The Reel Truth: Good Filmmaking on a Small Budget

Posted by on May 26, 2015

While you’d be forgiven for thinking that behind every great film is a limitless budget, it would surprise many to learn that you can actually create an excellent, ripe-tomato-of-a-film on a small budget.

A little ingenuity mixed in with perseverance and good, honest hard work can go a long way: Just look at Paranormal Activity. With a paltry budget of $15,000, it ended up grossing $3.5 million worldwide — what a margin!

Here are our tips for great filmmaking on a shoestring:

A good story is everything

The secret to success lies in the simple rules of good storytelling. While it may be true that there are no new story ideas, you can always find your own slant. Big dollars can get you by on beautiful production alone, but with tight purse strings you have to make sure your storyline is interesting and compelling. For inspiration, check out Another Earth and Paranormal Activity.

Location, location, location

Utilise your surroundings. Australian filmmakers from the New Wave movement were incredibly adept at this, capitalising on the verdant landscapes our big backyard has to offer. During your day-to-day, jot down any possible locations for future reference, and remember that the location can be a focal point of your storyline. Just look at George Miller’sMad MaxA Picnic At Hanging Rock or Open Water.

Make sure your fingers are in all of the pies

Take a jack-of-all-trades approach to the roles you play in making your film. By the time you’re done, your business card should require an A4 sheet of paper. Not only will you cut the cost of crew, you’ll have a greater understanding of the filmmaking process.

Make use of your talented friends

Chances are your mates have pretty similar interests to you, so utilise their skills. Take cues from the films like Julian Lucas' Granny Smith that came from a backyard in Chippendale (the Chippo Film Festival), where friends are often used as actors in exchange for mild fame, beer and fun times.

Beg, borrow and steal

Just kidding about the stealing part. Stick to borrowing and begging. Beg any film-buff friends who have expensive equipment or borrow from your Uni!

Keep on keeping on

Be prepared to make subpar films when you’re starting out. Prepare for harsh criticism. Commit.

The five shortlisted films to come from HP’s Future Filmmakers competition are also proof, albeit on a smaller scare, that you don’t have to be rich to make movie magic. If you haven’t seen them yet, you can do so here! And while you’re there, you can also enter their #HPTagItCompetition for your chance to win a $5,000 Flight Centre Voucher (and other cool prizes).

Now go forth and create, bright young (and old) creatives!

Check this out on