependence on technology.

7. Using Social Media

In today’s day and age, social media has occupied a prime and central position in any industry and even more so in filmmaking. Various processes in filmmaking can be carried forward with the help of social media. This may be in terms of casting, publicity, etc. 

where social media pages like Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, etc. can easily be used to connect with other people in the area that may be able to help in the making of the movie. It can also be used as a source of inspiration and for tips to cross various hurdles one may come across while making a film.

8. Close Contacts

It’s no surprise that filmmaking ‘takes a village’, and so, the financing of this large group of people can severely affect the budget requirements of the filmmaking process. Taking the help of close friends and family, in various jobs required throughout the process, as that of hair and makeup, acting, shooting, or finding contacts through friends and family that may be able to provide towards the film at a lower rate can easily help in reducing the money requirements.

But one must keep in mind that a filmmaker must depend on a close friend or family to be part of the movie-making process only if they will contribute a great deal to the process and not for “friendship’s sake”, when it may jeopardize the final product.

9. Crowdfunding

Sometimes we find that even with major compromises throughout the budget one may not be able to finance the entirety of the project. In moments like this, the filmmaker may be able to advocate for crowdfunding. This may be done by the general public, private companies, or a group of people who may be greatly inspired or affected by the final movie. Various online platforms like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, ImpactGuru, amongst many others, may be able to connect you with people who may can help connect loose ends.

While running out of money to complete his film Malcolm X, Spike Lee advocated for more funds for the film by approaching prominent members of the Black community for donations. Early screenings of the film allowed him to get additional financial support to complete the film.

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Denzel Washington and Spike Lee on the set of Malcolm X_https://www.moviefone.com/2017/11/16/malcolm-x-movie-denzel-washington-spike-lee/

10. Concept

When all is said and done, the filmmaker must stay true to the initial story or concept they had in mind at the beginning of the entire process. One must be flexible enough to make compromises whenever and wherever required to do so but must keep the main idea of the story a steadfast stone. A filmmaker must find different ways of enhancing the storytelling process to further push the main ideas and scenes with the audience. With enough passion and drive to back up the story and concept, a small budget would be the last thing to block the final filmmaking dream.

References
  1. peterbroderick.com. (n.d.). ABC’S OF NO-BUDGET FILMMAKING. [online] Available at: https://peterbroderick.com/writing/writing/abcsofnobudgetfilmmaking.html [Accessed 11 Jul. 2021].
  2. ascmag.com. (n.d.). Hitchcock Talks About Lights, Camera, Action – The American Society of Cinematographers. [online] Available at: https://ascmag.com/articles/flashback-hitchcock-talks-about-lights-camera-action.
  3. Aldredge, J. (2017). 7 Tips for Low-Budget Filmmaking. [online] The Beat: A Blog by PremiumBeat. Available at: https://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/7-tips-low-budget-filmmaking/.
  4. Freelance Video Collective. (2020). How To Make a Low Budget Film Look Professional. [online] Available at: https://www.freelancevideocollective.com/make-a-low-budget-film-look-professional/ [Accessed 11 Jul. 2021].
  5. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/spike-lees-tips-for-budgeting-an-indie-film#quiz-0
Author

Joshua Fernandes is an architecture student and an avid cinephile who always looks at the whimsical side of things. Hawaiian pizza, pop culture references, and writing are his true passions. He loves discovering new music and movies, being outdoors and believes that the beauty of the world lies in the smallest details hidden within.

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