So, you have a script, some spare time, and a burning desire to make cinema magic. The only problem is you have a budget the size of a four-year-old’s bank account. Don’t worry. It’s a conundrum that every filmmaker, no matter how successful, has found themselves in at one point or another: how to keep your film’s budget as low as possible.
Fortunately, thanks to the latest and greatest technologies, being broke is no longer an obstacle to turning your vision into a reality. All you need are a few cost-cutting hacks to help you on your way. Here, in no particular order, are our top six tips to help you save big on your next film production!
How to Keep Your Film Under Budget
1. Find Free Talent
There are loads of actors out there who are willing to work for free (or just about) in order to build up their screen credits and demo reel. How do you find them?
Begin with your immediate social network and if that gets you nowhere, start posting roles on free online casting websites, college message board, or Facebook groups (U.S Casting Calls and Auditions is a good one). Just remember to always be upfront about what you’re able to pay (or not pay) to avoid any awkward conversations about remuneration later on.
2. Aim to Shoot with Natural Lighting
When it comes to filmmaking, lighting can often be one of the biggest expenses. The best way to avoid having to splash any cash on this is to shoot outdoors during the day.
Natural lighting is like God’s gift to the budget filmmaker. We’ve even heard of folks going so far as to re-write entire indoor and evening scenes to take place outside during daylight hours just so they could reap the benefits of the sun.
If this isn’t an option for you, fear not. The internet is teeming with tutorial videos on how to construct your own DIY lighting solutions for under $100.
3. Resist The Urge To Splurge On A Camera
Repeat after me: I will not spend big on an expensive camera, I will not spend big on an expensive camera.
Unless you’ve been staffed in the cinematic department of say, The Revenant 2, chances are you’ll get by just fine with an entry-level DSLR. Not only do they serve up professional-quality videos and are easy to use, but they can also be purchased for a very friendly $500 or less.
However, if you’re working with a camera budget of zero, then you can rest assured that your smartphone will probably do the trick. Although smartphones fail to measure up to DSLRs in a few key departments (depth of field, image resolution, shutter speed, the ability to shoot from far away), they more than suffice for short-form filmmaking. For proof of this look no further than this impressive Vimeo collection of iPhone films.
4. Never Pay for Locations
In order to shoot a scene on private property, you’re going to need a permit, and in order to get a permit, you’re going to need to cough up something in the vicinity of a few thousand bucks. So our advice to you here is: don’t do it!
If you have a personal relationship with the property owner through which to score access for free then bingo! You should definitely leverage that. Sometimes offering that local business (whether they be a restaurant, cafe, or retail store) will be included in your credits will be enough to get you an in.
However, if none of this works out, then you’ll need to limit your filming locations to public spaces and the odd friend’s house.
Alternatively, there’s always “guerilla shooting.” (This is the process of conducting a super stealthy film shoot on private property that you definitely didn’t learn about from us.)
5. Save Big With Subscription-Based Editing Software
Before forking out on expensive editing software (yes, Final Cut Pro I’m looking at you), you should consider subscribing to Adobe Creative Cloud’s single app package that will allow you to download Premiere Pro for just $19.99 a month.
The best thing about this is that it gives you access to top-drawer editing tools for a great price and the optionality to bail out as soon as you’re done with your project.
If you happen to have shot your video in HD, you can also consider DaVinci Resolve which is arguably one the best free non-linear editing systems out there today.
6. Avoid Paying for Expensive Licenses
Once you get stuck into the editing process you’re no doubt going to be jazzing your video up with everything from music to motion graphics. Unfortunately, these extra goodies require licenses which, like location permits, can cost in the thousands.
The best way to avoid these crippling fees without having to forgo on quality is to subscribe to a membership-based marketplace like Motion Array. Through these subscriptions, you’ll have access to a plethora of digital goods with additional tips on how to integrate them for a fraction of the cost of one single-use licensed effect.
Before diving into any big video production decisions, always be sure to weigh your options first. These tips are just some of the key ways you can cut corners on costs, but there are many more out there.
Speaking of which… if you have any low budget video production tips then please, share them in the comments section below! We’d love to hear them!