LED Lights For Film Making

In my opinion of the biggest advantages over the last decade is lighting. For decades Hollywood has used the same kind of lights. Take a look at Mole Richardson. They sold lights made for industrial use that worked beautifully but they used a lot of electricty and created a lot of heat. But now most of us have shifted to digital and the lighting requirements are different for the first time.

We shot a short last Halloween that took place at night of course because it was a scary story. We used a low end DSLR. I would have preferred using a phone but the director had that preference. I did the lighting and I’m not gaffer and certainly not a cinematographer. I used a few very inexpensive LED lights from Neewer.  They were very inexpensive. Most importantly they are portable and very light and create zero heat. Best of all the batteries lasted the entire night and I didn’t need to run any cords. I admit we used mainly natural lighting. There where a lot of cases an extra light source helped capture the image. I could quickly grab one of these little lights and hold it in place to allow the director to complete the shot. We didn’t have to spend an hour lighting. We could run and gun it.  They also come with some filters and you can add a softbox. The entire kit with cheap amazon basic stands came in at just a few hundred dollars. I have bought lighting kits that didn’t have much more brightness for thousands of dollars.  Those lights got hot. We would trip circuit breakers.  Actors would sweet. It wasn’t pretty. It made a lot of extra work. When you are filming without a full crew these LED lights are the only option.


I recommend every filmmaker give them a try. They are selling inexpensive LED lights designed specifically for phone video that do a fabulous job. They cost a fraction of what we used to spend and the results are amazing.

Click here to buy from Amazon.

Film Schedules For Micro Budget Films

The call sheet is something you should make when you are producing a film.  Cast and crew love them because it’s proof of the days they have spend on set. In order to get into the union you need to work a specified number of days on film sets and this is the best way to prove how many days you have worked.

Call sheets are actually really easy to fill out if you have a shooting schedule. The best way to create one is to do it when you are creating the script. We have talked about a bunch of techniques such as the mini movie method. For no budget films this is my favorite because you basically break your film down into 8 shorts and film each one individually. Think about that for a moment. You don’t have money and you want to make a movie. You could do a short in a 48 hours. That is tough but think about it for a second. What if you did one of those 48 hour film challenges and you used one of the 8 mini movies as a short. You could modify it to the specifications of the contest. You film it in 49 hours as per the contest instructions. You end up with a watchable completed short. Then the do reshoots and a re-edit to match it to your film.

It’s not fun to do 48 hour challenges but I would guess your city has a few of them every year. Let’s say your city has four. You could piggy back on the contest getting actors and crew to help out under the guise that no one gets paid because it’s for fun. This would get you half a completed film.

Now let us say you meet some people that you enjoy working with and they like you. It might be easy to get them to meet up for 48 hours do film another short. You could even tell them that you just came up with a sequel for the short you all just worked on. Let’s film next weekend. Boom now you have five sections of the film done.

Another strategy is to film your feature over 8 weekends. And you don’t have to film every weekend. If someone isn’t available or a location isn’t accessible then you could skip a week. Would it matter if the project took three or four months to complete? Is there a rush? And if there is a rush, let me propose the question of why? Would it matter if it was done over the course of a year.

The main reason I love breaking the project down into smaller sections is because it allows for learning. It allows you to replace actors or crew that aren’t working without hurting someone. You film a 48 hour festival and then you aren’t happy. You could re-film making those adjustments. Practice makes perfect. The second time it’s going to be a lot easier.

Bottom line is you can learn from your mistakes. Have something to work through the editing and post production process. Normal film projects get filmed then go to post. When your not experienced or have unexperienced guild members on your crew it helps a ton.

It’s easier to work with smaller parts. It’s easier to cast. It’s easier to schedule. It’s easier to get quality people involved.

Having a working short or part of your film is a tool. You can use the short to raise money. You can use it for crowd funding. You can use it to attract new better quality people to the project. And most importantly you can rewrite and fix issues and problems before wasting more time and effort on a larger project that ends up needing to be re-filmed anyway.

