Pin Me

Troubleshooting for Low Budget Productions

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 4/19/2010

Learn how to troubleshoot problems on your digital video film without money.

  • slide 1 of 6

    No Budget Film Production

    The majority of us do not have large studios or rich investors backing our film projects. Instead, our independent spirit is based around the desire to tell stories and share ideas. On a no budget shoot certain principles have to be followed to make up for the fact that you cannot solve problems by throwing money at them. The film you are likely making has already been constructed within the framework of a limited budget, but even if this is the basic premise on which you are basing your production it still does not leave a lot of room for troubleshooting. Here are a few tips for troubleshooting issues on a no budget film production.

  • slide 2 of 6

    Cut Things Out

    The first thing that you are going to note is that the costs often come up when more people are on set. This means that you need to eliminate crew positions as often as you possibly can, often times by getting rid of studio film positions like second assistant director and the division between the camera operator and the director of photography. Actors must also be limited, so you are often going to have to cut out parts that only have a few lines and any atmosphere actors in the background. Instead you may want to actually try shooting in regular locations where the general public can actually act as your extras.

  • slide 3 of 6

    Costs

    The best way to troubleshoot budgetary issues on your low to no budget film is to know the costs of everything ahead of time. Find out and list every piece of equipment that you are going to need for the production, as well as any location costs, actors fees, or anything else. You can then go through and make sure that your production budget is air tight and you can then see where you need to cut things out or downgrade pieces of equipment.

  • slide 4 of 6

    No Payment

    You are likely going to have to forgo paying your cast and crew on a low budget film. Very few people are willing to do this except for people who need experience for their career. Film students from different film programs will often be interested in working on low budget films for free and actors and actresses who need to increase their reel will be more willing. You are going to have less professionalism on set because of this, but this is away to eliminate production costs immediately. If you are going to do this you will need to budget in money for a good craft service situation. Having good meals and snacks for your cast and crew is very important and may be the most important way to keep them happy and prevent them from burning out. You will also want to make sure that you maintain your composure as the producer and director in all situations. Never be rude to your cast and crew as they really are there doing you a great service.

  • slide 5 of 6

    Film Pre-Production

    Your pre-production phases need to be complete so that you can prevent problems before they happen. Since you do not have budget room to fix problems you should have your schedule and all planning perfectly built before production goes into place. This means having a clear storyboard and shot list for every scene, having a complete schedule done with all cast and crew accounted for, having location agreements and photo releases already complete, having every crew position accounted for, having breakdown sheets on every scene, and every other aspect of production accounted for. Create open communication with your cast and crew during this pre-production process so that you are able to work well when production starts.

  • slide 6 of 6

    Situations

    Try to think up some of the issues that could possibly arise in your specific production, even if they are somewhat unlikely. Every production has some unique issues that could only affect that production, so knowing these ahead of time is a good way to troubleshoot your independent film. These can be things like actors pulling out at the last minute, sets getting destroyed, video equipment breaking, locations becoming unavailable, weather not being conducive, or losing your footage in the transfer process before post-production.