How many times have you heard or read the phrase “in this wintry economic climate” or something similar over the past few months? Several, I bet. As the money falls out of the film industry however, the indie filmmaker retains an edge over his/her studio counterparts. The indie filmmaker is used to working with a low budget, cutting it in half might mean a loss of £500, not £500,000. The indie filmmaker usually has time on their hands to commit to their project. They are resourceful and they are already up for a challenge. The indie filmmaker is passionate about what they are doing. The indie filmmaker, in short, should not be put off by this wintry economic climate; they should relish it as part of the challenge.
It will however, mean changes as the slashed film production budget might not prioritise fancy kit and expensive equipment rental. A more imaginative approach is needed then; an indie filmmaker has to be willing to get their hands dirty to get their vision on screen. In view of the tighter restrictions on the budget, we have come up with a list of ten bits of useful kit that can add a more professional touch to your film but can be made at home quite cheaply instead of bought or rented for exorbitant prices.
The shallow depth of field that 35mm and other professional cameras can achieve is used to create an in focus subject and a blurred background. Many cheaper cameras are unable to realise this effect but with this piece of kit you can achieve that professional look.
The dolly and track system is used to provide smooth, controlled movement with the camera. Many films use the track and dolly to push instead of zoom and to track across with mobile subjects instead of panning to follow them. These simple movements will allow you to achieve shots that might otherwise be unfilmmable and give a higher production value to your movie.
The jib or crane allows you to film from higher angles than might otherwise be achievable. It allows you to move the camera in the vertical plane and thus you can ‘float’ above your subjects. It can also be placed upon a (heavy duty) dolly and thus provide further versatility for your camera.
The single biggest giveaway of amateurish footage is camera shake and wobble, especially when morving the camera. For an example just look at the Hollywood films trying to recreate it (e.g. Cloverfield). If you want to move the camera smoothly then it is well worth investing some time (and a little money) creating one of these two steadycam systems.
If you are filming in a car then the limited interior space and the high speed mobile nature of the vehicle can making filming both inside and out quite difficult. These car mounts present some simple solutions.
Used extensively by Darren Aronofsky and extremely effectively in Touching The Void, the Snorricam shot keeps the head of the subject perfectly still in relation to the camera whilst the world behind him moves.
Filming outside can mean that the wind plays havoc with your sound recording. This tutorial tells you how to build that iconic furry cover for your shotgun microphone to keep the wind out of your film.
8) Matt Box/Lens Shade
A simple and easy to build shade, designed to keep the sun off your lens. Don’t let something as simple as lens glare mar your film.
9) Dead Body
Making a zombie film, horror film, or indeed any film with a dead body in? This guide gives step-by-step instructions on creating a good and gruesome dead body
10) Zombie Make-up
The low budget horror is one of the staples of the indie filmmaker. These videos (note the links to previous ones at the bottom of the page) show you how to create zombies using the power of make-up.
Bonus) Nuts and Bolts Filmmaking by Dan Rahmel
This book covers all the problems that a lo-budget filmmaker will come across and provides simple and elegant solutions to them. It comes highly recommended.