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Doing what you got to do to get your short film made.
We’re new indie film maker’s, we’re learning our trade, trying to carve out a career for ourselves. Only problem is, the majority of us don’t have access to a bottomless pit of money to be able to make our early films.
A major hurdle.
There is a way around this problem. It’s called Pleasant Blagging (a newly coined phrase). You approach someone and ask for a freebie, they say “no”, so you say, “Please can you help me, I’m an ambitious filmmaker, working on this great project but we don’t have any money, please sir please”, they say, “I tell you what, we’ll only charge you for one day”. Or something like that.
I think it is an absolutely essential part of someone’s early film making career, we need help, we desperately need help. Do you know what, there are people and companies out there willing to help. There’s been a lot of emphasis put on raising money for short films, via grants and crowd funding etc., but, is this really the best way for a new film maker to start their career? I’ve seen so many (myself included) new film maker’s out there raising thousands for their FIRST project and I think this is insane. Insane! Insane!
Okay then, how do we make our short films with no money?
First of all, it will always cost you in the end. If you’re planning on making a credible short film, with actors, story, locations and on a decent format. Yes, you’ll get the odd thing for free, but generally, most of what you need to make your film will cost you. How much it ends up costing, depends on how good you are at the art of negotiation, or blagging.
For my latest short film project, That Day, I was lucky enough to get most of what we needed for free. There were a few things that I wasn’t able to get for nothing, however, I did get them at a heavily discounted rate. Some of this was through blagging, some was through relationships I’d built during my last three films.
Here’s an example of what we got for That Day:
- Cast & Crew – ALL worked for free, with no exceptions. They all liked the script and project.
- Camera kit – came with Philip Bloom who was DP on the film, his own kit.
- Large facility vehicle (make-up and production office) – all I paid for was the generator at £100 for the day
- Portaloo – for one day hire I only paid 50% normal rate
- Lighting kit from ProVision in Leeds – Had plenty of lighting, including a 2.5kW HMI and haze machine for 4 days, only charged for one day hire.
- Catering – probably ended up costing £150 with most of the food supplied for free by my Dad who owns a Diner.
- Props – we needed lots of props for our Attic Room. Luckily, the location had a room FULL of ‘junk’, that we ended up using. My girlfriend’s parents also own a large second hand shop and very kindly let use a lot of items from their mill.
I’ve come to the conclusion, that to make a short film, again, one with actors, locations, professional crew etc., you’re looking at £1,000, at least! That’s after a mammoth amount of blagging – and that’s low/no budget.
Here’s a little insight in to how I’ve managed to blag certain things:
Most I’ve worked with on previous films. They all believe in what I’m trying to achieve. They’ve always liked the script and project and how open and honest I am with everything. The atmosphere on all of my films has been great, EVERYONE has enjoyed working together, with some building strong working relationships on other projects. It all started with me sending out many emails on my first project. Not generic or template emails, all written specifically for that person. The fact that I had a Twitter, Facebook, Blog and general Social Media presence helped immensely, as they could go online and see just how serious I was. It’s about building strong relationships with your team, and building on that team project by project. Look after them, treat them well, and they will bend over backwards to help you! Don’t EVER forget that.
Find a brilliant Casting Director, one willing to take a chance on a new and ambitious filmmaker. The first thing they’ll do is want to read your script. If they like it, chances are they’ll help. If they don’t like it – get back to working on the script before going any further! There are MANY actors out there willing to get involved with short films. Like anyone else, they go through quiet spells. Remember, they want to act, it’s what they love doing. If they’ve nothing else to do and the project is right, they’ll more than likely want to get involved. Also, don’t just cast someone just because they’re willing to get involved. They have to be right for your film. Casting correctly is quite an art. Choose wisely and don’t be afraid to say no if you get bombarded with showreel’s and CV’s.
Get in to bed with your local hire company. Call them, go see them. Tell them about your film making journey, your aspirations, your ambitions. Keep in touch, send regular email updates, ask them if they need any help if you have any spare time. Let them see just how enthusiastic and serious you are about what you’re doing. Ask them if they have any kit sat around doing nothing that you can use to film with. Anything! You’ll be amazed at just how effective this can be. Be pleasantly persistent.
This is the way I look at things. I am the manager of a football team. My job is to build a team, a team of talented and enthusiastic film maker’s. With emphasis on enthusiastic! If someone starts an email with the words “How much are you paying me” – delete immediately and move on to the next one. It sounds harsh I know, but, you’re a new film maker, not a money maker (and you won’t be for some time). There’s nothing wrong with someone wanting to know how much they’ll be getting paid, just not at this stage of your career. A few years down the line maybe.
Give people a reason to want to join your team. Balance that team with the right amount of experience and new and enthusiastic talent, and away you go.
Hope you found this blog post useful. I have plenty more to share when it comes to this particular subject, in future posts I’ll be sharing emails and letters I’ve sent to attract people to film projects, they might come in handy one day.