If you're ready to film your movie, but don't have the funds for a high budget production, don't worry. The following tips can help your low or no budget film be a success.
1. Stick With Telling a Great Story - When you break it down to basics, filmmaking is storytelling. If you are planning to shoot a low or no budget film, you need a great story written down in a tight, compelling script. You don't need a hefty budget to make an awesome film, but you do need a great story.
2. Limit or Avoid Special Effects - When making a low or no budget film, stay away from pricey special effects. It is difficult to pull off complicated special effects without a big budget. Unless you have a way to be inventive when it comes to special effects, it's best to stick with telling a great story instead of trying to wow your viewers.
3. Stunts and Action Scenes - If that huge car chase ending with an explosion isn't integral to your story, it's best to leave it out if you don't have the budget to shut down the streets to film it. In addition, stunts and action scenes are a serious liability issue and if your film is not properly insured, you could be asking for trouble if anyone gets hurt.
4. Look for Simple Locations - When filming a low or no budget film, you are better off staying with only a few simple locations. It's expensive to travel, especially with a cast and crew, so stick close to home. Once you have reserved a location, shoot all of the scenes that take place in that location at the same time when possible. You don't have to shoot a movie in chronological order. This helps limit the number of times you have to reserve a location, get your cast and crew to the location, set up your lights, microphones, your camera, and just makes low or no budget filmmaking easier.
5. A Small Cast is Best - A cast of hundreds of pillaging villagers may be fun, but a small cast is best for a low or no budget film, especially when you aren't paying your actors. Most actors and crew members will be more than happy to act in or help shoot your movie free. An unpaid cast and crew is the basis of most low and no budget films. However, it is hard to get a commitment when you aren't paying your cast and crew. Good luck getting the same hundred unpaid villagers to show up for filming three days straight. If you stick to a small cast, you should be able to easily work around everyone's schedule.
6. Use What You Have - Don't go out and charge up to the limit on your credit card, use what you already have. This includes your cheap camcorder and other equipment along with any necessities such as costumes, props, and more. Remember tip number one? Filmmaking is about storytelling and if you have a well-written script that tells a great story, no one will care that you made your film with a used camcorder from the thrift store instead of a new HDV camera with a boom microphone. Actually, an incredible film made with broken low-tech equipment is a wonderful PR bonus if your film hits the big time. If you absolutely MUST have something you don't already own when making your low or no budget film, borrow or rent it.
7. Make a Shooting Plan - Don't head out to shoot your movie without having made a shooting plan first. Take the time to make a written breakdown of each scene listing the shots you plan to make. This includes camera angles, close ups, medium shots, wide shots, and more. Shooting will run more smoothly if you have a plan. You also won't forget any crucial shots if you have a written plan in front of you.
8. Shoot More Than You Think You'll Need - Even if you think you have filmed a perfect scene, shoot it again. By shooting enough footage with varying angles, you will always be able to find the perfect shot and you won't have to get everything and everyone together to shoot again later.
If you keep these tips in mind and stick with telling a great story, your low or no budget film will be fun, stress free, and successful for both you and everyone else involved.