The other option if you have a little money is to film the entire script in one week. You can stretch that week to seven actual filming days instead of five. Think about it this way. 90 page script over 7 days means you need to get 13 pages done per day. Those are going to be long days. You better have money to feed everyone. You better have an editor on set. You better have a continuity person aka script supervisor. And my advice would be to schedule reshoots the following weekend. Or as they refer to them in the industry pickup shots. That would give you a few days to get a rough cut assembled.

When you break down the script. You want to break it down by locations and actors. So if you have an actor who is only in two scenes or three scenes do them all on one day. It’s a smaller commitment for the actor who are notoriously more interested in having fun and glamour that doing hard work.

When you have one or two scenes in one location get them done on the same day so you don’t have to worry about getting access to the location a second day when you probably won’t be welcome back. Also if you don’t own the location they change. I filmed a movie once in a restaurant. We wanted to film a few redos but they went out of business.

Now let me suggest to you when you write your film if you broke down the concept into 8 locations or had each mini movie with different actors then you might need 8 days to film instead of 7. That ends up being more like a 10 day shoot. 10 pages a day translates to a long day and you might be best just going with the longer days and fewer days.  Now if you did 8 weekends for each mini movie that translates to 16 filming days. AKA 5 pages per day. That’s very manageable. If your film is 40 scenes each scene is 2.5 pages. Each filming day winds up being two scenes.

So the moral of this story and the best way to design call sheets and create a filming schedule is to do it during the creation process.

Act 3

We have talked about how important having a great story is in previous posts. I’m currently going through Martin Scorsese master class and he talks about how you need to have a passion or a burning desire to tell your story as a motion picture. I honestly believe a critical element to getting the story right is the finale. It’s the last thing your audience will remember about your movie. It leaves a lasting impression. This is why the twist ending has always been so popular. For me that’s played out and lame. It’s been done plenty of times from Wizard of Oz to Six Sense. It’s a gimmick that you can sell me again just like the found footage stuff. It’s 2019 we have phones with 4k get with the program.

I always think of Steven Spielberg’s films and how they always seem to have a great ending. He was even the won who told the filmmakers of Paranormal Activity that they have a golden egg unless they change the ending.  He’s so talents at that aspect of story telling that he even told them how it should end.

I always beat it out.  I do this early when the story is starting to mesh. I do it for both screen plays and fiction novels. The problem with a beat sheet is that the last act only has one beat the finale. There are important beats in my opinion that lead up to the conclusion that make up the finale. Blake Snyder even add 5 extra beats to help his students.  Unfortunately this was right before he died and it never made it into a new version of his book. Save the Cat. But I have them and I’m posting them here so you can have a copy.

Beat Sheet

1 – Opening Image

2 – Theme Stated

3 – The Set Up

4 – Catalyst (inciting incident) 

5 – The Debate

6 – Break It Into Two (Second Act). 

7 – B Story

8 – Fun And Games 

9 – Midpoint

10 – The Bad Guys Close In

11 – All Is Lost

12 – Dark Night Of The Soul

13 – Break it into 3 (Act 3)

14 – Gather Team (Arrive Bad Guys Fort)

The hero, and the hero team, come up with a plan to “storm the castle” and “free the princess” who is “trapped in the tower.”

15 – Storm the Castle – (executing plan)

The plan begins. The wall of the castle is broached. The heroes enter the Bad Guys’ fort. All is going according to plan.

16 -High Tower Surprise  (It’s a Trap)

Finally reaching the tower where the princess is being kept, the hero finds… she’s not there! And not only that, it’s a trap! It looks like the Bad Guy has won.

17 – Dig Deep Down

The hero now has to come up with a new plan. And it’s all part and parcel of the overall transformation of the hero and his need to “dig deep down” to find that last ounce of strength (i.e., faith in an unseen power) to win the day.

18 – New Plan 

Thinking on the fly, and discovering his best self, the hero executes the new plan, and wins! Princess freed, friends avenged, Bad Guy sent back to wherever Bad Guys go when they are defeated (Two Bunch Palms?) — our hero has triumphed

19 – The Finale

20  – Closing Image

The thing I like about the 20 point beat sheet is that I feel most movies are about 40 scenes. At least a 90 minute movie which is the ideal length these days. If you are selling a spec script or trying to raise money to produce it yourself.  That also translates into 2.5 pages per scene. This beat sheet gets you half way there. I think it also helps plot out a memorable ending that can save your story.

