Filmmakers’ Short Film Tool Kit Let’s Plan It

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Step 2. The budget and schedule

The script is always the most important thing in a film. The next most important are the budget and schedule. The budget is defined in large part by the script.

A budget is simply a list of all the stuff and people you need to make a film. The schedule is when and where you need the stuff and people. You need to be rigorous in creating the business plan. Simply list all the things and people you think you need, and after each note write down how you are going to pay them.

There are three ways filmmakers get paid. The first, of course, is cash – usually negotiated around a day rate. The second is deferred payment which implies the crew or cast member invests sweat equity in return for a slice of the profits, if anything. And the third way is ‘in-kind’. Often equipment manufacturers will loan you expensive equipment in return for a promotional credit. Other time brands will pay handsome sums of money to have their product placed in the film (known as product placement).

Here’s the crunch. You want to make a movie but you don’t have much money. Can you make a movie without any money? Of course you can. My first intern, Edgar Wright did. I met Christopher Nolan when he was making his first film “Following” for hardly any cash.

Do you want to make a movie without any money? Lets look at what costs money to make a film:

  • actors (the more actors the more mouths to feed)
  • CGI and special effects (you can’t afford them)
  • locations (every time you move your cast and crew it costs money)

Here’s the film that launches every single writer/director career in America: find a script where you take a dozen kids to a house and chop them up. Is this not “Paranormal Activity”, “Blair Witch Project”, “Reservoir Dogs”, “Night of the Living Dead”, “Following”? There are many more (and a fair number of them screened at Raindance).

Why does this work? Because it’s cheap to shoot. Of course there are a few more things you need to think about in order to minimise the budget. Once you’ve minimised those costs, you can minimise them again.

Should you need more insight, we’ve also got our Lo-to-No-Budget Filmmaking course.

[Would you like a PDF copy of Christopher Nolan’s first movie, Following ? Email scripts@raindance.org]

What was your idea for a film again? Don’t lose your original idea. But how about revising it based on locations and number of actors?

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