Becoming a filmmaker on a budget

So, you have decided to be a filmmaker. You have watched enough movies, read enough about the process and you want to start making movies. However, there’s one problem: you don’t have enough money to spend on a top of the line camera or expensive software. Do you give up? No! You spend as little as possible to practice your passion. Here’s where to start:

First, you need some sort of screenwriting software. You don’t want to make a movie without having a plan after all! The good folks over at Celtx have a great program for $0. It’s fully functional and will format your screenplay appropriately.  I really can’t say anything bad about it. I also can’t stress how much you need to have a proper story before you film.

Next, you need a camera. If you’re just starting out, really any camera will do. Just make sure you can access the content easily. In other words, make sure you can connect your camera to your computer. Also remember that you do get what you pay for, and an extremely inexpensive camera may need upgrading after some practice.

While we are on the subject of cameras, make sure you get a tripod. Don’t try the handheld effect. Nobody liked it in Blair Witch, and nobody’s liked it since. Tripods will usually run you about $20-$30.

(While you’re acquiring things for production, you might as well start assembling your grip kit.)

After that, now you’re ready for post-production. Time to edit together your first masterpiece. Fortunately, your computer may already come with some editing software. For Macs, you can use iMovie to edit your creations. For PCs, you may need to download Windows Movie Maker. If you bought a camera, you may have some software that came with it in the box. Once you cut your teeth on these, I recommend upgrading to Sony Vegas or Adobe Premiere Elements. NOTE: Check to make sure your computer is compatible with the software, or plan to add upgrading expenses to your budget.

Follow these guidelines and you have your first film production! Now get some actors and make a movie!

How to get extras

So, you’re making a movie, and you need a crowd of people in a scene. Unless you know a good flashmob troupe, you should follow these guidelines to make sure you are able to get enough actors for your scene.

  • First, make sure you start asking people early enough. Six weeks is a good place to start. You want to have enough time for people to check their schedules, get time off work, and clear their calendar of any other obligations.
  • Second, ask everyone! Post on Craigslist, ask everyone in your email contacts, call up friends that owe you favors. Best of all, talk to some local acting agencies or acting troupes that are in the area and ask if they would like to attend. If possible, put it up on the news, or an ad in the paper.
  • Next, make sure you have a good bribe. Sure, you may want to stand around for a few hours on a Saturday, but not everyone shares your enthusiasm. If you offer something extra for showing up, it sweetens the deal. Having some food is a must. (Craft services tables are awesome) Offer everyone some gas money, and you might have to turn people away. If you’re making someone drive to a remote location, gas money shows how caring you are of everyone’s time.
  • Make sure you tell everyone what the details are. This should be simple: Date, Time, Location, Address, Directions, Costume, Film Title, Available Amenities, and What Weather to expect. Make sure you include this with all correspondence. And speaking of correspondence…
  • Contact often! Make sure that the people that have committed to helping you don’t forget and bail at the last minute. Especially if there’s a change in any of the important details. Once a week should work.

And then comes filming day, where you’ll be able to work with tons of extras, make plenty of contacts, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Just make sure of one last thing:

Everyone showed up for a reason. Make sure you do not disappoint by being disorganized. 

But that’s a whole other post….

Character Name Generator

When you sit down to write a screenplay, you may run into a block: what to name your next character.

Remember that character names are important. A best practice is to make them mean something about their character, or even evoking an image when you say their name. (Beware of being too on the nose. See Meaningful Name)

So, I have found a good website that has a name generator for different characters and ethnicity. Once you find one, this site will also tell you what the name means, just so you can ensure you don’t name someone inappropriately. (For the reverse of this, Google “What Names mean ______”)

The Link: Behind The Name: Random Name Generator