As a film director and producer I always want everyone on my team to think big. Because I have noticed that in the indie film world, people start out with too much constraint. They know it’s a small budget with a minimal crew so they try to help out by thinking small. From script, to art production, to costumes, to CGI, it’s best to think the biggest you can, then let the director and producer work out how to tell that story with what they have available.
I want my writer to write the story the way they see it. Don’t worry about the number of characters or locations or big budget ideas. Get the story on the page, every last word of it. Don’t rewrite it to make it less than, don’t combine characters to make a smaller cast and don’t leave out the explosion if it’s crucial to the story. As a director, it’s my job to understand the message and emotion. And as a producer, I will figure out a way to obtain the necessary locations, props or cast to make it happen.
My production designer can then take the whole story and work within the budget to make the look happen. It’s amazing what a lack of money can bring to the table when it comes to production design. For instance, I had a scene where the kitchen was under construction. I couldn’t take apart the kitchen, so I showed a table full of paint swatches, blueprints, designer notes, etc. The scene cost about twenty dollars. When you have a small budget, you have to think outside the box constantly and use creative resources to get the look you need.
Now I’m a firm believer in getting what is needed while we are on set. “Just fix it in post” is something I don’t like to hear on set. “Do it right or don’t do it at all,” as Mickey Rooney once told me. Post is only for stuff that you absolutely cannot get while filming. To save time and money in this area, my CGI artist and I read the script and go over every effect, sometimes with my director of photography. Getting the footage and lighting right for an effect saves a huge amount of time, effort and money.
It’s much easier to big an idea down to size within your budget and resources. Let your crew know this and have a great shoot.