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How To Make an Ultra Low Budget Film Look Like a Million Bucks

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I am currently knee deep in pre-production on my new Ultra Low Budget Indie film, so I thought it was only appropriate to give some tips and tricks to how to make a film look like a million bucks on a shoe string budget.  Here are some of the things I am currently in the process of doing as I line up my film to be shot next month.

  • Locations –  Locations can be the most expensive part of your production budget.  So here are some tricks to secure locations for free.  Find out what that location needs and see if you can provide it.  You have a camera and that is a super valuable piece of equipment.  Offer to video their location and give it to them in exchange for their location.  On our film “At Your Own Risk” we wanted to shoot on 200 acres of land owned by the National Historical Society, and our director is an amazing drone operator.  We offered to do aerial photography in exchange for a few days of filming on their land.  It was a good deal for both parties, and now all the footage we gave them is playing on a TV in their museum.  Also, offer to do social media posts that promotes their business. Marketing is worth BIG bucks and if you can give that to them, it’s worth its weight in gold.

Find strategic ways to make a trade that benefits both parties involved.  So you’re not just begging for a free location, you are offering something in return.

  • Extras– If you’re an indie film, chances are you don’t have budget to pay 500 extras to show up to be in your movie.  But what you can do, is give them a credit in the movie for participating in your film.  We credited over 500 extras in our movie “Catching Faith,” so when we put a call out for extras for our next movie “Wish For Christmas,” people knew we were people of our word, and every single name played out in the rolling credits.  And if you can bring the film back to the area you shot it in, and do a premiere, it’s a beautiful thing to watch the credits roll with all the people as they see their name for the first time on the big screen. Small acts of kindness can go a long way people.
  • Community support – We always shoot our movies in small towns that are excited about our films and want to be a part of them.  If you can get community support, you can ask for donations. As an example- ask people to bring an extra meal to set.  Food makes the crew happy, and if your budget doesn’t have a lot of catering/crafty money in it, it’s nice to have someone volunteer everyday to bring an extra something special for your crew.  It’s a great pick me up.  On my set of “Wish For Christmas,” almost everyday someone from my hometown community brought in soup or sandwiches for the crew.  And let me tell you after a long day out in the snow, that can really lift everyone’s spirits.  Also word travels fast, so the more you connect with your community and get the word about your film, the more people can be a part of it and help in ways you might not have even thought of.

With a great community behind you, you can make your dollar stretch and bring people together in a beautiful way.

We often house our cast and crew in local community member’s houses, which saves you a great deal of the budget that normally would go to hotel rooms, or renting a house.

Always be kind and guard your reputation with your life.  Be the kind of filmmaker people are excited to work with everyday.  Remember your career will span the course of years, and you want to work with the same people ten years from now.  Building your tribe is the most important part of succeeding as an independent filmmaker.

 

Alexandra Boylan

About Alexandra Boylan

Alexandra Boylan (Producer, Writer, Actor, Co-Founder Mustard Seed Entertainment and Mirror Tree Productions) Alexandra is an award-winning filmmaker. MirrorTree Productions, has produced numerous feature films, including "Home Sweet Home" and "At Your Own Risk". Her company Mustard Seed Entertainment's film "Catching Faith" had a two year run on Netflix and was on the shelves of Wal-Mart. Her most recent film "Wish For Christmas" sold to Pure Flix Entertainment and Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Alexandra’s script "Switched" was awarded the winner of the Kiaros Pro MovieGuide award for best screenplay. She is the author of "Create Your Own Career in Hollywood: Advice from a struggling actress who became a successful producer" available in Kindle and print on Amazon, and is an active member of Woman in Film Los Angeles where she served on the WIF PSA Board. Alexandra co-collaborated on the book "Thriving in Hollywood!" for msinthebiz.com