The low budget films have more chances of getting unbelievable profits. While most indie projects have budget restraints, some intentionally reduce the budget for more profits or to make the project financially viable. The success rate of low budget films is slim as most of them couldn’t even recover budgets. The rehashed stories, poor technical values and amateur acting and direction makes them forgettable. The low budget films are often cited as shoestring budget, micro budget or zero budget films. The following tips and tricks can help improve the quality of low budget filmmaking.
The story plays a key role in low budget films. The best option is to write a story considering the actors, locations and equipment available. The Hollywood directors like Robert Rodriguez and Christopher Nolan used this technique in their early careers. It requires a lot of imagination to churn out an interesting story out of regular locations and with debut actors. But many filmmakers end up in a situation where they have to start their career with what’s available to them. There are many great movies shot within a single location with limited crew but that requires a great script.
Choosing a unique premise could instantly bring audience for the film. The films like Blair witch project, Paranormal activity, Reservoir dogs, Primer etc. were successful because of their premise. Among the high budget films, Jurassic park, The matrix, Inception and 2012 are the examples of movies that attracted audience for their premise. The films can also be made for keeping targeted audience in mind. Moreover, certain sections of audience appreciate the experimental films. But don’t expect a lot of profit from such films.
The visuals can make the audience instantly shun a film. Most of the current generation low budget films fail to attract audience due to their poor visuals. The high-resolution picture and good lighting doesn’t always guarantee good visuals. The visuals depend upon screen resolution, blocking, composition, lighting, costumes, art design and colors. The low budget films generally fail at many of these things and some downgrade at the expense of saving money.
The digital filmmaking is a boon for budding filmmakers. The cost of production became so low that there are many blockbusters shot within a budget of a few Lakhs. The films that are shot on film require to be digitized for VFX and color correction. This process is called digital intermediate (DI) and is expensive. The digital cameras don’t have this step so the expenditure is relatively less. There are many recent Telugu films that were shot on DSLR cameras (particularly, Canon 5D). The costs will increase to convert digital version to prints for projection. But at present, this is not mandatory as there are many digital screens which don’t require prints. So, it is possible to shoot a film with a DSLR and release in theaters.
Another major problem with low budget films is static scenes. The limited actors, cheap sets and no background activity makes the scenes look mundane. Some popular directors use some techniques like painting or writing on walls, use crew members as extras out of focus, reuse props for multiple scenes, create atmospheric effects etc. It is important to not make the city look deserted while shooting outdoors and not to make the house empty while shooting indoors.
The actors could be an expense for low budget films. Writing stories that require limited actors could help minimizing the production costs. The limited actors restrict the films to limited Genres. This is the reason why most indie films are of romance, comedy, drama, horror or thriller Genres. The more popular Genres like Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Action and Adventure require medium to high budgets and more actors.
4. Sound design:
The sound design can help create the cinematic experience without visuals. You can avoid the costly scenes by using voice over. The ambience (traffic, crowd, celebrations etc), weather (wind, rain, lightning etc) and complex scenes (accidents, gun fire, blasts etc) can be filmed using off-screen sound. For example, if a conversation happening near road, the traffic ambience can make audience feel the surroundings without watching it.
5. Production costs:
You can’t avoid the location and equipment costs. It is better to avoid some locations instead of adjusting with whatever is available. You should refine the script to have minimum locations. Additionally, you can reuse some locations (shops, showrooms, colleges etc) for free by having them onboard as brand partners. This could help them for advertisement, at the same time reducing the location rental costs for producers. Instead of hiring, building own equipment will be a huge cost saver. The guerrilla shooting can be a life saver but could result in additional problems. It is better to get permission for shooting.
The planning and organizing could help in avoiding unexpected delays. The minimalistic production by avoiding additional cast and crew could give great results. The regular films have around 150-200 people on sets every day. The low budget films should bring it down to 50 or even less. The low budget films usually have 40-50 crew members. You can reduce this number further by giving multiple roles to each crew member. Moreover, you can use the battery-operated LED lights to avoid generator in outdoor unit. With careful planning, the daily expenditure can be brought down to a minimum.
It is better to avoid using music albums as they have huge price and complex copyrights. There are many indie bands and freelancers who can create soundtrack. The songs can be avoided in low budget films if there is no scope. Nowadays people forcefully add songs into the horror and thriller films just to meet the industry demands. This not only spoils the mood of the film but also increases the production budget and runtime.
The indie films never reach target audience without promotions. The cost of promotions could be as high as the production budget. So, it’s better to team up with distribution company and sell them rights. They don’t acquire the rights in most cases, but if they like the film, they can help releasing it in more theaters.