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How To: Budget Filmmaking Part 2 – Pre-Production

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Welcome back to Budget Filmmaking where we discuss methods anyone can use to bring their filmmaking budget down to the bare minimum. In the last article in this series we discussed the great importance of scripting as it applies to filmmaking on a budget as this is where a film begins and ends, with the story. This time round we will focus more on the pre-production side of filmmaking, you’ve got your script locked down but where do you go from here?
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The Importance of Planning

I’m afraid were still very far away from pressing record at this point, there is still much that must be considered before you begin to frame your shots.  Pre-production describes the phase in a project when all the little details are sorted out; it is as key to the whole process as scripting, production and post-production. Grab your script, some pencils and paper; you’ve got to storyboard this film. Approaching your film set without any storyboards is as bad practise as showing up with flat batteries for the camera; they are the visual bridge between your script, your vision and your final film. Take some time to learn proper storyboarding technique (covered in later articles) as this will help your production team see what you are seeing, feel what you are feeling. It may be prudent to team up with someone else at this point who can draw for maximum benefit, or just to stop yourself getting too close to your script. What works for you may not work for other people (i.e. your audience) and so having a fresh set of eyes on your project will give it a much wider scope than is achievable on your own. Second sets of eyes may also be able to realise that what you are trying to achieve may be beyond your prowess or technical abilities, a good friend will be able to tell you whether your idea is worth pursuing. Begin your plan with fluidity in mind, your plan may be a good one but it WILL change over the course of the project.

Networking

It is at this point in your venture that you must make filmmaker friends; you must network in your local community or area for like-minded people who share your passion if not your particular vision. The benefits to this are wide reaching; they can appraise your script and storyboards in a way you are unlikely to get from someone with no experience in appraising scripts. A good network of creative types can make the whole process run a lot more smoothly; you won’t know what skillsets may add that extra something to your film unless you go find the right people. But it is no good just finding these people, you have to build a relationship with them, go help on their projects as much as you can as it is in this way that you will not only build that key relationship but will learn methods and lessons from working with other people. Working on a set is also one of the greatest networking opportunities out there. Go. Get. Involved. Rack yourself up a good bunch of favours which you can later call on, if you don’t ask for pay when working for them, they’ll be a lot less inclined to ask for payment back. They know budgets are tight, work with that fact not against it. Good places to start looking are Craigslist, Gumtree (social/community networks online, there is a wide range) and Universities or Colleges (great for free hands).

Production Roles

Create a list of all the people you will require to make your film, pending on the story you wish to tell. This list can shrink and expand wildly but some key roles need to be filled in every production, it is possible for someone to have multiple roles and there’s a very good chance that a good portion of these roles will be yours alone;

–          Camera operator

–          Director

–          Sound recordist

–          Actors

There have been situations where I’ve performed all of these roles on the same set, on projects of my own and others devising. Obviously on a set there are many more roles than this, as such they will be discussed in their own article at a later date. These are the basic people you will require however to deliver a quality film. Vet your team carefully, look for their technical abilities as well as their personal merits; you may have found a gem of a cameraman but if he can’t show up on time or get along with the other team members then do not be afraid of searching for other talent. This rule applies to all other roles, an actor who can’t work with your director may deliver his lines angrily, your sound recordist could be the life and soul of any party but can he record clear audio? Do not be afraid of telling your team what you want, of telling spanners to get out of your works.

In the next instalment we will be discussing further the various stages in pre-production; inventory, location and logistics, plus a few other bits and bobs that crop up along the way.

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