In this week’s blog we’re taking a look at some of the best low budget films!
Over the years there has been many changes and advances to film production, especially in Hollywood yet it is still clear that budget is still the single most important thing. The prices for digital effects and CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) are at the highest they have ever been.
However before the world of CGI, every filmmaker had to use other methods of how they could bring fictional characters to life.
Methods such as models and clever camera work such as that seen in breakthrough 1973 blockbuster Westworld which changed cinema forever. Westworld is a known as one of the earliest films to use CGI although it wasn’t till a person by the name of George Lucas that really ran with the idea.
But with the advances in CGI, also comes HUGE budgets for films! Although these films may break the box office, they usually only just break even in profit margins which is hard to believe. But do all films have to have large budgets? What about filmmakers that despite having tiny budgets have made some of the most memorable films!
So please follow along to our TOP 3 Low budget films.
At Number 3 drum roll please….
Is the fantastic Lost in Translation! An absolutely incredible film, with a truly talented cast of Bill Murray as Bob Harris, Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte and Giovanni Ribisi also features, as well Anna Faris.
Watch these delightful actors as you follow the story of Bob Harris (Bill Murray), a fading American movie star who is having a midlife crisis when he travels to Tokyo to promote Suntory whisky. There, he befriends another estranged American named Charlotte, recent college graduate played by Scarlett Johansson. The film explores themes of alienation and disconnection against a backdrop of cultural displacement in Japan.
This film cost them around $4 Million Dollars to make and although that still may seem high for the set and cast, it truly is a bargain! The film has now a box office of $118.7 million which adds up to an incredible $114.7 Million profit!
At Number Two
Is the amazing The Blair Witch Projects which follows the story three film students set out into the Black Hills Forest to make a documentary on the legendary Blair Witch. Armed with a 16mm camera, a Hi8 video camera, and a DAT recorder, every step, word and sound is captured. After wandering around the Black Hills Forest, Heather (Heather Donahue), Josh (Joshua Granville Leonard), and Mike (Michael C. Williams) are cold, lost and hunted.
The original budget initially started out at $35,000 but after the final production rose to $300, 000 if had stayed at the original costing price it would have been the most successful film with the lowest budget ever! With the totalled it The Blair Witch Project ended grossing $248.3 million.
The twisted horror of Get Out is about a black man who stumbles into a very white, very weird world. After dating for about five months, Chris (Kaluuya) and Rose (Williams) are headed upstate to hang out with her aggressively white parents, neurosurgeon Dean (Bradley Whitford) and therapist/hypnotist mother Missy (Catherine Keener).
This was also Jordan Peele‘s directorial debut and say short of nothing it was more than a success! Get Out grossed over $176 million in the United States and Canada and $79.4 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $255.5 million, against a production budget of $4.5 million!
This wouldn’t be a low budget blog without including Paranormal Activity! Paranormal Activity is a 2007 American supernatural horror film produced, written, directed, photographed and edited by Oren Peli.
It centres on a young couple (Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat) whom are haunted by a supernatural presence in their home. They then set up a camera to document what is haunting them. The film utilizes found-footage conventions that were mirrored in the later films of the series.
This film started a craze when it first came out and absolute smashed the box office, which led to them creating another 5 more films and have now announced that there will be a 7th film by the end of March 2022. Although over the 6 films their budget has accumulated $28.015 million which is staggering considering that the first Paranormal Activity film had a budget of $15, 000 which ended grossing at almost $197 million.
Top 5 Low Budget Filmmaking Tips
Tip 1. Get resourceful
So how do you make a film with a budget of less than 50p. Well a no budget filmmaker definitely needs to think differently, be creative and take more of a practical Do It Yourself approach – because low to no budget filmmaking is all about having the confidence to cobble things together and call in as many favours from friends and family with the sole aim of trying not to spend a penny.
Being resourceful means taking a look around your environment and using whatever available resources you have at hand – not only will this give you the tools to make your film but also something to base your film around.
So instead of putting your parents in debt just so you can have the latest cinema camera to shoot hilarious TiKTok memes with your mates (sight gag) – If you really need a couple of hours use of their smartphone – then why not surprise them and offer to do some chores – like tidying your bedroom – or washing the car – or if you’re feeling really brave offer to cook dinner – that way you’ll guarantee that they’ll give you the smartphone just so you don’t cook.
