Making an indie film on any budget

Minimum requirements

We are going to look at the equipment setup needed to make a short (or possibly a feature) indie film. The setup we are looking at will give you the best quality production for the lowest cost.

The configuration is a camera, separate audio collection and some lights.

We are not going to discuss costs like, site costs, insurance, transport, pay actors etc. This is just a quick look at some equipment at different cost levels. Once you have some equipment you can practice, film your dog in the back yard, until you are getting the quality you want. Then you can start worrying about a script, cast and the million other things that go into a movie.

Indie Film for under $500

We are going to assume that you have access to a smart phone with camera. So this is the camera you are going to be using.

Audio, I would recommend a Rode Videomic Pro. Don’t get the stereo version, you want the tighter pattern on the mono version. Brand new these are around $200. On eBay you can get then even cheaper.

Don’t plug this into your phone or camera. You need to get a separate record. There are heaps to choose from. They are normally used for taking voice memos. Get one with an external microphone jack. I used the ….. for a few short films.

Audio post production can be done using Audacity, a free audio processing bit of software. You can download it at……. You’ll need this for removing any unwanted sounds, humming and noice reduction.

Lighting can be done using cheap LED work lights available from any hardware store. These will costs less that $50. To soften these you can place a bedsheet in front of them or bounce the light off a wall. On the topic of bouncing light, you can bounce light onto your subject using things like a bedsheet or bounce boards again availble for around your $20 off eBay. This bounce boards normally also come this a diffuser which is an opaque transparent cloth that will soften light (normally the sun).

Controlling light is the easiest thing you can do to make your film look professional. You need light hitting the sensor in your camera, but you need to make sure it stays on the middle of the spectrum. Not to much bright light as this will “blowout” your highlights and you will lose all detail turning it white and not enough light will “crush” the black losing detail in the shadows.

What we have listed should cost about $350 all up. So you can get something like FILMIC PRO for your phone (another $5 or $6).

There are plenty of editors available for putting together your film. I have used iMovie on a Mac for some early shorts. But I would strongly recommend you download Davinci Resolve free edition. Learn Resolve will be a good investment in time.

$1000 to $2000 Indie Film.


Craig Griffiths

Craig Griffiths is a screenplay writer and best selling author. His books on screenwriting are available via the Books page on the website. He has written and produced several short films with his feature scripts in production. Craig has been involved in numerous podcast including Canada’s “The Bunker Project” and was the host of “Making Business and Sales Work” a top ranked podcast on iTunes for many years.

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