Also if you have those 5 extra steps plotted out in your mind when you do pitch your beats the finale will be all that much more impactful and make your pitch better. I’m not saying you need to detail out all 4 steps in the conclusion just that having this makes it easier to summarize your ending.

Note – I have no idea what two punch palms are

Writing Partners

Over the years I have frequently worked with a writing partner. The reason is that I found the brain storming aspect created a far better story than I could do by myself. Two minds can be better than one. I suspect it had to do with the conversation and being able to bounce ideas off someone else. It’s tough to get it to work so I have developed a document of rules to help get the process working


1 – It all starts with the basic premise that both parties have veto rights. Either partner can veto any idea for any reason. Even going with I don’t like that idea. But when you veto an idea you have to come up with a better idea. If you don’t have a better idea then the original idea stands. The only problem is when one writer doesn’t have enough good ideas to actually come up with better ideas so then bad ideas end up staying.

2 – both partners white the same scene. Then you merge the best aspects of both scenes.

3 – you need to work in a structured format. The format requires a series of steps to be followed sequentially.

a – concept – both partners must feel passion for it. This starts with a title and log line and then a great ending and beginning and middle

b – ending – you must agree on this so together you can come up with a road map on how to get there. if you dont agree on the ending you end up driving different directions. one east and the other west.

c – main plot points. I used to focus on the midpoint but these days I look to the mini movie method. what is the inciting incident. followed by reluctance, what is the journey to the midpoint. Then how do we get to the conclusion.

d – beat sheet. lets be honest every movie follows the same basic beats. even low budget, oscar winners and huge mega hollywood event films. I like the 20 beat version that adds a few key beats to the conclusion. 20 beats gets you half way to your 40 scene count.

e – one page summary – this is where i do a ton of rewrites. This gets both parties on the same page when you can envision the entire story from beginning to end. If you cant do it in under 500 words you havent looked in the mini movies or the beat sheet. Keep rewriting or if your stuck visit the heros journey.

f – character bios – I would do this for every character even one scene characters. And go as detailed as possible especially for the main character protagonists and villians

g – scene outlines – usually I go with 40 scenes

h – rewrites – now that you have drilled down to all the scenes I go back and revisit the beat sheet – logline – 8 mini movies and one pager. then I rewrite the scene outline. This time each scene gets one long paragraph and three parts. beginning middle end.

i – lengthen the scene outline this should turn into your treatment. usually I like this to be 8 pages single space

j – get coverage on the outline. and do some rewrites

When we start writing the actual script. It takes me one hour per five .pages. I like to get a few scenes done per session

last step with a finished script is proof read. get coverage. then rewrite

How To Make A Micro Budget Film

Here are a few very important things to keep in mind if you want to make a film on a small budget.  The first thing I would say is seriously consider thinking about breaking a feature up into 8 sequences or mini movies. In other words you could film 8 shorts and tie them together to make a feature. Sequencing has been done in some of the best films such as pulp fiction and toy story. In the end it all depends on the script. If you have a great story to tell the quality becomes a lot less important. As long as the sound is decent there will be a lot of forgiveness.

