Is no-budget film making impossible? Surely you’ve got to spend something because you need some kind of equipment to record on and then edit and distribute on.
I record on a Sony FS100 digital video camera, I edit on a Mac using Final Cut Pro and I have a few other bits and bobs of equipment (sound recorder, memory cards, light, tripod, camera bag… ). I use a synth for music and record that in Logic. None of this came free.
But I still count myself as a no-budget film maker. Hopefully without hypocrisy. So what do I mean by this?
No-budget, for me, means taking my existing kit and using it to make short films without spending anything else on locations, talent, script, sound, insurance, props or permissions. A lot of the time that means filming without asking anyone about it first, but not always, and permission is something I’ll come back to in another blog.
Pretty much the only expense I’ve incurred in making any film to date is the cost of getting to wherever I’m filming. Short of walking I think this cost is kind of unavoidable. (Even walking wouldn’t have got me to the Outer Hebrides, where I shot Island Going. And swimming was not an option.)
You might take a look at the films and say that maybe you get what you pay for, but I hope not. And anyway I’d respond by asking you to bear in mind that all of these films are experiments. (Although, you might then say, isn’t every film? And then I’d say something else, and you’d say something else and we’d hopfully forget where we were and move on.)
But what’s the appeal of no-budget films? For the film maker with limited resources one appeal is obvious. But no-budget brings benefits other than no-cost. Firstly, there’s the freedom to choose a subject without interference or worry about messing it up. If nobody is paying you to make a film and you’re not spending anything other than your time and travel costs then you can make a film about pretty much anything you want to (although perhaps you won’t end up making Pacific Rim). If it doesn’t work then move on.
Secondly, no-budget means concentrating on the ideas. Using a relatively cheap digital camera and Final Cut Pro, you have sufficient resources to make another Man With a Movie Camera, or Sans Soleil. You just need the ideas. And if you don’t have any decent ideas then it doesn’t matter how much money you spend.
Thirdly, no-budget means you’ll get a much better understanding of how everything works. It’s the ideal learning experience. But it also means you get value for the money you did spend on your kit. You think of what you want to achieve and push your kit to achieve it (or change your plans…).
So, no-budget brings knowledge and freedom and stretches the imagination. What isn’t there to like about it?
And hopefully, as a result of having made a batch of no-budget films, someone, somewhere will offer you some money….*
*Look, it worked out for Christopher Nolan didn’t it?