If your cinematographic diet is all about Hollywood, you can (maybe) be forgiven for believing that every successful production needs to have a car chase scene, an explosion and a gang of girls in bikinis. This isn’t true, though: The Battery cost all of $6,000 to make yet snapped up an impressive list of awards, while the still-influential Clerks was filmed for under $30,000 – only 1% of what it ended up earning at the box office.
At the same time, the competition for most “real” jobs in the industry is severe. The only way to get employed is to already have been employed, leading to a catch-22 situation for most people who are drawn to making movies. This by itself would make a DIY approach attractive, but the ever-decreasing cost of digital cameras and editing software, not to mention Youtube and other internet platforms, mean that becoming an indie producer is now easier than ever. If these idiots can somehow make a good living in this way, you most certainly have a shot too.
Assembling a Team
If you don’t have much money to spend on getting started, talent will just have to compensate. Of course – catch-22 again – at least at first, hiring skilled people full-time will simply be financially impossible.
If you’re not blessed with a few friends who have skills to contribute and are truly willing to put in a lot of hard work, freelancers and interns may offer a partial solution. In either case, it’s essential to be upfront as to how much experience you have and what you can afford. However tight money is, however, do make sure that you have a decent scriptwriter. It takes real work to ruin a good script, but no director on earth can rescue a bad one.
Setting Up a Business
As with any new business, spending more than you have will mean failure – and you’ll soon find out that you have less than you think. Working with film only seems glamorous from the outside. Actually doing it is all about getting the job done in time and under budget, meaning that one of the former two in “good, fast or cheap” is going to suffer.
Forget about prestigious locations if you need to rent a space, and browse websites like Office Chairs Only to get a good deal on whatever else you need. That being said, don’t skimp on equipment that will actually improve production values. Borrow, scrounge or steal the best lighting and audio equipment you can, and consider getting an aerial drone with a good camera.
Paying the Bills
If Ridley Scott can make a TV ad for a certain computer company, you can bring yourself to swallow your pride and do some purely commercial work, without thinking about artistic merit or public recognition.
Many people are drawn to video as a creative medium, but it’s most definitely also a profit-seeking enterprise. Many businesses in your area would probably love to have a company ad on their website or Youtube, but don’t have a clue where to start.
Providing this service can be a great way to gain experience and earn some cash. Remember that these clients won’t be paying for the video itself, but rather the expertise that goes into producing it. Many clips, for example, will be shot on the client’s premises, meaning that they are probably too used to the background of wilting plants and dingy furniture to realize how the audience will perceive this. If necessary, insist on getting a few props that anyone can afford and bill these to your customer. They may grumble, but will also appreciate this kind of professionalism in the long run.