  1. do it yourself. if you don’t have money then you can’t pay people and if you have people working for free ask yourself is that fair. Making a movie involves a lot of hard work. You can’t expect all that hard work for nothing. Even trading a back end won’t deliver the kind of motivation needed. If your directing run the camera. Use a mic on the camera or mount it. you can do that stuff yourself. Especially if you are filming a series of shorts. Use your cell phone camera film during the day or use natural lighting. Learn how to edit video yourself. even for small budget films trust me. you can’t hire someone on a small pay scale to edit a movie and do a good job. I would say this also.  If you are doing it yourself and not paying actors. You probably don’t have money to feed them. Keep the days short. You can get there early and setup and have everything ready to go for when the actor gets on set. The actor arrives you do a rehearsal or two and some blocking and start filming.  Lets do some math. 90 minute feature film. 8 mini movies is 12 minutes each. That translates to 12 pages. Let’s say you do 3 pages a day. That means each short movie would be only 4 days of filming. That’s two weekends in a row. With an entire week to edit and get preproduction ironed out. Get one mini movie right before you go on to film the rest of the film.
  2. locations. This is something that is a big cost driver on small budget films. On a million dollar budget. You could easily spend $500 day on a location. write and pick locations that you can use with out spending money. If you film at home be sure your significant other understands what that means. Note that when a location is free you might only get one day and on day two your no longer welcome. So write the script accordingly.  also keep sound in mind. noisy locations require looping and lots of folly in post. Be sure you know how do do that if it’s required. test the sound edits before filming.
  3. Food. unfortunately the film industry has a habit of 12 hour days. In fact I have on many occasions worked 16 hour days. Try doing that with no fuel. It doesn’t work. This is why food is generally included on film sets. Now lets imagine you film from noon to six pm. After lunch and end before dinner. Then you can get away without food. I would recommend water. gallon bottles even and dixie cups won’t break the bank. Some snacks are nice. Even a bag of apples or some bananas go a long way to refuel. If you can’t afford food. Be clear before you start. Also recognize meal times and don’t film during them. Even filming from 7pm to midnight. You can get away without food. Just let them know that it’s not provided.
  4. shooting schedules. If you have short shifts you get people rested and with energy. Keep in mind work and school requirements.  Weekend filming is a good way to go. Just don’t expect people to commit to multiple weekends in a row without pay. Adding a week day night shoot for a few hours works for most people with full time jobs. It allows them to squeeze filmmaking into their lives without losing their job or going broke. I also recommend having a separate one page contract that actors sign agreeing to a reshoot day at some time in the near future. You can do a rough edit and figure out what needs to be reshot. Be sure they know this is required up front. When you tell them there is no food.  Give them all the bad news at once up front. Get a commitment.When you write your script think about how many shooting days each character will require. Split it up from conception in the script to limit the commitment. If the lead is in every page or even 90% of the film. 90% of 90 pages is 81 pages. If you are filming 3 pages per shift that requires over three weeks of days from a specific person who isn’t getting paid.  Good luck completing your film under those conditions. If you have an actor in half your film then you better cast your best friend or blood relative or your significant other.
  5. Extras. Don’t do it. Don’t have scenes that need a ton of extras. If you are not paying for the day then good luck finding 10 people to work as extras. Even if you tap your friend list. My prediction is you won’t get 10 people on the same day.
  6. Hair makeup and wardrobe. Keep the clothes simple.  Think James Dean and white t-shirt and jeans. You might want to hit a thrift store and have the actors change out of the clothes and keep them with the rest of the props and equipment. Otherwise things disappear. In fact it’s always a good idea to have two especially if you need them for a number of filming days. Hair and makeup can be an issue. Makeup people take forever and can blow through a large part of your six hour filming shift. They also cost money because they have to buy makeup and brushes to do the makeup.  If you can cast a few female leads and costars that are capable of doing their own makeup and arriving to set ready to go you will save yourself a ton of time and money.  Keep in mind that makeup consistency can be an issue so keep it simple.  If you are filming over a long period of time be sure your actors with long hair commit to keeping it that way until the film is finished.
  7. Pay. In an ideal world you would have enough money to hire sag actors. They get paid daily from their first day on set until their last. It’s usually not as expensive as you would think but in order to get a SAG release for their ultra low budget contract you need insurance which can be expensive. If your not using an actor with a name that will sell movie tickets you shouldn’t be paying them. I know it sucks to say this but they gain experience and footage for their reel. I usually agree to give them a copy of all the raw footage and a release for them to use it for their reel for free. The nice thing about filming a feature as a bunch of mini short films is that you can also promise to provide them with a short film in a reasonable amount of time. My suggestion would be to get them that short in 30 days after filming ends. That will motivate them to show up for reshoots. A nice thing to do is provide favored nations status for all actors. This means a flat rate for everyone that compensates them for some gas money. Even $25 for the short won’t break the bank and will go a long way to getting cooperation.
  8. Props. My suggestion is not to write props into the script. You don’t have a budget for an art department or a prop master. Props can add expense and create logistical problems. Only write props or art design into the story if you are sure you have it already or can create it easy. I wrote a scene in a horror movie that a lock was supposed to be opened by a ghost. I had to buy locks and it took forever and in the end it looked terrible.  Keep it simple. Be creative and come up with other ways to telling the story without having to buy props.
  9. Characters. Think about each mini movie as having one lead and don’t require them to be in all the other mini movies. The idea situation would be 8 actors. One stars in one mini movie and has a few cameos in the others.I think most serious actors could commit to 8 short shifts over a period of two or three months. If you film 3 pages per day that would translate into 24 minutes of screen time per actor. Finding 8 quality actors who will work for free and actually have some ability to perform is a tough task. Keep that in mind.
  10. Idiot mistakes. Here are the common mistakes that idiots make on their first films when they have no money. Camera dolly or pans. Night  shots that require a lot of lights. Lots of dialogue outside. Filming a story that requires a child, animal, gun, FX or fancy CGI stuff that is done in post. Period movies with lots of art design. Fire is another stupid thing. Car chases or any scenes that take place in a car because it’s not safe to drive and act.

