Visitor Publish: How one can Make a Film on a $100K Finances


By Suzette Brown

Making an unbiased movie profitable will not be straightforward — the hot button is arming your self with correct planning. On the primary function I produced, I used to be advised by the director, “There are three choices — good, quick, or low cost — however you may solely decide two.” As an unbiased filmmaker with out the luxurious of limitless assets, I decide good and low cost each time. That doesn’t imply I don’t keep on with my deadlines, however that I ought to take the time to do issues proper every step of the best way. Bringing an skilled line producer onto the undertaking additionally helps; they’re accountable for drafting and managing the manufacturing’s funds all through the whole course of, from growth by post-production.

Like many within the indie world, I put on a number of hats when wanted. Many instances, I take the function of producer along with line producing to assist decrease prices. In reality, I just lately made the function movie “For Hannah” for $100K. Right here’s what I realized from the expertise and ideas for making films on a small funds:

1. One of many most important issues I do is reverse engineer. I’m not reinventing the wheel — I encourage the author and/or director so as to add components we have already got entry to which can be both discounted or free.

As a line producer, my purpose is to at all times are available below funds. Start planning in growth; writing and producing with what you have got entry to is vital. Too many instances I’ve been approached to line produce for an indie movie that has action-packed sequences, iconic places, and/or different components they merely can’t afford. You need to be sensible and keep throughout the traces of what you may truly pull off. How will you streamline the script with out shedding the story that you could inform?

My husband and co-owner of Two 9 Productions, Shannon Brown, needed to provide a movie throughout COVID, so we got here up with the idea of “For Hannah.” Not solely did the undertaking want to come back in below $100K, however we additionally needed to preserve everybody’s security in thoughts as a result of pandemic. We achieved this by limiting the places wanted for filming, to attenuate outdoors contact; holding it a character-driven piece with few characters; and utilizing a skeleton crew. We created a narrative we knew we’d have the ability to obtain.

2. I do a full breakdown of the script. I like to make use of Tagger in Ultimate Draft after which import the script into Film Magic Scheduling — it saves a variety of time.

For these not accustomed to Film Magic, every scene has its personal sheet. Through the use of Tagger you solely have to focus on and label all of the completely different components as soon as in Ultimate Draft. In any other case, you manually could be getting into all the knowledge for every scene/sheet and need to sort in the entire components of their potential classes, after which there are a number of clicks so as to add them onto every sheet/scene — yikes, proper? Tagger will mechanically create all your sheets in Film Magic Scheduling — and produce over the entire components you tagged — so that you don’t need to manually create every sheet for each scene in your script.

In my world, group is the important thing to any success. Use no matter system works greatest for you. As soon as the breakdown is finished, it’s a bunch of items to a puzzle that you could assemble. Figuring out your script just like the again of your hand makes it so much simpler to assemble these items. What number of completely different places are there? What number of solid members, crew members, props, automobiles, wardrobe, and so on.? I delve deeper into the schedule earlier than locking it in. OT is dear — can the solid/crew be wrapped correctly every day? You could have a look at each side so you will discover the place it can save you with out compromising the general high quality of the undertaking. That’s at all times the fragile stability.

3. If you happen to can, get places free. It is vitally uncommon for me to pay for a location. I at all times attempt to make a greenback out of 15 cents; places is one space the place I do know I can obtain that.

With our current undertaking, John Wesley Norton particularly wrote the script with a home that was nice for the story and he knew he may use free of charge (reverse engineering!). Now realizing what metropolis our most important location could be in, I reached out to homeowners of native places there for our different wants. I’m at all times real and sincere when talking to them and allow them to know what we are attempting to realize. Generally we will supply the homeowners — and anybody they know regionally — the possibility to be background gamers. It will get them extra concerned with the undertaking and helps manufacturing by filling these background/further roles. Consider what contacts you have got to your wants, comparable to household, buddies, or different filmmakers.

One other nice option to be environment friendly is to select places which can be multi-purpose. Our movie “For Hannah” required a fireplace truck in entrance of a burning financial institution whereas a reporter was interviewing the native sheriff. I discovered a fireplace station that we wanted for the scene and so they additionally had an workplace that we may remodel into the native sheriff’s workplace. We have been in a position to shoot two places at one place in at some point. Bear in mind, if you save time you get monetary savings. I schedule across the places first, lumping them collectively, minimizing firm strikes. This retains capturing days and journey time down and people financial savings trickle down into a stupendous stream.

4. For different wanted objects, ask your self what issues may be borrowed, made, or repurposed. Take stock of the gear your crew already has that may be borrowed earlier than utilizing a rental home. By merely asking, you’d be stunned by the assets it’s possible you’ll have already got entry to.

Set design and wardrobe is the place creativity is paramount. Having the suitable manufacturing designer and costume designer can save a variety of money and time on a undertaking. “For Hannah” takes place round Christmas and our manufacturing designer, Crystal Forlano, borrowed and repurposed the Christmas décor and decorations for the undertaking. The superb sweater impressed by “A Christmas Story” was made by our costume designer, Gary Nocco. They each at all times plan and create throughout pre-production and are available to set ready for potential situations, like having double wardrobe for a personality that will get wounded in a scene.

For the issues you must buy, at all times store round to search out the most effective deal. Don’t fall into the entice of pondering you don’t have time and simply buy the very first thing you discover which may work. I by no means buy my first discover; I scour {the marketplace} till I’m assured I discovered the most effective value. “For Hannah” takes place within the ’80s and we wanted a TV from that period. I saved the undertaking lots of of {dollars} by not buying the primary one I discovered. In the end, I used to be in a position to decide up a working Zenith in nice situation for $50 at an vintage retailer.

5. Offering correct meals and choices all through filming is vital. Earlier than you start principal pictures, you must have already got an inventory of your whole crew’s dietary restrictions and preferences in addition to what day(s) they are going to be working.

Personally, I like supporting family-owned companies each time I can and, in my expertise, they’re simpler to work. I’ve discovered corporate-owned corporations will not be as workable and/or versatile with pricing. I saved cash on our meals by working with an area restaurant, giving them our enterprise throughout the shoot. By doing this I used to be in a position to receive decrease pricing. We have been additionally in a position to make use of them for our diner location within the script, one other multi-purpose saving alternative.

At all times make certain to work out choices with the seller earlier than you start filming. As an example, what number of meal choices may be supplied every day? Do they ship or will decide up be required?

If you happen to plan correctly, you may start filming with out unneeded and preventable chaos. Issues will at all times come up which can be out of your management throughout principal pictures — somebody confirmed as much as the incorrect place as a result of Google Maps “had it incorrect” or your location contact is MIA and you can’t get entry to a constructing — nevertheless it’s very important that you simply management the issues that you would be able to management forward of time so you may work round these surprising surprises with extra focus. Why would anybody need to wait to movie a scene as a result of the artwork division remains to be making props for it? Or see the crew scrambling to determine the place to eat, who can decide it up, and collect orders on the day of filming? Now you’re behind on schedule you must select between having to hurry filming — and presumably have an effect on high quality — or add capturing days, which clearly provides price to the funds. Stress and chaos is not going to solely add to your funds but in addition damage the standard of labor. Correct planning will at all times be your funds’s greatest pal and an excellent assist to general high quality management.


Suzette Brown is an award-winning actress, producer, line producer, founder and co-owner of Two 9 Productions, and director at Crown Level Worldwide Movie Competition. Her credit embody “Discovering Hope,” “Each 21 Seconds,” and “Halloweed.”

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