2. Use a smartphone . . or a tablet
Ok so smartphones are kinda sketchy when it comes to making calls – but one thing they can do really well – is capture awesome images. Smartphones along with tablet devices are like mini computers that allow you to not only film your scenes but also to edit them. There are plenty of free editing apps out there for Apple, Google and Android devices, and YouTube is rammed with hours of brilliant editing tutorials just to get you started.
But of course with our DIY approach your still gonna need to find a few other filmmaking essentials that will help you get the most out of your Smartphone.
3. Helps With Creativity
First and foremost you’ll probably need something to keep your phone steady, cos there’s nothing worse than when an important moment in a scene is ruined by shaky camera unless it is of course an arty shot.
A zero film budget means the chances of getting your hands on fancy film gear such as a tripod are probably zero to none but at the end of the day learning to be self sufficient and not having to rely on anyone is a good skill to develop and a big part of no budget filmmaking.
So take a look around the house for anything that you think could potentially be used as a makeshift tripod, what you’ll need is something firm, something upright and most importantly stable.
4. Sound, light and editing
Now we all know how important good sound is on a film production – or do we? Put it this way we’d rather watch a film with a bad image and good sound than watch a film with a good image and bad sound. The chances are you won’t have the luxury of using an external microphone but don’t worry because smartphones now come with the very best onboard mics that can record professional sounding audio.
Think about what sound you want to record, and then get your smartphone as close up to the actors without compromising whatever shot you had in mind. Or you could ask them to project their voice it’s that easy. It’s also really important to avoid background sound – so try not to film dialog scenes in noisy environments.
Now let’s think about lighting – Remember the reason we use lighting is more than just about making a scene brighter – when used creatively – the right lighting can magically transform a scene – creating any mood you want. So take a good look around your home to see if there’s anything in the house that you could use as a decent light. Then think of how simple placement of your lighting can be used to tell a story.
Whatever lighting you choose “remember guys it’s all about the story” so challenge yourself to use lighting to transform what would normally be pretty ordinary surroundings.
OK so now we have our camera, sound and lighting sorted we now need to think about what we’re going to use to edit the film.
There is a growing range of free – easy to use editing apps – for both IOS and Android smartphones that will enable you to pull together all of your amazing film footage. Some examples of free apps for android are . . Power Director, In Shot, Kinemaster and Filmora. And for anyone who uses Apple devices and IOS then iMovie, Splice, Videorama, Quik and Adobe rush are also excellent apps for editing your masterpiece.
Right so now you’ve now sorted out what DIY film kit and free editing app you’ll be using. Your almost one step away from making your no budget masterpiece – but before you go out there and start filming – let’s leave you with our fifth and final tip.
5.Tell a really good story!!
For most people – coming up with a good idea is painful, there’s nothing worse than staring at a blank piece of paper or a screen and waiting for the magic to happen. Let me tell you guys it never does. That’s because to tell a good story – you need to be inspired.
This inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere – So take a look around your home, or go for a walk around your local environment, read a book, chat to people or even watch the news. Is it a place, a person or a thing? Maybe it’s a kitchen that doubles as a city where tiny thieving people dwell, it could be a story about the achievements of an inspirational person you know, or even a creepy horror story based around your sisters doll. Whatever you choose make it exciting.
You can then use this prompt as the basis of your story whilst adding other key elements such as a; props, location and characters
Whatever you decide for your brilliant film idea you’ll need to get it down quickly – so on a sheet of paper write a few lines just to describe the what, where, why, who and how of your story.
Now you’ve got your idea down – the next thing to do is to write a basic script that outlines both the action and dialog. Remember this DIY filmmaking so don’t worry about having a properly formatted script – handwriting your script on a sheet of paper is more than adequate.
In addition to your written script you could also visualise your film as drawings in a storyboard. Storyboards set out key scenes, action and dialog as they would appear on screen. You don’t even have to be good at drawing too, simple stick figures are more than enough just as long as the shots are easy to understand.
But – If you really wanted to be creative then why not take a more improvised approach –make it up as you go along and see what happens. Although you still need to know some of the basics of filmmaking just so you don’t end up with a turkey. (sigh Ahhh)
Remember DIY filmmaking is all about making the most of what you have and having bags of fun, so get creative – get your family and friends to star in your epic movie, they could also give you a hand making your props, costumes and building your set.
So now you know how easy it is to get started in budget filmmaking why not give it a go. Just remember – to keep your ideas short – you know a well executed 2 minute film is far better on the eyes than 90 minutes of unthought through garbage.