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How to Produce a Professional Short Film with Less than $5,000

How to Produce a Professional Short Film with Less than $5,000

For many years, there has been a misconception surrounding short films; they cost a significant amount of money. However, we’re here today to prove that this isn’t quite true. Sure, you could end up paying tens of thousands on equipment, location, and actors and this is something many movie companies will do. This being said, it isn’t entirely necessary in today’s world and today we’re going to show you six main tips for creating a short film within $5,000.

Before you shake your head and click away, let’s take a look at the first tip!

Smart Script – For any short film, the script plays an integral role because it gives direction not only to the actors but also to those in charge of cameras and even the director. When it comes to producing your script, you will find many ways to save money so, at first, our first tip of not compromising quality may sound a little counter-intuitive.

Instead of attempting to actively cut money from the scriptwriting process, we suggest being smart about the task and the money-saving will come naturally as a result. If you’re using a sample script from the internet, this could be a mistake because it will likely include many features you don’t need. For example, there’s nothing wrong with introducing an ellipsis if you don’t need to go into full detail and if the script doesn’t require you to go any further.

Remember, the script must only imply the movie; it isn’t a book that tells the story itself. Of course, it will need the basic layout with character work and a little story but it isn’t the role of the script to tell every single detail. With sound effects and cinematography, the script should suggest what happens rather than spelling it out with every piece of detail possible. If you want an example of how to do this, James Cameron does it perfectly. Whilst the script tells us how we should feel, the motion and sound evokes the feeling itself.

Story – If you’re still in the process of writing the script, you can also save money by being clever. If your budget won’t cover a car accident, why not use a soundtrack before cutting away to the injured driver in a hospital bed? Sometimes, allowing the viewer to question and assume is more powerful than showing them every detail.

By using these tips with your script, you can save money and time on the whole process.

Utilise Technology – Again, this will sound counter-intuitive at first because $5,000 won’t get you very far with technology these days. Once again, we ask you to think outside of the box. For example, what about drones? Nowadays, drones are being used in multiple industries all over the world and this includes filmmaking. Thanks to the high-quality recording equipment now fitted on most camera drones, you can get the aerial shot you’ve been craving without the need of a helicopter, hot-air balloon, or whatever else you were considering.

How does this save money? Well, you can rent a drone from a shop, ask to borrow one from a friend, or ask a fellow filmmaker who owns one for help. With the rise of social media, we’re sure a simple post on Twitter or Facebook could get you hold of a drone for a couple of hours. With this in your possession, you can get shots of a train from above, the sea, the city lights at night, or whatever else you need.

Following this theme, you could do the same for various other pieces of equipment. If you don’t want to fork out hundreds or even thousands for something you only need for the short film, ask around your friends to borrow it or simply loan it from a willing shop. As long a you thank them in the credits, many independent shops would be willing to help; multi-national corporations might be a little less willing so you need to be smart with how you approach this one.

Location Magic – Next up, the locations you choose for your short film will be essential for the credibility the film offers. If your character suggests a certain lifestyle or personality, the location can go a long way for the viewer to proving this. As we’ve said before, this doesn’t mean you have to spend an arm and a leg to get it right and it starts with your own apartment Have you ever thought about recording some scenes in your own home? Of course, we aren’t asking you to pretend your home could be used as a hospital or a warehouse but it can be used for any scenes written for a home. As long as the actors feel comfortable working in the environment and they show it as their own home in the way they act, there’s no reason why you can’t utilise this free resource.

After this, you can also be clever with how you film within certain locations. For example, you could quite easily trick the viewer into thinking you’ve moved location when, actually, you’ve just moved to a different room. If we stick with the theme of recording in your home, you might have two characters talking in the lounge. Then, suddenly, they need to visit the house of somebody else to progress the story. As long as you didn’t show it in the first scene, you could use the kitchen or dining room as a change of location when, in fact, you’ve just walked a few steps into a different room. Assuming there are no common features between the two rooms, they could easily be used as two different locations. If you go outside, this could even become a third!

Post-Production Pricing – If you don’t have the time to do all the editing yourself, you don’t have to rely on the overpriced services we have here at home. Instead, you should be looking towards other countries where the rates are much smaller. By finding a service within a more competitive market, you can take advantage of cheaper pricing thus reducing the overall cost of your project. Although this one seems a bit risky at first, you can find services that are willing to talk on Skype. Rather than sending various clips off and hoping for the best, you can discuss exactly what you need, what feeling you want to have from the film, and how it should come across. With these experts, they spend all day editing films so should be able to meet your needs quite easily; and for a very good price.

Whilst on this topic, you can also outsource the different roles you require including your crew. Nowadays, there are some fantastic freelance filmmakers and camera operators who can offer a professional touch for only a small price. By using these tips, you can save money across the whole recording and editing process.

Use Your Network – Although we’ve touched upon this topic a little already, use your network to get what you need in terms of props, location, equipment, and more. Often, small production companies and short film makers will ask around for money so they can buy all these items. For us, this seems silly because not only are people unwilling to give money but you’re also missing an obvious option of gathering the resources.

Rather than asking for money, use your network to get the items directly. As we saw previously, you might know someone who owns a high-quality drone; if not, you might know someone who knows someone else who owns something you need. If you ask for help rather than money, you’ll see a much better response and strangers suddenly come to your aid in providing drones, cameras, crutches, fire helmets, fish tanks, and whatever else you may need for certain scenes. By doing this, you don’t have to awkwardly ask people for money for something in which they have little interest. Furthermore, you don’t have to waste money on something you probably won’t be using afterwards anyway. Therefore, it’s a win-win and you’ll also have an audience because the stranger who let you borrow a fish tank will want to see it in the short film as their claim to fame.

Promote Online – Finally, how could we talk about saving money without mentioning your opportunities online? In years gone by, filmmakers would have to struggle through advertising with flyers, newspaper ads, leaflets through doors, DVD giveaways, and more. If you’ve ever wondered why small films struggled back in the day, it normally came down to marketing as opposed to anything relating to the film itself. Today, you have a wealth of opportunities thanks to social media and the internet in general.

First and foremost, we recommend setting up a Facebook page before you even start filming. Not only does this give you a chance to ask for props and equipment, you can also post pictures during production and get a buzz going around your film. Over the weeks, the audience gain insights into what you’re doing and what progress you’re making. As long as you post regularly and also get active on various filmmaking groups, the interest will steadily grow.

As you progress, you could upload videos to YouTube as well as taking advantage of Vimeo and perhaps even your own website. If you’re looking to build credibility in this demanding world, a website could be a very good move. As you will have noticed, all of these options (except your own website) are free of charge and just require a little effort. With the website, this will only cost you a small amount to get started anyway and it should be seen as an investment.

Summary – As long as you pay attention to these six tips here today, there’s no reason why you can’t produce a professional short film on a budget of $5,000. All things considered, you just need to be smart with your decisions and learn to think outside the box. Rather than just buying everything you need, see if there’s another way of going about it. Once you start paying close attention to every penny you spend, the film will come in under budget and you can be proud of your efforts!

With the tips we’ve provided, you also won’t have to sacrifice quality anywhere so it will remain as professional as can be!


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