Every enthusiastic film student dreams about hitting the jackpot with their very own Oscar worthy feature film, but most of them don’t really have the necessary resources to achieve that goal. Making a movie is a costly project, but don’t let that discourage you. We all have to start from somewhere and a little vision, skills and confidence can go a long way.
Here are some useful tips that can get you started as an indie film director, even if you only have a low budget at your disposal.
Adapt your script to your budget. A low budget film doesn’t necessarily have to suck. All you have to do is rethink every stage of the production to adapt it to your financial capabilities. It is not enough to have a solid script with a powerful story, you should also be careful not to include in it scenes that are difficult or even impossible to shoot (spectacular car crashes, explosions, too many VFX and so on). The script has to be real, honest and easy to film.
Don’t include too many locations and aim for the free ones. Shooting in various locations and constantly changing them throughout the shooting will cost you money and time. Try to reduce the number of locations (to even one, if possible). This way you won’t have to move around your cast, crew and filming gear. There are some great, legendary movies that were shot in a limited number of locations and that didn’t affect their overall quality: Reservoir Dogs, Paranormal Activity, Night of The Living Dead and more. Another thing you should do is shoot in free locations, such as public spaces and so on, to avoid paying thousands of dollars for shooting a single scene. Also, if you know you have to shoot in places such as restaurants, bakeries, bars, etc., try to film during their open hours, to avoid further costs and complications. Set everything up ahead of time and make a deal with the owner.
You can get some spectacular results with cheaper cameras that won’t break your bank. Of course this isn’t the Hollywood way, but when you are just an enthusiastic beginner, you have to work with whatever you can afford. You would be surprised to see what a simple DSLR or mirrorless camera are capable of in the right hands.
Natural light is your friend. Your equipment cost will be significantly lower if you find locations that are ‘naturally gifted’ in terms of lighting. Shooting in places with a good natural light will also save you a lot of time and headache.
Your cast doesn’t have to be on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (yet…) There are some good examples out there of actors that became famous after playing in low budget, indie productions. If the actor is talented and the movie is good and with a solid story, you can still pull this through, even with a micro-budget. Instead of spending all your finances on hiring some big celebrity to star in your film, try to focus on spotting talented actors, regardless of their actual fame level. Have some vision and go with your gut. If you know what to look for, you will find it!