Just because your next movie project is on a low-budget doesn't mean the finished product has to look like it. Here are 12 tips on how to make a film look cinematic, fabulous and capable of taking the festival circuit by storm.
HOW TO MAKE A
FILM ON A
BROUGHT TO YOU BY…
#1: NAIL DOWN YOUR STORY
Before you even begin shelling out money,
make sure your story is perfect (as possible)
Viewers will excuse a low-budget look if the story is good enough. If yer
story lacks character development or slacks off in the 2nd Act, rewrite,
rewrite, rewrite. You need a strong goal, an even-stronger dilemma and
characters willing to pursue that goal to the ends of the SCREENPLAY
#2: LOCATION, LOCATION,
Keep it simple, Spielberg
Choose your location wisely. You want to make sure the SETTING suits the
STORY. (And provides a dramatic element.) Also, proximity to other
locations is important. If your locations are too spread out, you'll spend
money and time on travel. (And remember: exteriors can get very time-
#3:SKIP THE HIGH-END
Ditch the urge to splurge on the latest $4500 camera
Good lighting can take you much further than a fancy camera can, so don't
let the bulk of your cost be CAMERA rental. (Not to mention a fancy
camera will get you nowhere without great actors and locations to
film.) DSLR footage will be fine if your DP knows what he/she is doing.
(Or you could always buy a camera and sell it when you're done to recoup
your expenses. )
#4: FIND A (STARVING)
If you've got musical friends, use them
There are instances where it's best to steer away from friend-help, but
MUSIC ain’t one of them. Music rights are expensive, so if you or your
friends can record a score, do it. Also, consider using unsigned bands—
they’ll be CHEAPER. (They might even KNOW some distribution folks
who can help get your film some much-needed exposure.)
#5: SPEND ON SOUND
Don't cut corners with your audio
Poor audio will lower your film's production VALUE faster than anything
else. (Save a vampire baseball game.) If the audience can't HEAR what's
going on, you have nothing. Pay your sound recordist well and make sure
your locations will lead to quality audio. (And that may mean a decent mic
#6: GO PRO WITH THE TALENT
Use professional actors, not un-trained, free "actors"
As tempting as it may be to cast your best friend, don't do it. (Unless yer
best friend is James Franco. ) You need your TALENT to be talented, and
nothing screams "low budget" like a cast of rookie actors. Have a casting
session, advertise at local theaters or acting schools, and make sure you
find the BEST PEOPLE to play your beloved characters. Many will work for
little pay to get experience under their belt.
#7: 5 CREW MUST-HAVES
Rounding out the team
If you need to skimp a little on the crew make sure you at least have these
ESSENTIALS: Cinematographer, location audio, grip, makeup, and a
production assistant. These are VITAL. And unless you absolutely cannot
and they’re still willing to work, pay them!
#8: EMBRACE YOUR INNER
Don’t overpay for Craft Servcies
A happy crew is a fed crew, but be smart when it comes to your food
choices. Order in bulk, plan ahead, and if you must, cook! Individual meals
will be PRICEY and you can only eat pizza and subs so many days in a row.
Order in bulk and whip out an apron if you have to.
#9: DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Organize, budget and plan ahead
Make sure you have enough resources to FINISH before you get started.
There will be unforeseen COSTS. If you're organized, you won't waste time.
Time is money! And organization will make your set feel polished and
professional. (Don’t forget to account for post-production costs like
transportation to/from FESTIVALS and festival fees too. )
#10: GET SOCIAL
Take advantage of social media
If you're not yet a master of social media, learn to be! There's no better way
to GAIN a following for little money than through social media. Use it to
fundraise, advertise, and get eyes on your finished product. And don't
forget your film's website and your production company's website!
#11: GO EASY ON THE FAVORS
Call in favors only in places where the quality won't suffer
Take advantage of every connection you've made, or location you have
access to, but don't be afraid to spend MONEY either. Your friends and
family may want to help, but make sure every OFFER you take is one
that’ll benefit the finished product. But be prepared to say NO where it
#12: THINK BIG
Keep morale high and yer project aimed at BIG things
Do whatever you can to make your set feel like the set of a big budget film.
You need your cast and crew to believe in your PROJECT in order to get
quality work out of them. Keep it professional, organized, and like the
FILM you're working on is destined for Festival-Gold, even in the hardest
NEED A SCRIPT IDEA?
GRAB YOUR SEAT TO
“5 SECRETS TO A
MOVIE IDEA THAT
DOESN’T SUCK (AND
Did we mention it’s
CONNECT WITH US!
“Either write something worth reading or do
something worth writing.” –Benjamin Franklin