The Best Film Equipment Ever

I want to get on my soap box for a few minutes. I’m so tired of working with amateur film makers who think the type of equipment being used is important. And it’s across the board. The best film equipment is what ever you own. That doesn’t mean using a credit card and going into debt so you have great equipment. I have seen some great movies filmed on old iphones. Today’s phones are even better quality. The only thing technically that you need to make sure you have is good audio. The reality is that doesn’t need to be very expensive. A zoom recording device is only a few hundred dollars. Pick up a used one they are all over for $100.  That is all the equipment you need.

You don’t need fancy dolly’s or lights. You can use real lights with your phone. Trust me. Before you go spend money on equipment go film. Make movies. Film a few shorts. Take a scene or a few pages from your script and do a table read. Or film the page. Practice the edit. Just what ever you do stop thinking that if you spend money on equipment that will help you make a good movie. The only way to make a good movie is write a great story and practice.

I once did a 48 film contest with a guy I meet in a directing film class. I was excited to work with him. I liked his artistic sensibility. His girlfriend joined the team too as the editor. I was so excited to have an editor on the team. We even found two pretty damn good actors. One guy I had meet before. The actress had worked with him and I think this filmmaker knew her too. Call time no one is there but the actor I had meet before. An hour later everyone shows up. I stayed up all night writing the script and it would have been nice to get an extra hour of sleep.

Then he throws the news on me that his 4k camera that he is so excited to use is actually a 4k drone. And you can’t use the camera without the drone on.  So lucky me I got a 4k camera but no audio. If I knew this I would have wrote a script with zero dialogue. I thought 4k was a good idea because we could do some panning and adjusting in post. His editor girlfriend had convinced me she was skilled at this. So in the end we had a worthless unwatchable short that I’m not sure was worth even bothering entering.  We got the short finished but the amateur behavior caused it to be 48 very miserable hours of almost continuous work.

So  trust me. Skip the 4k video. Skip the fancy equipment. Skip a lighting kit. Pick up a few $20 DSLR lights from amazon. If you spend any  money invest in a $100 microphone. I’m guessing you could probably get good audio if you practice and figure out how to use your equipment properly.

Mini Movie Method

One of my favorite concepts for no budget filmmaking is using the mini movie method in crafting the script. The reason is that instead of filming a feature film you can instead film 8 mini movies or AKA shorts. I think this gives a project more of a fighting chance. There are a lot of reasons why but I think it’s a lot easier to work with one short at a time. With a goal of 90 minutes that means each short can be just 12 minutes long.

The reason I love the idea of starting with one 12 minute short is that you can film it. Then you can evaluate the acting. Did you cast the right people in the right parts. You can play around with the edit. Look at what shots got missed or filmed improperly and do a reshoot when you film the next segment.

When you film one 12 minute short at a time AKA one segment at a time you can learn from your mistakes. You can work toward addressing any problems. Did the sound not come out right? Do you need to change one of the actors. Did the lighting screw up the colors? Was one of the locations tough to work in? Do you need an additional crew member?

The other thing is filming 6 pages a day for two days is very doable. Filming 6 pages a day for 20 days is much tougher. You are in fact taking advantage. It might be a 12 hour day to get all six pages in the can but that’s okay. The cast and crew won’t over react if they have to do this for two straight days. Trust me by the 5th or second week of 12 hour days people are at half mast. The efficiency drops exponentially after two 12 hour days.

