You’ve written a script (or found one that you love) and you want to bring it to life on the big screen. It may feel like there is no way your movie will get made if you aren’t backed by a major studio, but people are making independent movies every day. Over 14,000 indie films were submitted to Sundance in 2019. How can you make your movie without selling everything you own? Here are nine of the best money-saving tips to help you.
Pre-Production Tips and Tricks
The first step in the filmmaking process is pre-production. This is where you write (or find) the script, schedule, and budget the movie, and start bringing the pieces together.
Find a story that takes place now.
Period pieces are always more expensive—the cars, the costumes, the set dressing—all have to be exactly right. This means you’ll need to rent them from a specialty house.
A movie that takes place right now? You can use the crew’s cars, shop your actors’ closet for their wardrobe, raid your friend’s basement for furniture and props. Heck, you might even be using your friend’s basement as the location!
2. Breakdown & Schedule
A little bit of planning goes a long way, especially on a film set.
Taking the time to do a proper breakdown will tell you everything you need to make the movie. Every actor, every location, every prop, every costume, every extra, every stunt.
From the breakdown, you build the schedule. Once you know how many times you need all of those different elements, you can get strategic, especially with the more expensive elements.
Is there a police car in your film? Try to schedule those scenes together so you’re only renting the car once, not twice. An actor that’s only in three scenes you want to try to shoot out in one day.
If this is the first time you’re budgeting a movie, take your time and make sure to include everything. Knowing how much everything costs before you get on set can save you money.
Now, start looking for things you can get for free.
Whether you need a house, or a horse, or a hammock, chances are you might know someone who has one. They might be willing to let you borrow it in exchange for spending a day on a movie set being an extra. Bonus: you now have a free extra as well!
Best Money Saving Tips for Production
It’s finally time to begin production when you get to step on set and the action begins! The best tips and tricks for saving money during production center around three things: the people, the gear, and the locations.
The more people you have on set, the more money they cost you. You need more parking spots, more bathrooms, and more food.
This might sound counter-intuitive, but spending money on an experienced crew is worth every dollar.
An experienced crew can work efficiently and get more done in less time with fewer people. They know their job and they know how a film set needs to run.
They can anticipate and have solutions ready before you ever even know there’s a problem.
Know exactly what you need and only order that. While it’s prudent to be prepared for anything, you can save money when you only carry what you need. The more equipment you carry every day the bigger truck you need and the more gas it will take.
If you have specialty items, order them just for the day. Even if you have to pay to have it delivered it will cost you less than renting it the whole time.
When you’re scouting locations make sure to keep in mind some logistical issues that will save you money in the long run:
- Is there access to parking nearby or will you need to shuttle everyone to set?
- Can you use house power or do you need to bring in a generator?
- Are there sound issues that will cause delays onset or be a problem in post?
- Is there room for lunch/catering, bathrooms, dressing rooms for the cast or will you need to rent them?
Also, try to condense your sets into fewer locations so you never have to make a company move during the day. Changing locations takes time and time is money. So try to keep everyone in one place as much as possible.
A few properly placed props and greenery can turn a backyard patio into a bistro café. Sound effects and establishing shots can make an office hallway feel like an airport jet bridge.
Every production has a lot of moving parts and sometimes those parts get dropped, like when a lens falls on the floor or a crewmember misses a step and trips.
Being properly insured means you are able to take care of your crew and keep the production moving when minor mishaps happen.
Post Money Saving Tips
The biggest mistake many producers make is to wait and think about post later. Understanding and planning for post can save you a lot of money.
Don’t pay for more than you need.
Shooting on film is sexy, but it can add a lot of costs in post to process, develop, and transfer it. Most film festivals and theaters don’t even accept film anymore.
Digital media offers you more flexibility, both on set and in post, and costs significantly less than film.
Save yourself both money and time by shooting and editing high-definition digital.
Music licensing is complicated, time-consuming, and expensive.
The more familiar the song, the more it will cost. Try to avoid licensing popular music. Instead, look for someone to compose a score for your film or find a royalty-free song.
Lights, Camera, Action!
The film industry is one of the most exciting industries that anyone can be a part of. Writing a script, filming it, and then seeing your story up on the big screen is a huge thrill.
These are some of the best money saving tips to help bring your movie to life. Check out other articles on our blog to learn more about budgeting and producing your indie feature film.
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