Producing a Low Budget Film - Save and Raise Money

piggy bank


Financing your film is probably the hardest job of the producer. Later on, I’m going to write about raising money for movies, but now I’m going to discuss the first step in raising money and saving money. I have also put a link at the end of the article to a great course full of tactics and strategies for raising capital from independent financiers.


Now let’s start by lowering your budget!

Werner Herzog once said that the best advice he can give to young filmmakers is not to wait for someone to finance your film – “If you can’t afford to make a million-dollar film, raise $10,000 and produce it yourself.”

Planning a low budget film is no picnic. You have the advantage of artistic freedom, but as a film producer, there are going to be a lot of problems to deal with.

so here is the trick:

On the one hand, the producer’s job is to produce the director’s vision, but he also needs to keep the budget low. You have to remember that the chances that a low budget film will become a hit are not too big (even though we all know about small budget movies like Clerks, Reservoir Dogs, and much more that made it big).


The odds that the film will be screened at festivals are not bad at all. I’m going to give you a few proven low budget film tips that will help you lower your budget tremendously.

Planning ahead

The first step into saving money is planning. Do a script breakdown once you get the final draft of the script. That is the only way you can understand what the film’s needs are. The breakdown will give you a clear picture of how much money you need to make the film. I’m not going to get into script breakdowns, but I will say that it is a very useful tool for any producer. Once you have the script breakdown, look at the budget and try to cut down on costs. You can do that by cutting down on locations, actors, props, and other things.

For example: If your film takes place in New York City – don’t shoot it in NYC! There are many beautiful cities in the US that are cheaper than New York and still look great on screen.

You can also use existing locations if possible (like your house or a friend’s house). This is always a good way to save money because you won’t have to rent anything

Look at what you got

An excellent way to start is to see what you have. Do that before you decide what film to make. If you own a big house, use that! Did you get a cool car? Make a movie with that car. If it’s talented friends, use them. Take a good look at the unique things you have and own and use them to help you decide what’s your next movie is going to be like and about.

Save money with locations

A good location is the base of every good film. You shouldn’t compromise with it. Still, sometimes it’s better to lower the expenses that come with the location so you can save money that will help you put up a better lighting or more days of shooting.

Here are a few tips to help you lower the location’s expenses:

  • Try to use as minimum locations as possible – Yes, it may require you to rewrite the script, but if you’ll stay in one location and work with a small team and relatively simple equipment, You can speed up your shootings with up to eight pages of script on one day of shooting.
  • Try to shoot as much as possible in houses –That way, each room can be its location, so you do not have to spend the time to move the whole team around. If you are using different locations in different places, make sure that it will be easy to move from one location to another.
  • Shoot in small rooms – If you are shooting in small rooms, it is possible to use smaller flashlights. and you are going to have to use a smaller film crew
  • Use every location as much as possible – Try to find locations that have the potential to be a few different locations. Sometimes every corner of a room can be a different location.

Pro Tip:

Do not be embarrassed to ask friends and family to shoot at their houses, but be honest with them about what you are going to do at home.

Tell them how long the shooting is going to last.

Save money with the right cast 

  • Avoid the roles of one or two sentences. – Think about it- the cashier at the entrance to the theatre that says, “What do you want to see?” That part can cost you much more than if the role would be played without any words. Now, go over the script again to see if there are characters that aren’t contributing anything to the script.
  • Investing wisely production team – A good team is critical, and you should not compromise with them. Try to get a team that will work in return for gaining experience and try to take a professional team for complicated days. The roles you should try to find an experienced crew are a producer, cinematographer, lighting director, sound editor, and assistant director.

Basically, the bigger the budget, the more experienced team you should have. Remember! An experienced crew can save you money. That the more your team is experienced, the easier it will be to move around locations, which should also be taken into consideration. You should also reduce the amount of staff as much as possible and give each member several other roles. It also lowers the production budget and speeds up the shootings.

Pro Tip:

If you are getting the cast in return for food and experience, they should not spend money on anything such as travel. All your crew gets for the work is this meal and a copy of the film when ready. Also, if people are working for you for free, don’t shoot over 10 hours a day.

The right way of payment is by giving the members some percentage of the profits of the film. In this case, there is no need to pay for staff expenses, and the working conditions are like regular freelancers. It is vital to be clear right from the start about the working conditions and terms of payment.

Think about the budget when choosing actors, but…

Do not use incompetent people as your actors. I’m talking about friends, family and so on. The actors are a very important part of the success of the movie, and it is worth investing there. There are many good actors in the industry, even celebrities that will agree to act for free or at a very low salary.

Just remember! There are plenty of actors who had put all their money in drama schools and then went out to find that there is not much work. Make the most of it. You can find actors in community theatres, drama schools, etc. Advertise in those places, and write in the ads all the necessary information such as gender, age, and type of special features role, etc.

Save money with the right crew

In low-budget film productions, the film producer becomes a form of multimedia. To meet this mission, he needs people to help him with the job. I want to review a number of key film crew members in every film production that work directly with the film producer. They are very important even in a low budget film! As a film producer, you’ll need to work well together with them, and they’ll need to understand and support your goals and all of the others. Full cooperation can lead to higher results than expected, so these are the key film crew members that the film producer needs to insist on having to make the director’s vision come to life.

