This article is reposted from our forums
I’m working on a low budget horror film right now that is part of a popular franchise (sorry the studio prevents me from saying which one.)
The budget is low, but its not a micro budget. There are stunts and effects. However, the budget is still very tight, and we’ve run into several traps that I think make great lessons in writing and preproduction for low budget films.
Don’t just worry about what happens, worry about the aftermath
In one of our scenes a house explodes. This is obviously a huge FX thing, and the production did everything right. They hired firetrucks, got all the permits, etc. Blowing up the house went smoothly and was an awesome effect.
The problem was that the explosion was not the end of the scene. The monster emerged from the burning building and continued to reek havoc.
This created a pretty serious issue. Every time we looked in the direction of the house, we had to turn on the fire FX. The process to turn it on takes about 2 to 3 minutes, and must be turned off between takes (unless you go again immediately).
Two minutes may not seem like much time, but consider if we do 15 set ups that look towards the house, with an average of 3 takes each. That means over an hour and a half each day is wasted just turning on the fire.
Think about the reset
Sometimes its the most insignificant things that can cost a ton of time on set.
For example, the “Monster rips the sheriff in half spraying blood over all of the deputies”.
What happens if that take doesn’t go well? Every deputy has to have a wardrobe change. This means each deputy has to have multiple wardrobes on standby, and each take requires at least 5 minutes to reset.
This is also compounded by the fact that you won’t necessarily shoot in order. So you may have to switch back to clean wardrobe, and then back again to bloody several times through the shooting day. This can be a major time sink.
Sometimes its even more subtle
Sometimes wardrobe changes can result from wording that is deceptively safe. For example the script says ” The monster grabs the hero from behind”.
Seems like no big deal right? Well, our particular monster is covered goop and makeup. Just by grabbing someone he runs the risk of making the wardrobe visibly messy.
The same goes for lines like “He falls to the ground”. Just hitting the dirt might render the wardrobe too dirty for continuity.
Location scout with bad days in mind
Our location is a remote wooded area. It looks beautiful and is far enough from any traffic that its also been pretty good for sound (not counting the critters of the night).
Then it started raining for 3 nights in a row. The result is a quagmire in which its difficult to even walk without sinking into the mud, let alone push carts or move trucks.
Larger budget movies can just take a day off, or call in the proper equipment to fix roads and tow trucks out of the muck. On a low budget this can break the bank.
Look for nearby airports
This isn’t so much the case with this movie, but with many movies I’ve been on in the past. Being near an airport can really slow you down (if you care about sound at all).
Each plane that flys anywhere set (sometimes even on interiors) has the possibility of holding up production for two or three minutes. And as mentioned in the example earlier, two or three minutes here and there adds up to big expense very quickly.