6 Ways to Stretch Your Production Budget

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Your script is complete, you’re happy with the finished product, and you’ve got some of your team in place for a shoot. But let’s be honest: even if you have a little bit of money, chances are you don’t have nearly enough to make the project happen in full. 

As a content creator coach, one of the things that I am passionate about is shooting on a budget without sacrificing quality. If you want your film seen and your story told—and why wouldn’t you?—never sacrifice quality. So instead of cutting corners when it comes to quality, stretch your budget with the following tips and tricks I’ve learned while making my own films. 

1. Opt for locations that can have multiple uses. 
Can a few minor changes let a living room double as a bedroom? Even if you don’t have the funds to hire a production designer, if you get creative with your shots, you can figure out a way to make this work. Consider using one half the room for one shot, and the other half for something else. A quick change in bedding or a rug can make the same room feel like new.

2. Get creative when it comes to feeding your cast and crew.
If you’re shooting a low budget project, it’s important to feed your cast and crew very well. Everyone is happier when they have a full belly—think of it as a form of compensation. Craft services and meals can cost quite a bit but did you know that a lot of restaurants have it in their budget to donate so much per month? Call up local restaurants, let them know what you’re doing, and prepare a pitch you can share. They may say no, but you’d be surprised how many times this has worked for me.

3. Don’t skimp on pre-production.
This is a much larger conversation but the tighter your pre-production is, the better your shooting schedule will be and the more money you can save. Efficiency happens when everyone is on the same page, so make sure your entire crew is on board and sharing the vision before the cameras start rolling.

READ: You Wrote a Script! Now What?

What’s more, when you plan well, you may be able to cut down on shoot days. For example, if you have a scene with multiple actors and some of them are also needed for another scene, shoot both on the same day. If possible, set up the next day’s shoot before you wrap the current day so you can arrive ready to shoot, limiting the hours needed for set up.

4. Go with a flat rate.
I wholeheartedly believe in paying your crew for their work but one thing that can stretch your budget is to pay a flat rate as opposed to a day rate. When you come to the table with your budget, you can offer what you have for the whole project rather than what you hope to be able to afford as a day-to-day rate. 

5. Bring your editor in on the project before you shoot.  
The more you can have your editor be part of the project while it’s shooting, the more you’ll save on editing. Bringing them in from the start will help you put the pieces together before and during shooting, and also give you a headstart on post-production.

6. Barter.
All those little skills you’ve picked up along the way as a creative? Use them to barter when possible. Offer to PA for someone’s next project if they help out with yours. Or lend them your car for an errand. Get creative and don’t be afraid to ask. 

We live in a time where nearly anything is possible for us as creatives and we no longer need to sit and wait for someone else. The ability to do it ourselves is a powerful place to be, so go do it! Make your project happen. 

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Keena Ferguson
Keena Ferguson, a multi-artist, is known for her bright warm smile, strong presence, and agility as an actress.
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