The other key reason to use this concept is because you could break the story down into 8 different locations. Or you could break the story down into different cast members for each segment. If you can’t get an actor to return that’s okay because you filmed everything you needed with them in the first short. The reality is not being able to get an actor back is a problem because you always need reshoots. Ideally you could film one weekend. Spend the week in post and then the following weekend do reshoots, pickup shots, and  audio looping.

The most important reason to use the mini movie method is because it’s a good way to write a great story. It gives you some parameters to follow to structure your script properly. At the end of the day it’s always about the story. You need a great story to have a worth while film that people will watch.

The Mini Movie Method Formula

The acronym is W.R.I.T.E.N.O.W. (this is my quick 10 word explanation. to better understand it I would read Chris Soth’s book. He also takes on mentors and has an online course)

W – world – first mini movie is in the ordinary world. We meet the characters and get to know them before the inciting incident takes place that sets the movie in motion.

R – reluctance – There is doubt to accept the situation that the inciting incident created.

I – initial attempts – The characters start initial attempts to solve the problems that they face. They test and try to figure out the best solutions.

T – try harder – after the initial attempts fail they try harder until we get to the midpoint of the story.

E – Eye Opener (The midpoint some new revelation takes place that changes everyones perspective after new things are revealed.) the main characters eyes are opened to this new revelation changing everything they thought they knew.

N – Nadir – the story reaches the lowest of the low. Nadir is dark in French

O – Overcome – the characters overcome the obstacles

W – Winning – the resolution

Click Here To Buy The Book!

10 Things To Avoid When Writing Low Budget Scripts

there is nothing more important than having a great script. Oscar award winning actors, the most expensive camera equipment and posh locations don’t make a movie. Let’s be honest here. If you are reading a blog about technology in film making you probably don’t have a lot of money. It used to be that a small budget film started at $5 million dollars.  That was the lowest budget a film could be made properly. I doubt you could still do it at that amount even with digital equipment. The problem is inflation.

What I want to do it look at some ideas that you can keep in mind while writing a script so it can work on a small budget.

Here is a list of things you can’t do.

1 – no children (minors can only legally work a very limited number of hours. they need nannies, teachers, guardians and add expenses. They also take longer.

2 – animals. this includes your well trained dog. No snakes or foxes or anything like that. Either it will take a lot longer than you expect, someone will get hurt, or it won’t work

3 – FX yeah this includes fancy makeup. Makeup is a time drain. It makes days take longer. Longer days require overtime. Overtime requires feeding the cast and crew extra meals.

4 – fancy locations – on micro budget films the biggest cost drivers are locations. Even a cafe has expenses. If your filming in there the electricity has to be turned on. A staff member has to get paid. Things get moved and broken. I know one train of those is have the entire movie take place in one location. Or if you can have two locations. These need to be locations that you can control. It’s nice to be able to leave lights and equipment setup for the next day. It’s also nice to film in a location where the cops don’t show up. Locations with angry neighbors is a common issue. Parking is one thing that pisses neighbors off first. Then trash and noise.  I would even propose write the script in a location that can be filmed in one day. So you film and never have to go back. The problem is reshoots. You almost always need to go back. And you won’t be welcome so you will have to beg. Another concept I love is the 8 location story. The movie broken into 8 mini movies each at a different location. You could film weekends. If you wanted to try a 16 day shoot. Each weekend at a new location. Out of all the film projects I have worked on the most watchable was a film we did on weekends. Another great thing about 8 mini movies is you could film the feature as 8 shorts. A 90 minute film would be 12 minute shorts. Filming 6 pages a day is doable Hollywood usually does about 4 pages a day.

