No Budget? No Problem

Article Written By: Christine Grenat

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So you want to create a film, but lack funds, equipment and most of the basics tools most successful filmmakers possess? Did you know that you can do everything from planning to shooting to distributing your first film using your smartphone? Not only that, but you can do it with a no-to-low budget. Advances in smartphone technology means it’s never been cheaper or easier to make it happen. Free, low-cost and user friendly tools are available to anyone with the creative capital to take advantage of them. By maximizing your use of available resources and minimizing and/or avoiding things that aren’t affordable, you can create an artistic, independent film of your very own.


Pocket filmmaking, as it is sometimes called, is a great way to get started utilizing much less resources than traditional filmmaking. It just requires a little more creativity, resourcefulness and ingenuity. The obstacles to creating a movie (budget constraints, personnel/human capital, content, equipment, planning and a squeeze on other resources such as time and ability) are not insurmountable. You do not have to have the big production studios, equipment and budget to create your own film. You just need to have an artistic vision and a desire to do it. You will have to work hard and be ready to wear every hat in the filmmaking process.


I once read that Dr. Seuss was given the constraint of writing an entire book using only 50 words. He rose to the occasion and the rest is history.  You have to make do with what you have.

Sometimes the limitations are what force the creative decisions to do something in a way that’s never been done, says Chris Waltman, film school graduate of the University of New Orleans.

You just have to have a DIY spirit and leverage the technology at your fingertips.  Today’s smartphones are full service production centers.  Be an early-adapter to this new technology and take advantage of it.

There are many aspects of filming that can get very expensive. Careful, meticulous planning in the beginning is vital to saving time and money. Just think about it, the longer it takes to shoot a scene and the more scenes you have to shoot, the more time and money needs to be invested. An app called ShotLister is a great tool to use for planning out your film. It helps with scene-planning and scheduling. Everything that you are doing has to do with the story that you want to tell. You want to have a three-act narrative with compelling characters to carry the story. It’s the characters and the story that draw viewers in and keeps them interested. The story is everything. ScriptsPro is a great script solution you’ll want to take advantage of. Have the script completely written prior to production. Lack of planning is the number one area that can make or break the budget of a film, so make it a priority.


One area that can cause you to have to shoot a scene over and over again has to do with sound. If you are shooting a scene and suddenly an unexpected train horn starts to blast, for example, you will have to shoot that scene again. Shooting silent, then recording sound to avoid things that blow the sound take and reduce need for shooting scenes multiple times is what many professional filmmakers do in the first place. They record the sound in post-production, with the actors dialogue re-recorded after the filming has ended and the editing process has begun. Because built-in microphones in cell phones pick up background noise, most dialogue must be added in post-production anyway. You can capture sound on a digital voice recorder, then merge picture and sound in the editing process. If you must record at the same time as shooting, make sure that your microphone is on the same side as the camera, otherwise the sound will be distorted. Also make sure to check your sound often throughout the filming process to ensure that you are indeed recording the sound. You will save yourself a lot of heartache and dollars in the long run.


Once you upload the footage to the computer, you go through exactly the same editing process with your mobile device film as with any other digital movie. Free online editing eools such as iMovie, Pinnacle, Motionbox, PhotoStory, etc, offer a way for filmmakers to have fun manipulating their multimedia digital content. Many free online services allow you to do things like scene transitions, cuts, splices, loops and audio overlays. Most of them offer online editing and enable easy control of the video experience with the ability to send your creations to friends via e-mail and/or by embedding films online. VidLasso is a revoluntionary program that captures video and pushes it to the cloud for automated processing and organization. Each video is automatically encoded, tagged, organized and stored in a secure Cloud location, enabling content editors to quickly find and review video before it is pushed out to social media platforms, edit platforms, or asset management systems, making the content relevant to the moment as well as valuable for future use. You do not have to waste storage space on your phone or SD card and risk it getting lost. With the availability of these tools, your phone and computer are your production studio.


Distribution has been one of the biggest challenges for independent filmmakers in the past, but thanks to the popularity of direct-distribution sites like Vimeo & Youtube, and your smartphone’s ability to upload content directly to the web, it’s not as big of a hassle. There are many film festivals & contests devoted to the art of mobile filmmaking that you can take advantage of to help distribute your film. With all of these available options available, you have the freedom and opportunity to make the films you want to make, without any loss of creative control, and without needing a huge bankroll to make it happen.

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