Filming on a Tight Budget

Filming on a Tight Budget

Creating a Filming Budget That Suits Your Needs and Wallet

Let me tell you a story.

One of our favourite film stories in a homegrown one. This is a story about a film called Gabriel. Gabriel was filmed in Australia and released in 2007. The film had a budget of approximately $200,000.oo that might sound like a nice little chunk of moolah, but in reality, 200k doesn’t even measure up to an American movie catering budget. Nevertheless, HTL Productions and Redline films got the project finished on their tight budget and the final product was awesome. So awesome in fact that Sony picked it up and distributed it not only in Australia but America, Germany, the UK and Argentina. How much did this distribution cost? $2 million. That’s right; the actual production cost was 10% of the distribution. Go ‘Straya!



Here at VMP, we are constantly applying for tenders, quoting on projects and competing with our fellow Brisbane Production houses for the best jobs. Since the GFC a few years ago it’s easy to understand that budgets have been tight and everyone is looking to get the best bang for their buck. With financial times getting stronger we’re seeing a lot more work coming through our doors. We get our kicks producing video and media projects and the bigger the budget the better we can make our final productions. Of course, not everybody has a massive budget to work with, in fact, most people don’t. Here at VMP, we like to work with clients to create a budget that suits their needs and wallet. In honour of that, we’ve decided to give you a few tips on saving on some of the bigger budget items while still creating a polished piece.

Tip #1 – Write with your budget constraints in mind.

We’ve addressed this briefly in our past blog Concept and Script Development. Everyone wants the best, and why would you settle for anything less if you had the option? Unfortunately, sometimes compromises have to be made, consider this in your pre-production and use your creativity to problem solve. A great example of this is in the latest Muppets movie, did they have the budget to blow up a studio? Nope. Did they do it anyway? Yep. See how they dealt with it here (about 2min 20 sec in).

Tip #2 – Locations

Locations can be surprisingly expensive, and moving your cast and crew from location to location can add up quickly. Hopefully, you’ll address this in your pre-planning and keep the locations together, or even better, in a single location. Either way, if you can reduce the number of location moves, you’re doing well to reduce your budget. Then consider any fee’s for your locations. Some councils will let you film for free, others will cost you a small fee and some will not allow filming at all. You also have to take into consideration your genre and the possibility of your location affecting those around you. More than one crew has gotten into trouble for running around the streets with fake guns, the last thing you want is the police showing up to ruin your parade.  Or maybe you do, it would look pretty cool, but as a professional production house, we can’t endorse that.

Tip #3 – If you’re using talent, use the right talent

The standard of talent these days is pretty high, you usually won’t get stuck with drama kings or queens, but with a lower budget, you’re not going to be able to hire any big names. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Fresh acting faces can bring a new and unbiased feel to a production plus it means you can source locally. If you do have the budget for a more well-known actor, make sure you chose someone with a good track record that can get the job done quickly and professionally. Same goes for your crew. Sound and audio and image are the two things you can’t get wrong on a shoot and both are equally important. Do not cut corners on sound and image. Spend the time on finding the right people and it will save you big money down the track.

Tip #4 – Equipment

A lot of first time micro-budget filmmakers overestimate the importance of the camera and underestimate the lighting, DP and gaffer. When creating your video, don’t spend all your money on a great camera only to capture poor actors and poorly lit locations. Choose a camera that suits your script and budget. A production house can help with this; it’s easier than ever to choose with some great quality cameras available now. Two elements you need to look out for are compression (pixels per frame) and lenses. Do your research and save your money.

Tip #5 – Watch out for extra costs.

If you’re working with a production company ask them to be upfront about additional costs. Extra edits outside of the budget can add up quickly. Graphics take time and you need to let the budget allow for them. Music isn’t free, and depending on your distribution a track can cost from $4 to $4,000.oo and some production houses will charge you just to keep your raw footage.

There are so many more tips we could discuss, catering budgets, building a following, promotions, costumes, props and so on. Hopefully, these tips give you a broad idea of some ways to cut costs without cutting corners. And if you want a great quality production, don’t hesitate to contact us here at VMP where we take pride in every video and project.

Mon, 05/01/2015 – 3:34pm

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