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Getting Things for Free During Your Digital Video Film Production

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/4/2011

Filmmaking is expensive, so you need to go out and see what you can get for free. Here are a few techniques for getting equipment, crew help, and outside media for little to no money.

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    Tapping Your Savings

    Creating a digital video feature is a costly endeavor no matter how you look at it. Equipment, locations, permits and the like all cost money. When putting things together you may quickly realize that you do not have enough money to get all of the elements you need. In an effort to lower the ultimate costs, you need to begin scouting out things you can get for free.

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    Nonprofit

    Since the best thing you can get is money you need to keep fundraising as the top priority. One of the best ways you can do this is to apply for 501(c) nonprofit status. The reason behind this is that there are numbers of organizations that will donate to artistic or socially progressive nonprofit organizations, but never to people on their own. With this they are able to receive tax right offs for their contributions, whether they are in the form of money or equipment. Applying for nonprofit status is a complicated process, but there are many endowments for the arts in the public sector where you can plead your case. It is best to look around for nonprofit counseling services and then see what is available in your location.

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    Grants

    Once at this level you can begin writing grants for financing. Again, there are so many financial resources for the arts that you could spend the rest of your life filling out grant proposals. The best way to do this is to hire a grant writer and offer them ten percent of any grant money that you receive. This way you only have to pay them once you receive the money and they have more of an incentive to win grants.

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    Free Equipment

    Once you have nonprofit status you should begin contacting equipment rental centers and film resource departments looking for equipment donations or free rentals. Your status would allow them to claim any help as a tax write off and they will often be open to this as long as they are not having an overly busy season.

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    Internship

    There are enough people out there that are attempting to begin their career in filmmaking, media, or acting, and would love to work on a high-profile film. This kind of credit is so important that many of them will work for free. Begin contacting the film and media departments of local universities and community colleges looking for people who may want to contribute for free. Offer an internship possibility where the students could earn credit from their educational institution in exchange for working.

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    Pay Them a Little

    The best way to persuade people to get involved is to offer to pay them something, even if it isn’t much. The credit in the film is often not enough to make people take time away from their busy lives to participate. You can always write up a contract saying that they will get paid if your film makes a certain amount of money upon completion, but you really should avoid this because it can end up being a hassle and can interfere with distribution and release of your digital video film.

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    Find Like Minded People

    You may want to begin contacting people who have a similar interest to the project you are working on. If you have a politically or socially charged project you may find people equally impassioned and who may volunteer to work because of this. This is often the case when it comes to music, so contacting many musicians and proposing use of their work in your film is a great proposition. Always send out detailed information about the film, but alter it to be more conducive to their ideas and biases. Explain to them why your film is important and why their music would add to it. Likewise, talk to anyone in various scenes or sub-cultures that have background with art or video equipment and see if they would like to contribute.

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    Call Everyone

    The most important thing to do is ask. Post ads on online classified forums looking for people who would be willing to work for long hours for little to no pay. Contact everyone you know looking for practical equipment, especially things like computers or transportation. Most importantly contact every filmmaker resource in your region and ask for free use of equipment. You would be surprised with what you see.