5 Ways to Save Money on Film Production

Recently, we scoured the internet in search of the top tips to help budding filmmakers practice their craft without breaking the bank.  So if you’re looking to fund your next film and the money’s looking a little funny, check out these tips we found from your fellow aficionados.  Grab a notepad, soak in the knowledge in all of its glory and see if any of the tips save you a pretty penny.

1. Planning will Save you Pennies (and lots of them!)

When writing your script, be realistic about your budget.  Don’t plan for an undersea mermaid adventure that requires all of Ariel’s wealth when really you have the budget for a simple monologue set in a park.  As shared on the popular blog Skillshare, “write with the budget in mind.”

Costumes, filming permits, actors’ expenses and sets can all add up.  Are there ways you can write a script that tells a compelling story without compromising  the most important elements of your story?

While money isn’t everything, starting the filming process with a realistic budget in mind can save your dream from the beginning.  As Simon Cade wrote for Skillshare, “A character-based drama set in one location with two actors is going to be the most cost-effective, so why not start with that, and see what else the story needs.”

2. Have Crew Members Multi-Task

Another way to carry out a budget-conscious film production is to find crew members who can multitask and fill different roles.  According to True Hero Studio, sometimes you can find efficiencies in the roles your crew play on set.  For example, can the script supervisor also act as the casting director or the gaffers help build sets?  It’s likely you’ll have to take a look at who you have on the team and see what makes the most sense.

While you’re trying to find some ways to save a little extra money, be careful not to do it at the expense of your relationships with the people you work with or at the expense of the production.

3. Choose the best locations that are easy on your wallet

The setting of the story is such a critical part of the film making process.  While certain locations have the potential to break the bank, others you can find cheap or at no cost.  How you ask?  Well, True Hero Studio shared their secret for finding scene locations that provide the perfect place to tell your story while leaving your budget in tact.  They recommend starting with a restaurant owner or a friend who owns their home.

A few quick tips they share, if you’re thinking of going this route are to make sure you’re negotiating with the owner of the home and not a leaser. Also, they recommend being flexible.  Be willing to rewrite a scene if necessary (and if doesn’t compromise the storyline) to make full use of a lovely and affordable location.

4. Micro sets

Say it with me….micro sets.

On Chris Jones’ blog he states a simple rule…”NEVER MOVE YOUR CAST AND CREW.”  Those who are in the industry would probably laugh when they read Chris’ tried and true statement, “Don’t ask me why, but to move a film crew 200 yards (183 m) to the left will take you an hour!”

So his solution is micro sets.  He says, “Often, you can increase the quantity of locations by writing scenes that can be shot in micro sets – that is, a set that is no more than a couple of walls and few props for dressing…Choose locations where you can shoot one way, turn around and shoot another story location without moving.  Find the winning location for your movie and your budget will heave a sigh of relief.”

5.  Be ready to spend time instead of money

They say time is money but in this case, time is time.

In the beginning stages of filmmaking you have the opportunity to upskill, research and get your hands dirty to save a bit of cash.  Simon Cade of SkillShare shares a tip that’s useful not only in filmmaking but also in life.  If you’re willing to do a bit of the work yourself, you’re bound to save money.

Don’t have money for a make-up artist?  Youtube is chock full of how-to videos that can show you how to apply make-up on your actors.  A quick search will have you up to your eyeballs in make-up.

Are you looking for costumes? If you’re willing to go through all the sales sites on Facebook and on sites like Gumtree, you may find a treasure among the mounds of things people are clearing from their homes.  Estate sales, op shops and recycling centres can also offer similar savings, but they all require a willingness to spend the time scouring and digging.

Similarly, it may not be easy, but you can do your own editing.  Though it may take a membership on lynda.com or an editing class, after several sessions, you’ll be well on your way, and in the long run, it will save you tons of cash.

As you’re making an effort to save cash, especially when swapping time for money, be careful not to burn yourself out or to become so distracted by being a jack-of-all-trades that you forget the reason you started all of your side-hustle learning projects in the first place.

Have we missed a great money-saving tip?  Let us know in the comments below!

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