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Getting it Done: Tips for Saving Money and Still Getting Your Short in the Can


Cat DoughtyWhen people watch our web series, Flock, most assume that we spent a lot more than we did. Without going into details, I’m often surprised to learn that some spend as much on a single short or web series pilot as we spent on an entire twelve-episode season of Flock. So if you’re a gal on a budget looking to produce her own project, here are some ways we saved some cash when we produced Flock.

1. Write smart.  Start yourself off right by writing something that highlights your assets. Have a great location/actor/wardrobe/vintage automobile you have access to for free or cheap? Write to it. It’ll add production value and cost you nothing.

2. Keep it small. The smaller your cast, the fewer people you have to wrangle, fewer people eating crafty, fewer people needing makeup and costumes and props. All those things add up. Consider it while you’re writing. Same thing goes when assembling a crew. We filled key positions with great people who were willing to fill in as Production Assistant/ Grip/ Camera Assistant/ Crafty if necessary. If you’re a low-budget indie, Jacks-of-all-trades are awesome additions to your team.

3. Build a great team. Network. Find passionate people who can do what you can’t do and have what you don’t have. Our team was small in number but mighty in resources. They brought equipment, supplies, talents, and the attitude that no job was too small or unimportant. With our powers (and connections and favors and personal equipment) combined, we were able to accomplish a lot for a little. Actors contributed to wardrobe, the cinematographer lent his equipment, makeup brought their own kit, I think everyone involved loaned their home as a location at one point or another. We only paid for one location the entire shoot. Include everyone on your team and pool your resources.

still from "Flock" photo by Morgan Estill.

still from “Flock” photo by Morgan Estill.

4. Give someone a chance.  Particularly at the starting level, there are people out there who are talented but haven’t done much. Find those people. They are usually willing to work with you for the experience and to beef up their reel*. You’ll find some incredible talent and meet people to work with the rest of your life.

5. Take your time. In my experience, you can have things fast or cheap but not both. If you’re on a budget, it’s worth it to spend as much time as you need to in pre-production. That crucial prop might be $25 bucks online but takes three weeks to ship. If you have to get it locally or have it expedited that same prop could cost you twice as much as it should. Take your time. Get the perfect props/costumes/locations/actors lined up—it adds to your production value and reduces cost!

You don’t have to save $10,000 to make your short or web series; if that’s been your excuse, it’s time to lose it, get out there and start making something!  Have you done a short film or web series? What were some of the ways you were able to limit your costs?

* Just so we’re clear, I don’t advocate not paying people. However, if it’s your first short film or web series and you don’t have a budget to pay anyone, that doesn’t mean you can’t make something. My point is that if you are willing to include people who are passionate and talented but don’t have the experience, you can both benefit from the project without money being exchanged. 

Cat Doughty

About Cat Doughty

Cat Doughty has a BFA in Art and Technical Theatre from Whitworth University. After moving to New Mexico in 2007, Cat joined a group of passionate independent filmmakers called Black Shepherd Productions. As part of the Black Shepherd team, Cat has been a writer, a producer and nearly everything in between. Since finishing co-writing and producing the webseries “Flock” with Black Shepherd she is currently focusing on developing new screenplays so she can keep making indie projects!