Revisted: Top 10 Low-Budget Filmmaking Tips

Published 3 September 2009

1. Is there a story?
When writing a script it’s important to get feedback. Send your first draft to 5 people. Don’t send it to just friends, and include a professional writer if you can.

2. Keep it simple
If you’re making your first film keep it simple by using minimal locations, preferably one, and just a few actors. If you have a limited budget don’t use special effects or crazy action stunts.

3. Plan, Plan and Plan
Budget – make a list of everything you need. Even if you’re borrowing the equipment, put it down.
Cast & Crew – use friends where you can or source from filmmaking websites and forums www.mrc.org.au/make-it/. Organise a shoot date and confirm with your cast and crew.
Location – Use your own house, backyard or garage, but if you’re using another location make sure you have secured it in writing from the owner or local council for the shoot date.
Storyboard & shot list – plan your shots. Draw diagrams or pictures to help illustrate the composition and sequences.
Schedule – Use your shot list to help organise your day efficiently. Group similar shots – it doesn’t have to be in chronological order. And give a copy of your schedule to your cast and crew.

4. Clearances
You need release forms for everyone: actors, music/artwork contributors, location and anyone else who produces content that appears in the film. Release form templates and examples download from www.dependentfilms.net.

5. Using actors
When making short films on a shoe string use friends or family. If you’re a budding Tarantino you might be able to persuade a professional actor to be involved.
www.australianshortfilms.com/directory/actors
www.starnow.com.au
www.artsconnect.com.au/artists/actors

6. Equipment
Beg, borrow and be creative. Hiring equipment is an option. I particularly enjoy the Sony Z1 or the Canon XL-1s, but some domestic cameras can do the job! Use household lamps for lighting. A large sheet of white board could be a reflector. A broom stick for a boom pole. Be creative!

7. Invest in good sound
Bad sound can make a good short film unbearable. Hire a decent boom mic.
www.mrc.org.au/hire-it/catalogue

8. Feed your cast and crew
A happy cast and crew is a happy film set, and hopefully this will come across in your film. Include food in your budget: breakfast and lunch. Also snacks and drink during the shoot. Don’t forget the wrap party.

9. Post production
You don’t need an editing suite. Why not use iMovie or Movie Maker on your home computer. It’s hard to stay objective taking your own script to screen. Once you have a rough cut invite a few friends over to watch it and give you feedback. Also, watching it with others help you see it more objectively.

10. Getting your film seen
Find 5-6 filmmakers with films to screen and share the cost of hiring a cinema. Each filmmaker will invite their friends, so that’s an instant audience.
Blyth Cinema Hire
www.mercurycinema.org.au/hire
Send your film to festivals. There are hundreds of film festivals worldwide waiting to screen your film.
www.mrc.org.au
www.britfilms.com/festivals (Information on more than 1300 festivals in over 80 countries with instructions on how to apply)