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3 Tips for Producing Low Budget Independent Films

We all have to get started somewhere, I’m starting right here. In 2022 creative storytelling is a competitive and lucrative career in which many people aspire for fame, money and international validation. The accessibility of high quality cell phone cameras has inspired us to be a more visually expressive culture. Now that social media has empowered the generation of content creators, the push for low budget quality filmmaking has exploded. We shouldn’t be tricked by what becomes meme worthy and instead strive to refine the filmmaking process. The goal is to make filmmaking accessible, so that independents  with unique vision and ideas can find their audience. 

1. Producing Independent Films Working with a Small Budget

Small budgets for a film could mean anything between $100,000 to $30 for snacks. The money is not always behind the idea but the story needs to get made. This is probably the most challenging aspect of producing a high quality low budget film. Keeping in mind that it’s nearly impossible to produce a film without funding, if you can budget the economic advantage of making connections…anything is possible.

The first thing you need to consider when budgeting for an independent film is who you know. Independent filmmakers rely on good favors, service exchanges and professional friends to get things done. Create a budget for cast and crew that reflects the expenses for each day of shooting. You don’t need to sacrifice your crew’s pay when budgeting. Negotiating with the people you bring on to the project as compensation is a sure way to get people enthusiastic about your project, even if it is low budget.

You have to feed your talent and crew well, that is a must. On the lucky strike that you get good people to work on your film for little to no money, make sure that they are fed and comfortable. Budgeting for 1 to 2 meals per day and an assortment of snacks and coffee is important. If you have a good friend at a restaurant that would do you a favor in exchange for credits on the film or a small cameo, that works well.

Good films are made with good equipment. Have a budget for camera and equipment. It’s understandable that equipment rentals can be too expensive for low budget productions. Here’s what I propose: See if you can connect with filmmakers with equipment that will work with or even let you borrow equipment. 

Other important things to budget for include:

Location: For which I recommended doing a deep scout of free/low cost spaces.

Props and Costumes: This an opportunity to practice recycling and craftiness.

Transportation: Figure out how to get your crew safely from one place to the other, you might need to carpool. 

2.Casting for a Low Budget Film

Casting the right talent for your film is what will set you apart. Connect with a casting director, see if you can budget to hire one for your crew. Make sure that you give them an ample amount of time to find the right talent. It’s common to skip the process of auditioning and pre-production when trying to put together a film with a limited budget. Scheduling the time to rehearse and find the right actors will increase the quality of your work exponentially.

For producers the job is to find a balance between what everyone wants from the role. Negotiating with actors can be difficult. It’s important to allocate space for them on set, work with their schedules and again feed them correctly. 

For directors, the task is to find people that will work well with each other as well as with the crew. Don’t underestimate your ability to cast a well known actor on a limited budget, Idris Alba is in everything.

3.Developing the Look of a High Quality Film on a Limited Budget

 

You don’t need all the latest technology to develop convincing images. A huge part of the effort of filmmaking is creating a convincing space. In many instances, real world streets and buildings with the right lighting will suffice. To stand out however, the image is manipulated with camera tricks that will help the story move forward. A low budget film can be well composed with backgrounds that establish the characters and lighting that reveals them. These are simple elements that successful filmmakers take and mold.

Producing an interesting look takes planning. Developing a sturdy course of action with a storyboard and shot list will save you time and money. Filmmaking is an art and good artist always sketch before they start making.

This part should be included in the budget calculations as well. For many productions Post-Production is something entirely separate. For many limited budget productions it may be the same people working the camera and the editing room, this is understandable. Utilizing editing tools to your advantage will be the key to your budget film’s quality. If you can budget for Color Correction and a professional score, you’ve done it.

Producing low budget independent films takes a lot of calculated efforts. Your connections to other filmmakers will be your greatest asset along with finding supportive people. Hire the right people and treat them right. Take these appropriate steps and you’ll be producing high quality low budget films in no time.

When you’re ready to shoot make sure to send us an email. We have excellent producers and crew that will work with your budget on your next production. Click here for more on our Film and Video Production Services.

3 Tips for Producing Low Budget Independent Films 1
American Movie Company: Picture of Bill Milling in circle with phone number 917-414-5489
Andrew Hebert Production Coordinator at American Movie Company, phone number 646-639-6775

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