7 Hacks for High-Quality Filmmaking on a Low Budget

Making a feature-length film usually calls for a big budget, and if you’re an amateur filmmaker, that’s probably out of the question. But don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to make your first project without dishing out tons of cash. If you’re just starting out, purchase affordable video gear and avoid taking on too big of a project. Start small with a micro-short film or regular length short film until you’ve honed your skills and start bringing in some money for larger-budget projects. To get you started, here are some tips on how to cut costs for your first high-quality film. 

1. Purchase Affordable Video Gear

As a filmmaker, your gear is one of your most important filmmaking elements, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a super expensive camera. Video quality is important, so you want a camera that can get the job done, but there are plenty of reasonably priced devices that can capture those professional shots you’re looking for. Start off your career with affordable filming equipment and only buy the things you need—a camera, a microphone, a basic lighting kit and maybe a few camera lenses or filters to give your film a certain effect or feeling. 

2. Get Your Friends Involved

Paying other people to help with your film can drain your resources quickly, especially if you don’t have much money to begin with, so get your friends involved in your project. Consider what types of interests or talents your friends and family members might have. Know someone in theater? Recruit them to be the star of your film. Have a friend who’s interested in music? See if they’ll write a few original pieces for the movie or even if they know how to run a soundboard as this could help with your audio recording process. Most creative people love to be involved in an amateur project, especially if they have a personal interest in, but if your film does make it big, make sure to give credit where credit is due. 

3. Take Advantage of Natural Lighting

Most basic lighting kits are pretty affordable these days, but if your budget is really tight and you’re looking for areas to cut costs, you can try to plan your filming schedule around the natural light. This can be time-consuming because you need to find the perfect time of day to light the scene right. If it’s too bright, the image could be overexposed and if it’s too dark, your viewer might have a tough time seeing the action. If using natural lighting seems like too much of a burden, use affordable filming accessories with lighting kits that have a key light, fill light and back light. With these three devices, you use a basic three-point lighting setup to give your scenes the right look.

4. Keep Your Early Projects Simple

Some amateur filmmakers don’t realize just how long filming every individual scene can take, which means a full-length film is probably too big of a project to take on when you’re first starting off, especially when working with a tight budget. A long run time doesn’t necessarily mean the film is going to be great. Instead, focus your efforts on creating something truly remarkable in a much shorter time. This allows you to fully focus on the writing of the scene and the exact camera movements and scene lighting to create an atmosphere and emotion that your viewers will respond to.

5. Use Free or Low-Cost Editing Programs

The editing process is equally as important as the filming because this is the stage where the entire story comes together. It can be hard to envision the final product when you have a bunch of segmented scenes. Editing can be tedious, but attention to detail in this step can make or break your film. But that still doesn’t mean you need to drop hundreds of dollars on fancy editing software. The internet is an amazing place with tons of free and low-cost editing apps and programs that you can take advantage of. If you already own a Mac, your built-in iMovie app can offer most of the editing services you’ll be looking for. If you want to branch out and work with other programs, you can try some of the other top reviewed free editing programs like Lightworks or Shotcut.

6. Find Props Around Your House or in Consignment Shops

Every movie is going to new at least a few props, but when you’re working on a tight budget, there’s no point in spending your cash on flashy props for your shots. Instead, get creative and work with what you’ve got. Ask your mom if you can riffle through the basement or the attic for anything that can double as a prop. Your friends will probably be more than willing to lend you some of their own belongings for a short period of time, but if you need something really specific, hit up your local Goodwill or consignment shops to find cheap, and probably unique, items to work into your film. 

7. Spend Cash, Not Credit

If budget is a concern and this is your first time creating a professional film, it’s best not to rely on a credit line because you can easily rack up those charges and spend more than you intended. Instead, determine a strict budget for yourself and put the cash to the side, only dipping into it for movie expenses. To plan properly, be sure to think through everything you might need to create a great film.

For young filmmakers, budget is always a concern during your early projects, but don’t let that stop you from creating. Purchase affordable video gear, recruit your friends to help and only use the cash you’ve set aside to keep yourself on track. Once you’ve got the basics down, whip out your new camera and start recording.

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