How to make a cheap film

You want to make a movie but you don t have much money to spend. How do you make a film for little or no money? What do you do after you have made it?

Below is a 10-step guide that will show you how to make your own low budget movie.

1. Digital camcorder

You need a decent camcorder that can be easy to use, upload and move around. Low budget can be great fun and push your experimentation. Get the most out of your digital camcorder whether it is a DV or HD by using manual settings. This allows you to control more of how it captures light, zoom, sound and so on.

We recommend the Kodak Zi8 that allows you to record HD 1080p, and plug in a microphone (including wireless). It is the cheapest and greatest camera out there for low budget filmmaking and far superior to the Flipcam.

2. Microphone

Sound will be your biggest obstacle in most cases. If you have a very limited crew (just you with the camera) then you will find this difficult. Most cameras, even the cheap ones, will have a mini jack out which allows you to put in a microphone.

For dialogue, if you can get your hands on a PC microphone that has enough cable, this can work. Taking things to the next level could get more expensive but if you have friends who can get their hands on a camera with an XLR out, then you are doing really well.

Alternatively, silent films and music videos can work very well in this scenario as all you need to do is to add effects/ a music soundtrack when you are editing.

3. Tripod

A tripod will help you avoid the motion sickness one often gets when watching a home movie. Tripods are fairly cheap and can be very useful for all kinds of situations, establishing shots and more.

4. Friends

Friends are the greatest assets you have. Instead of hiring actors, get your friends, family, your neighbour and even your dog to act. Do you want to make an action scene with guns and gangsters? Get your friends to dress up, and ask them to bring props. This can help you out in many ways and make your film that more exciting.

Don t be afraid to reach out to people that you would not normally contact. If you know a shopkeeper who secretly loves action movies, invite him/her to be your bad guy.

5. Lights

Lighting is important to keep consistency inside and out. If you have very bad lighting in your scene you get focus problems on lower end cameras. To compensate, try to bring him some halogen lights, or even your garden lights (if they can be plugged indoors)

If you don t have those options, shoot your film outside during the day.

6. Story

You might be thinking shouldn t this be step 1? Not necessarily. You need to know what you have before you write for low budget (If you want the film to meet your expectations). If you are missing a microphone, then you can only write a story that can either be dubbed, narrated, is a music video or better silent.

7. Computer

Editing will play a big part in your movie. How you piece together your Ninja fight scene will depend on your cutting skills and what software you have. For the cheapest solution: Windows Movie Maker. Yes! You can add music, sound effects and edit in a timeline. If you don t have a computer try to borrow one, go to your local school and see if they have it. Most computers in the world have windows.

8. DVD or File

Once your film is finished you need to export it or put it on a DVD. Will you make copies? It is always a nice touch to send this to your friends who helped you make your movie. Maybe you are thinking really big. Do you want to send it to festivals, or even to sell it?

9. Festival or bedroom

Nothing is more exciting than watching your finished product on the big (or small) screen. If you want to get a festival screening and have some cash to spare, send off a few copies and see what happens. If you are reading this and are thinking this is too far in the future, you never know. Try to get some feedback from your friends and family. Get some objective criticism and see if it s worth doing so. Some of the best short films are done on shoestring budgets.

10. Sell

If you made it into a festival and want to try selling you film you can from the comfort of your own home or by sending it out to distributors. Check out these other articles to help you:

How to sell a short film

Self distribution for low budget films

film industry network members