Money. You can’t live with it, but you can’t really burn it and shun it from your life forever. The dollar doesn’t stretch as far as it used to in the film industry, as evidenced by the steadily increasing pricetags attached to the big studio films. What’s the filmmaker without $100 million to do?
Fortunately, we live in an era of rapidly evolving technology, which provides the filmmaker on a budget with tools he might not have been able to access even ten years ago. Filming, editing, and marketing are all made more feasible, thanks to these leaps.
One thing hasn’t changed—the success of any budget depends on doing more with less. In the case of filming, this may mean hiring fewer people; those that you do hire wind up wearing many hats. The screenwriter may also act as director or producer, and actors and crew may be little known or brand new to the business, and thus not able to command a high salary. On some productions, actors double as set designers and prop masters, or vice versa. Everyone participates.
New technologies are making it easier for smaller studios to stretch their dollars. A plethora of software released in the last few years provides the filmmaker on a budget with the ability to create some solid special effects, often at a fraction of the cost they went for in the past. A quality digital camera is an investment that will last for years, provided it’s treated properly, and the newer models can shoot in all types of conditions, often producing genuinely decent sound with the built-in microphone (though you can’t beat an external mike). Once the digital film is transferred to a computer, there are several editing programs available, ranging from the bare-bones freebies to the more expensive—and expansive—suites of software.
Advertising has traditionally taken a big chunk out of a film’s budget—all those posters, billboards, and TV spots cost a lot of money. Social media is the budget filmmaker’s best friend; building a following through Facebook and Twitter, for example, is free and can generate a good amount of free press. A functional website and YouTube channel with frequently updated blogs and videos will stir up even more interest. These tools allow the budget filmmaker to reach the public on a more personal level; instead of a big studio shoving flashy clips down their throats, it’s one or more individuals communicating directly with their intended audience. The audience, in turn, may pass on links if they like what they see, thus developing a following without costing the filmmaker a dime.