How to Make a Low Budget Movie

Tips For Making Low Budget Movies

If you want to make a low budget movie, there are a number of steps which you can follow to get the best results. Who knows? With some hard work and a little luck, maybe you’ll crank out the next El Mariachi, Blair Witch Project or Night of the Living Dead.

The best advice on how to make a low budget movie is to never give up. Whether you’ve got $1000 or $15,000, it’s important to follow your filmmaking dreams. If your movie is good, there’s a decent chance of finding a distributor, no matter how small the budget.

Getting The Cast Together

If you really want to save money on your movie, try casting friends and family. Got a cousin who used to do community theatre? Get them. Does your niece take drama in high school? Looks like you’ve got yourself another actress.

You can also find people willing to work for free (or next to free) on the Internet. Sites like Craigslist, mySpace or Facebook are excellent ways to meet people and assemble your low-budget movie cast.

Offering Points

If you don’t have much cash to spend on your cast and crew, you can also try dangling “points” in front of them. Basically, points are a percentage of the movie’s profit, and you can promise to give someone a certain amount in exchange for services rendered. Just remember, you only have 100 points to work with (as in 100 percent), so don’t offer someone too many.

Screen Credits

Everyone likes to see their names in the credits, so you have another option besides giving away your movie’s profits. Sometimes, just an offer to be in the credits will be enough to convince someone to work on your film.

Find A Good Script

Whether you purchased a script or wrote it yourself, it’s important to work from one that’s halfway decent. Just make sure it’s not laughable, as this will hamper the abilities of your actors and quickly turn off any viewers.

If writing’s not your thing, try obtaining one from a hungry film student in your area. You can also check the Internet; it’s amazing what you can find on the Internet.

Obtaining A Camera

If you’re going to make a low budget movie, you’ll definitely need a camera. It’s up to you whether to select a digital video camera or one that actually uses film.

A three chip digital video camera can either be purchased or rented, while a professional film camera will need to be rented. The biggest advantage to a digital camera is that there’s no film to worry about.

If you do use film, you’ll have to decide between 16mm and 35mm, and you’ll also have to pay to have it developed. Of course, a movie shot in film does have that “professional” look, so there’s always that fact to consider (especially if you can get a good deal on some film stock).

The Importance Of A Director of Photography

A Director of Photography (or DP) knows how to use the camera, knows about film, and knows all about lighting the shot. A good DP can set up the shots and be a major help in crafting the overall look of the film, thus freeing up the director to worry about the actors and overall story.

The best way to get a DP for cheap is to check local colleges with a film department. You can also try working the Internet again, as sites like Facebook and Craigslist are bound to put you into contact with a few aspiring Directors of Photography.

Use Storyboards

Storyboards are basically little cartoons which show what each shot will look like. They also list the locations, cast members and props that are to be used in any given scene. This will allow you to quickly locate all the scenes taking place in the backyard (or wherever) and shoot them together. This will save you a lot of time in the long run.


It’s also a good idea to rehearse scenes in advance before you shoot them. Big budget movies can waste lots of film waiting for the actors to get a scene right. You probably won’t have that luxury.

The Score

If you want to have music on your low budget film, you might try approaching a local college music student. Offer them points or screen credit in exchange for recording an original compositions for your film. Just be sure to get them to sign a release form. This will ensure that they don’t sue you if/when your project really takes off.

For that matter, you also need all your actors to sign a release form. Basically, this means that they give you written permission to use their likeness during both promotion and production.


Once your movie is complete, you’ll need to find someone to edit it. This means that they take all your shots and put them together in an order which makes sense to the viewer. Whether you’re using a digital camera or film, most modern movie editing is done on a computer.

Entering Film Festivals

Once your film has been edited, it’s ready to be seen by the public. But in order for anyone to see your movie, you’ll need to find yourself a distributor. That’s where film festivals come in.

There are plenty of representatives from studios and distributors at major film festivals. If your film catches their eye, don’t be surprised if they approach you about making a deal.

If your movies start getting buzz on the festival circuit, you can also hold a distributor screening. This means you rent out a small theatre and invite reps to come, watch your movie, and then bid against one another for the right to distribute it. When this happens, you’re really on your way to the big time.

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