5 Number of characters – its tough to find a lot of good actors when your a nobody. Even if you have money actors with names don’t want to get involved unless the film has a distribution deal before filming. If you are not paying actors it’s tough to get people to show up and commit to a lot of days for free or almost no pay. The fewer actors you have in the script the better your final film will be. If you had 3 actors in each mini movie that would require 24 actors. That’s two dozen people. Good luck finding that many people who can act and actually show up on time. Even the smallest of casts has a lead, a costar, love interest, and a bad guy. If you have a friend who is a great actor be sure to write a story for them. I would even ask them what kind of stores they like the best or think they are right to cast in. Then make them a producer on the project so they have more of a vested interest. Then cast their significant other in a part as well. If you are really lucky the lead and love interest will start dating and not fight or break up until after principle photography has ended.

6  – Period stories. Do not write a story that takes place in the 80’s or the past. In fact don’t write anything that takes place in the future. You don’t have the art department and crew to get sets right. You don’t have enough crew members to manage the props. It’s a time drain and an added expense an amateur film maker doesn’t need.

7  – extras. Don’t write scenes that require a bunch of extras. Even if you pay $100 a day it’s going to be tough to get enough extras to show up unless you cast Tom Cruise or some other famous actor. It’s a waste of money. A busy Friday night bar scene is going to need how many extras to look real? 20-30-40-100? The bar scene better take place Sunday night when the bar would be dead. In fact don’t write a scene in a bar. It costs too much to rent the location and they usually have noisy equipment. Oven fans and refrigerators that are hard wired and don’t turn off. You won’t get clean audio even if you film after hours.

8 – chase or car scenes. In order to film a car scene safely you need to hire an off duty cop. Usually they want you to hire two of them. You need to put the vehicle on a trailer and tow the car with the actors. You need permits from the city to use their streets. If your going to do a car scene, it’s probably going to need to be green screened. At least if you film on a sound stage you can get clear audio.

9 – out door scenes especially at night. When  you film outside at night you need  a lot of light. When you film outside there isn’t always electric power. There are birds and planes and a lot of other things that create noise and ruin scenes.

10 – Guns

technically this falls under FX. safety, permits, cost


Did you know some of the greatest scripts of all time went through 200 rewrites? Making a movie is a lot of work and requires a lot of people. The key is to make sure you start with a great script. Something that is amazing. My first suggestion to you is to make sure you get a lot of people to read it. Have people not into film making or writing read it. People who love movies and maybe have never read a script before. Get that feedback. And keep rewriting.

If you are going to film yourself. Make sure there are a limited number of locations. Of course once a film crew comes to a location they usually aren’t welcome back for a second day. So let’s break this down more. If a movie script has 3 acts it also has 8 mini segments. What if you could film each of those segments as a short. What if each one of them took place at one location. You could in theory film a movie over 8 weekends. Each weekend knock out 15 pages at one location. Of course you can’t get kicked out the fist day. I believe this is one of the best ways to make a no budget film. You start filming one segment as a short. Then you can test out the actors and get things edited and get that feedback from a few limited screenings.

Places to film is the biggest cost driver in low budget films. When film no one care how much damage the crew is going to do if you have millions of dollars. Get in get out. Write the story this way. Film on weekends makes it easier to get people involved and working for free. Also this goes without saying. Props, art design and wardrobe need to be minimal. Write a story that has things you already own and not stuff you need to buy.


As an amateur film maker with two failed no budget productions under my belt I wanted to dive into the technology being used in film making today. Not only the high tech stuff that the movie studios use in Hollywood but also whats available for the amateur who doesn’t have a rich million dollar producer behind them.

The first time I tried to film a movie I used one of  the  first prosummer digital cameras. It recorded video to something called a P2 card. you had to transfer the data to a hard drive. It was a slow process. It took longer to do that then change out a film reel.  We used 2000 GB of storage which cost $2,000 at the time. The largest hard drive on the market  was only 500 GB. Today you can but a 2Tb drive for under $100. Not only is the cost a lot less but it’s super fast.

Digital video can be done almost as beautifully with a new cellular phone. The days of DSLR are even behind us. The things that drove up costs on the technology side are gone. If you want a wide dolly shot from above you don’t need to rent a helicopter you can rent a drone for $100.

Lights even have changed. These days you can get a ton of bright light that use a fraction of the amount of electricity and don’t produce the same heat. In fact we filmed a short 48 hour film project using small hand held LEC lights powered by battery. The battery lasted  the entire night and we filmed outside without needing generators.

Today it’s a different ball game. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of a great story.