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Wednesday
Aug312011

Tailor Your Film to Your Budget: "Scale Back!"

Tip of the week from our podcast: "Scale Back!" (download episode on iTunes)

So you have an idea for a single-shot, 3D reinvention of "Blade Runner" and you believe it's gonna be the next big thing. There is a slight problem though. You have a producer willing to bank roll this (your mom), but you will have to shoot it all on a flip cam to afford the giant exploding zeppelin and mutant turtle costumes. (Hey, it's not a LITERAL re telling.)

So what are you going to do to make this work? If you are making your first (or fifteenth) film, whether it is a short or a feature, one of the most important steps is budgeting. And no matter your ambitions you are most likely going to have less money and zeppelins in real life than your script seems to need. When this happens you must learn to scale back your vision, to match your budget and resources.

Here are a few practical questions to consider as you rethink your audacious new script:

1) Can I REALLY pull favors?

There are things you can do for cheap with the right connections, like getting free catering through a friend who owns a local restaurant. You may even be able to pull favors for awesome locations, and find crew that will work for free! But be sure you don't skimp on surrounding yourself with people who know how to work hard and are dedicated to your film, whether you can pay them or not. Your vision depends on your relationship with your cast and crew. Make sure it doesn't suffer as you slash the budget and increase the hours. You may even have to schedule your shooting around their schedules. That's OK for a small budget film.

2) Can this story be told more simply?

Make tough decisions to cut scenes you love if they don't move the story forward, or if there is a more simple way to accomplish the same goals. It has been said that the best way to accomplish a goal is usually the simplist, and that is often very true indeed in the film world.

3) Am I being realistic about my experience (or resource) level?

Don't set out to do something you know you can't do successfully. For example: don't attempt using a green screen for the first time on a feature film if you have never successfully pulled it off.  It is a great idea to be ambitious, but set realistic goals for yourself and work your butt off to accomplish them.

Most importantly you should love the process. If you are hating your life while making your movie, other people will too and nobody will want to work with you again... so have fun!

—shepherd

 

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