A Broke Filmmaker’s Guide to Making your own Movie

My day job consists mainly of design research and video ethnography for brands. However, in my spare time I like to make short films, you know, just for the lols etc.

So over the years I’ve had a few people ask me how to make films when you don’t have much money (Money for equipment/ training/making etc). So here’s a few tips on making films on an extremely low budget.

Tangerine (2015) was shot on an iphone
  1. You don’t need fancy equipment, but you do need some essentials

A lot of people think that they need the latest and greatest equipment to make a film, but that’s really not true! It’s really not that necessary to have an Alexa to create a good film. Focus on the content, audiences can be forgiving of the presentation if the story is good. However, if you are going to invest in something, invest in a decent sound recorder. Audiences can forgive a wobbly picture if the sound is good. Here are some cheaper essentials:

  • H1N Zoom and SmartLav
H1N Zoom
Smart Lav by Rode

If you are going to buy anything get a decent audo recorder and lapel mic. I’ve used the above in my own work and they do a decent job at a fraction of the price.

You can film on a handicam or an iphone and then use a piece of software Pluraleyes to sync the higher quality external sound to the camera’s sound.

Editing software- is another essential so you will have to bite the bullet and either pay £300 for Final Cut Pro X or £20 per month for Adobe Premiere. However both of these come with free trials so if you time it correctly you can get a film out of it in time! Yes these are a bit pricey but only a few years ago these software packages were in hundreds and thousands so things have become a lot more reasonable!

2. Start Small

Yes, I get it…you want to create a 18 month long documentary about the exploitation of kangaroos in the wild (i don’t know why i picked that but I did). However, having a huge idea might leave you in a position where you’ve bitten more than you can chew. Christopher Nolan didn’t make Inception or Dunkirk over night- he developed his craft slowly. His first film was a short called Doodlebug that all happened in one apartment. Having something small and manageable (like a scene in one room) or a documentary about one person makes things simpler and easier to make and you can still make an interesting film!

3. Read up online on everything

Luckily, you don’t have to spend £30,000 on a film degree to make a film. Just determination, curiosity and some disciple on filmmaking. There are lots of blogs, tutorials and videos online to teach you the technical stuff. Here are some people that I really like:

Philip Bloom’s blog — He’s the dude, end of.

Tony Zhou — Every Frame a Painting video Essay Series

A nice intro into camera settings

No Film School

4. Stop making excuses and do it already!

So when I was still a fresh faced wide eyed kid I asked my boss who I was freelancing for at the time, “How do I learn to make good films?” and she replied “Just do it”. At the time I thought I was going to get some secret, but there really isn’t any. As with anything, you have to keep making and doing before you become any good. I’m still waiting for that to happen with myself. So what are you waiting for, as Shia says, “Just Do It!”

P.S while you’re here and read this stuff Imma gonna be cheeky and do a blatant self promotion link to a video I did on the cheapo (it cost my air ticket and equipment to make) Cheers! Chloe