10 Zero-Budget Filmmaking Tips

 offers up 10 ideas to stretch your budget on a zero-budget film.

1. The Story Is Everything

Nothing glues you to the screen more than a good story. If the story is there, does one really care about the budget of the film?

Stories and screenplays have four main elements:

Firstly, your story must have characters with a specific goal. A specific goal is one that can be measured, so at a point in time we can see whether or not the character achieves or fails to achieve the goal. For example, if your character’s goal is to move out of London – this is a weak goal. We all want to leave London. It’s dirty, expensive and increasingly dangerous. But if the goal of your character is to leave London by noon tomorrow, or else… then we have a goal that is easily measured.

Secondly, your story has a setting. The setting can be usual or unusual.

Thirdly, there are the Actions of the main characters and finally what they say, or Dialogue.

The trick of a good storyteller is to weave these four elements together so the seams do not show. When a writer achieves this, we say they have mastered the craft of storytelling. But not necessarily the art of storytelling.

2. Location Location Location

There are two expensive components to a film shoot. Image capture (camera) and the locations.

Moving a cast and crew from location to location is time consuming, and expensive, regardless of your budget.

If you can reduce the amount of location moves, or eliminate them altogether, then you are a huge step closer to reducing your budget.

Locations in this scenario suddenly have a huge impact on the script. To learn how, we need only to look at some of the most interesting films of the last few decades: Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Kevin Smith’s Clerks, Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It , Orin Pelli’s Paranormal Activity and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. These films have one thing in common: limited locations. In fact, they would each make excellent stage plays. The trick, it seems, is to take a bunch of actors to a limited location and chop them up. When you do this, you will essentially be filming a stage play.But a stage play filmed as a stage play is boring. Turn your limited location script (which is essentially a stage play) into a movie successfully, and you will have, what the moguls in Hollywood call, Talent.

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