5 Tips to Make Films With No Money

I first knew I was meant to pursue independent filmmaking when I showed my surf film in a local cinema. In that moment, I discovered film to be an incredible form of communication and story-telling.

I’ve loved it ever since.

For the last 10 years, I’ve been making film and learning a lot along the way. Here are my 5 tips for making films on next to no budget.

1. Think Big

Even though money might be limited, it doesn’t mean your story needs to suffer.

Getting stuck in a rhythm of only creating things you are comfortable with can limit your growth as a filmmaker. Collaborating with other creatives has really pushed me to think outside the box and enjoy a new challenge!

2. Ask Friends For Help

Asking friends to come along side your film can really take it to the next level. My experience of asking friends to be extras, bake cookies, do make up, carry heavy gear around or even borrow their house for a few days has almost always had a pleasant reception!

I recently asked a friend if I could rent his RED camera for some experience. He let me rent it at an extremely discounted rate and I had a great time filming…and all I had to do was ask.

It’s also good to consider contributing back in some creative ways, e.g gift cards, chocolates and genuine friendship.

3. Keep Your Team Happy

Encouraging words can go such a long way for keeping up morale. If you do have a budget it’s important to allocate it for enhancing those positive vibes. For example, buy good craft services and coffee! It’s important to weigh up renting expensive gear vs. spending money to keep your team happy.

4. Respect Audio

Along the way I’ve learned the value of having good sound guys, microphones, composers and mixers. In the past, I would focus too much attention on resolution, and next to no time on audio.

My respect has grown to the extent where I’ll be more interested now in ensuring a large amount of the budget goes towards audio.

If you do invest into your project, this is an area you want to highly consider!

5. Natural Light Is Free

All of the films I’ve worked on we haven’t had powered lights at our disposal, but we did have the faithful Aussie sun!

Working with what we have has forced me to learn how to use it to my advantage. Time of day: e.g. 11am- 2pm the available light is too harsh and bright, but mornings and afternoons the sun is more soft and easier to work with. Learning how to bounce, diffuse and block available light has increased the production value greatly!

I don’t go anywhere without some kind of reflector or diffuser!

This list is simple, and it’s just the basics. Sometimes in filmmaking, the smallest things are the most important! Regardless of your film’s budget, I hope these tips will equip you to get your story heard.

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  • Scott Berry is a director, editor, director of photography, and teacher at YWAM Newcastle. Scott has a beautiful family and loves gardening in his spare time.

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