Guest Post: How to Make a Movie on a $100K Budget

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By Suzette Brown
Making an unbiased movie profitable shouldn’t be straightforward — the secret’s arming your self with correct planning. On the primary characteristic I produced, I used to be advised by the director, “There are three choices — good, quick, or low-cost — however you may solely choose two.” As an unbiased filmmaker with out the luxurious of limitless assets, I choose good and low-cost each time. That doesn’t imply I don’t follow my deadlines, however that I ought to take the time to do issues proper every step of the best way. Bringing an skilled line producer onto the mission additionally helps; they’re chargeable for drafting and managing the manufacturing’s price range all through the complete course of, from improvement via post-production.
Like many within the indie world, I put on a number of hats when wanted. Many occasions, I take the position of producer along with line producing to assist reduce prices. In truth, I lately made the characteristic movie “For Hannah” for $100K. Right here’s what I realized from the expertise and ideas for making motion pictures on a small price range:
1. One of many most important issues I do is reverse engineer. I’m not reinventing the wheel — I encourage the author and/or director so as to add components we have already got entry to which can be both discounted or free.
As a line producer, my objective is to all the time are available beneath price range. Start planning in improvement; writing and producing with what you understand you’ve entry to is vital. Too many occasions I’ve been approached to line produce for an indie movie that has action-packed sequences, iconic places, and/or different components they merely can’t afford. It’s important to be lifelike and keep throughout the traces of what you may really pull off. How are you going to streamline the script with out dropping the story that you could inform?
My husband and co-owner of Two 9 Productions, Shannon Brown, needed to supply a movie throughout COVID, so we got here up with the idea of “For Hannah.” Not solely did the mission want to return in beneath $100K, however we additionally needed to hold everybody’s security in thoughts because of the pandemic. We achieved this by limiting the places wanted for filming, to reduce exterior contact; conserving it a character-driven piece with few characters; and utilizing a skeleton crew. We created a narrative we knew we might have the ability to obtain.
2. I do a full breakdown of the script. I like to make use of Tagger in Final Draft after which import the script into Film Magic Scheduling — it saves lots of time.
For these not aware of Film Magic, every scene has its personal sheet. Through the use of Tagger you solely have to focus on and label all of the completely different components as soon as in Last Draft. In any other case, you manually can be getting into all the data for every scene/sheet and should kind in all the components of their potential classes, after which there are a number of clicks so as to add them onto every sheet/scene — yikes, proper? Tagger will robotically create your whole sheets in Film Magic Scheduling — and convey over all the components you tagged — so that you don’t should manually create every sheet for each scene in your script.
In my world, group is the important thing to any success. Use no matter system works greatest for you. As soon as the breakdown is finished, it’s a bunch of items to a puzzle that you could assemble. Realizing your script just like the again of your hand makes it so much simpler to assemble these items. What number of completely different places are there? What number of forged members, crew members, props, autos, wardrobe, and so on.? I delve deeper into the schedule earlier than locking it in. OT is dear — can the forged/crew be wrapped correctly every day? It’s good to take a look at each facet so you’ll find the place it can save you with out compromising the general high quality of the mission. That’s all the time the fragile stability.
3. When you can, get places free. It is rather uncommon for me to pay for a location. I all the time attempt to make a greenback out of 15 cents; places is one space the place I do know I can obtain that.
With our current mission, John Wesley Norton particularly wrote the script with a home that was nice for the story and he knew he may use at no cost (reverse engineering!). Now figuring out what metropolis our most important location can be in, I reached out to house owners of native places there for our different wants. I’m all the time real and trustworthy when chatting with them and allow them to know what we try to attain. Typically we will supply the house owners — and anybody they know domestically — the possibility to be background gamers. It will get them extra concerned with the mission and helps manufacturing by filling these background/further roles. Consider what contacts you’ve to your wants, corresponding to household, pals, or different filmmakers.
One other nice option to be environment friendly is to select places which can be multi-purpose. Our movie “For Hannah” required a fireplace truck in entrance of a burning financial institution whereas a reporter was interviewing the native sheriff. I discovered a fireplace station that we would have liked for the scene they usually additionally had an workplace that we may rework into the native sheriff’s workplace. We have been in a position to shoot two places at one place in someday. Bear in mind, if you save time you lower your expenses. I schedule across the places first, lumping them collectively, minimizing firm strikes. This retains capturing days and journey time down and people financial savings trickle down into a ravishing stream.
4. For different wanted objects, ask your self what issues may be borrowed, made, or repurposed. Take stock of the tools your staff already has that may be borrowed earlier than utilizing a rental home. By merely asking, you’d be shocked by the assets you could have already got entry to.
Set design and wardrobe is the place creativity is paramount. Having the correct manufacturing designer and costume designer can save lots of money and time on a mission. “For Hannah” takes place round Christmas and our manufacturing designer, Crystal Forlano, borrowed and repurposed the Christmas décor and decorations for the mission. The superb sweater impressed by “A Christmas Story” was made by our costume designer, Gary Nocco. They each all the time plan and create throughout pre-production and are available to set ready for potential situations, like having double wardrobe for a personality that will get wounded in a scene.
For the issues you need to buy, all the time store round to seek out the most effective deal. Don’t fall into the entice of considering you don’t have time and simply buy the very first thing you discover that may work. I by no means buy my first discover; I scour {the marketplace} till I’m assured I discovered the most effective worth. “For Hannah” takes place within the ’80s and we would have liked a TV from that period. I saved the mission lots of of {dollars} by not buying the primary one I discovered. In the end, I used to be in a position to choose up a working Zenith in nice situation for $50 at an vintage retailer.
5. Offering correct meals and choices all through filming is necessary. Earlier than you start principal pictures, it’s best to have already got a listing of your whole staff’s dietary restrictions and preferences in addition to what day(s) they are going to be working.
Personally, I like supporting family-owned companies each time I can and, in my expertise, they’re simpler to work. I’ve discovered corporate-owned corporations are usually not as workable and/or versatile with pricing. I saved cash on our meals by working with an area restaurant, giving them our enterprise at some point of the shoot. By doing this I used to be in a position to receive decrease pricing. We have been additionally ready to make use of them for our diner location within the script, one other multi-purpose saving alternative.
All the time make certain to work out choices with the seller earlier than you start filming. As an example, what number of meal choices may be provided every day? Do they ship or will choose up be required?
When you plan correctly, you may start filming with out unneeded and preventable chaos. Issues will all the time come up which can be out of your management throughout principal pictures — somebody confirmed as much as the flawed place as a result of Google Maps “had it flawed” or your location contact is MIA and you can’t get entry to a constructing — but it surely’s very important that you just management the issues that you may management forward of time so you may work round these surprising surprises with extra focus. Why would anybody need to wait to movie a scene as a result of the artwork division remains to be making props for it? Or see the staff scrambling to resolve the place to eat, who can choose it up, and collect orders on the day of filming? Now you’re behind on schedule you need to select between having to hurry filming — and presumably have an effect on high quality — or add capturing days, which clearly provides value to the price range. Stress and chaos is not going to solely add to your price range but in addition damage the standard of labor. Correct planning will all the time be your price range’s greatest pal and a fantastic assist to total high quality management.

Suzette Brown is an award-winning actress, producer, line producer, founder and co-owner of Two 9 Productions, and director at Crown Level Worldwide Movie Competition. Her credit embody “Discovering Hope,” “Each 21 Seconds,” and “Halloweed.”



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