The film Executive Producer

In Practical, the producer breaks the script with an economic eye and apply the changes needed if there is not enough money.  The producer should sit down with the writer and figure out together how to preserve the spirit of the scene with less money. Remember! The screenwriter spent a lot of effort and time writing the script, so be gentle with him. Once the script is ready, the producer should obtain copyright on it.

Production Manager

The Production Manager is responsible for the logistics of all production. He needs to know every detail of the production. Because of this, he needs to have the phones and the details of all the staff. Next to each name on his list should be comments like when you should call, who to ask, what was the last call, and all decisions or agreements that have been reached with them. Production managers are often required to plan the budget. Sometimes this demand will be even before the script was completely finished, and it can be annoying. The production manager is also responsible for getting contracts with posts production offices like editing rooms, sound, music, and so on. While still in pre-production (we’ll talk about this stage later, but it’s basically the period before filming).

Watch this video published by the University of Derby to hear some tips about the work of the Production Manager.

First assistant director

The director’s right hand. He also called 1st A.D. He is connecting with the staff and the director. His job is to help the creative flow of the director by taking care of all the technical stuff. He is responsible in part for the preparation of shooting schedule, and the shooting breakdown. The assistant director actually manages the set during shooting, and he must take care of that each day of shooting will end on time and achieve its goals. Sometimes he also directs the extras and shouting for everyone to shut up.

Second assistant director

The Second assistant director is working mainly with the casting agents. His job includes:

help with Script Breakdown making sure that all the paperwork is prepared and organized,  he is responsible for the staff, the extras, making sure that everyone is going where they should be, and to take care of all the paperwork on the set.

Production Account Manager

Production Account Manager is a part that many low budget films tend to ignore, but it is essential to the smooth flow of the production. The production account manager job is :

  • to open a bank account for the production
  • prepare cash for shooting days
  • signs the final budget
  • taking care of everyone’s salaries
  • oversees the budget and the schedule
  • he is taking care of insurance matters
  • weekly reporting of expenditures
  • and other matters of such accountants

These are some basic production film crew members. If there are more rules you want to know about or to go deeper into them, I’ll be glad to hear from you.

Raising Money by Building a Film Package

Saving money with cinema equipment

If you are a film student, you can get the school equipment from your film school, but you still may need to rent some of the extra equipment. So the only tip I can give you here to save money is to look for your team, with the equipment you need.

Save money on the post-production stage

When you get to the post-production stage, invest in it just like the investment at any other stage. This is in the final stage of the film – The final draft of the script in the movie. Take all the time you need to for video editing. It’s the same deal with sound design and effects. Here are a few tips to save money at the post-production stage:

  • Rent editing room in dead hours – First, find professional editing rooms that can give you rooms at lower prices during the hours that are dead for them like night and weekends.
  • Prepare for the video editing room – Know what you want. Do not waste time and nerves of the video editor to try things you are not sure of. The more you know what you want, the more you will save editing shifts (and by that- save money)

What you can do as a producer to save money?

To be more effective as a producer so you can save production’s money there are two main things you can do:

  • Become a MultimediaIn low budget films, the crew is very small. That means that the producer has to do a lot of other jobs like finding locations, be involved in the casting of extras, and much more. Sometimes the film producer even finds himself acting as an assistant director (although it is not recommended)
  • Be very, very organized – If you are working on a low budget production, it is important to be very organized, disciplined, and to understand all the processes in the production. Also, it is advised to know how to control your team better, to be skilled in negotiations, to be resourceful, and know to use all available resources and, most importantly, to be able to think outside the box.

After you’ve done a Shooting Script Breakdown, you should have a rough budget for your film. Now it’s time to go to the next stage of film finance – Raising money. Raising money is a very time-consuming job. I’m going to talk now about the first step of film raising, which is the film package.

That first step in film finance is to be done only after the final draft of the script is complete. The packaging film includes all the essential things that an investor needs to know about your film. When people pay for something, they want to see a product. Your problem is that you can’t create a product without them funding your film. That is why you are making the film package. The film package’s mission is to make them understand how they will make money from financing your film. You have to show them that the film has commercial potency and that you are experienced enough to deliver it.

How the film package is built

Now there are many things you should include in the film package, and I’m going to go through them quickly, but what is important to remember is that while you work on each one of those pages, selling should be on your mind all the time. The first page should have the title of the film, your connection details, and maybe a picture related to the film. A crisp picture will help your investors to flip to the next page, and this is what you need to keep them doing – moving on to the next page.

The next page will be the logline. The longline should tell your story in one or two sentences. It should include:

  •  the film’s premise
  • the genre of the film, 
  • the hero’s objective, 
  • and the hero’s obstacle

 The next page will be the synopsis, an essential part of the package. The synopsis is where you’ll tell the story in short (up to 250 words).

The next page is about your connection to the film’s subject. Don’t write over 500 words about it. This is where you explain to them why you are the right one to do this film.

Your next page in the film package will be the Treatment, which is the whole story described by scenes. You go all through the movie scene by scene, describing each scene in a line or two. The average length of the Treatment is about 10 to 20 pages. The Treatment helps the reader (and you) to check how well the script is structured. 

So what do we have left?

 Target audience– Who is your audience? Are they teenagers, adults? Man or woman? How old are they? Where are they hanging out? It would help if you described your target audience as close as you can.

 Market strategy – How are you planning to make that movie sell? Is it from the Internet? Is it through festivals? Are you planning to have merchandise? Show the investor you do have a marketing plan that will help his money to bring him profit. 

The next pages will be Timetables, The main crew’s bio, and the budget.


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