Although it sounds obvious, your career in film will start with a great story and script, but how do you best turn that narrative into an enticing film?
Without the large cash reserves behind you that most Hollywood directors have, it may feel like you’ll never make it because you haven’t got enough money to create your feature film in the way that you envision it in your own mind. To help you on your journey to becoming an A-list director, together with Get Film, specialists in film production in Newcastle, we give you the best tips in how to film your masterpiece on a low budget.
Your story is everything
Forget about gimmicks and special effects in your film, if you haven’t got a great storyline with twists and tension points, as well as a great script for your actors to contend with, then you haven’t got a film.
Ideally, you should spend as much time on writing your story and script as you would during filming and post-production, if not more. Think about it, if your story within the film is lacklustre, then does anyone really care about how much was spent making it?
There are four main elements to creating a great story, and they are as follows:
1. Characters. All of your characters should have a specific goal, and whatever this goal is, ultimately, they should have achieved it by the end of your picture, or the plot should dictate that they do not according to the script that you’ve written. Everything should happen to your characters for a reason.
2. Setting. Your setting could either be usual or unusual, but it should relate to the narrative in some way, or present a certain mood within it to reflect upon your character’s feelings.
3. Actions. Within a film, actions are made up of what your characters do, as well as what your characters say. There needs to be a good mixture of both for your film to work; too much action and you audience can’t relate to your characters, but too much dialogue and your audience can begin to lose concentration.
4. Combining these elements. If you’re able to weave all of these elements together without making it obvious, or without exposing cracks in your plot, then you’re on the way to making a great film.
Stick to one location
"When making a film, traditionally location and image capture are the two most expensive aspects."
When making a film, traditionally location and image capture are the two most expensive aspects. Regardless of your budget, when you’re moving any crew, actors or equipment around – this is going to cost you money and time. By reducing the amount of moves you make to other locations when filming, you’re bound to reduce your budget.
Think about it, some of the best modern-day directors use limited locations in their films. Quintin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1993) and The Hateful Eight (2015) were filmed in limited locations – the former in an abandoned safe house and the latter in a lodge to shelter from a storm. If you can let your story shine through during the film, then there is no need for multiple locations.
As you’re probably already aware by this point, camera equipment is often very expensive. To keep your budget low, all you need is a camera, a tripod, a microphone and a computer editing program for during post-production. However, if you buy a camera with good image stabilisation, you won’t need a tripod to keep it stable.
When you’re starting out, look to buy basic equipment – and once you’ve mastered this equipment, move on to more complex technologies that help you film more complex shots. There is a large second-hand market when it comes to camera equipment, and when you’re not using other forms of equipment regularly (such as lighting rigs), this should be rented and not purchased outright, as you may only need it for the day.
Avoid other people’s music
It’s undeniable that every great film has a great soundtrack to match, but when you’re starting out, don’t use your playlist of favourite songs as the soundtrack to your film.
The reason for this is because you will have to pay royalties to the artists of the music that you use in your film, and you probably will not have the budget to do this. Musicians unions are much stronger than actors, writers and films unions, which means you can’t leave any of this to chance.
To avoid this, try writing the soundtrack if you’re a musician yourself, or get an unsigned band to play music after watching your film – they’d be thankful for the exposure if your film generates interest.
Remember, above all else, make sure you and the actors you are working with are organised and understand what they’re doing. This will make your day run a lot smoother, and will ultimately save you time and money in the long run. By ensuring you’re prepared before you start filming, you may surprise yourself and make a great film on a low budget!
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