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Micro-budget Filmmaking - This is The Way

Updated: Mar 30

a note from Carlos

Image from the film "RedWine", DP Carlos Bradley, SCC

Let's just start off by being very transparent with each other, all filmmaking is difficult and comes with it's set of unique challenges. There, now that this has been said let's dive into the topic of Micro-budget filmmaking.

The goals should be really clear when moving forward with a micro budget production and knowing is half the battle. Understanding your story, and the roles that one has to play in order to accomplish the film is very important. You are simply not going to write and film a short on a micro budget scale and hope to pull off large scale devices like: shutting down a street to film a scene or have multiple locations and company moves. At this rate you are either going to run out of money or run your crew and actors away from all future projects you will have.

So, what is the way? The best way is to create and understand your version of "scale". Scaling is important because due to resources your "scale" will differ from mine and others. For instance, I own an ARRI Alexa camera, and if I feel that I want to shoot with that camera on a micro budget film then that's a resource that will fit into my "scale" because we are not putting thousands of dollars into renting the camera, thus driving our small budget before we even feed people or begin shooting. So understanding scaled resources is a practice you want to become familiar with moving forward. Furthermore, scale your story. For me, scaling a story means no more than 2 locations but preferably 1 location. This way our production does not have to worry about unloading, shooting, loading back up and changing locations and repeating the unload and load process again.

Image from the film "RedWine", DP Carlos Bradley, SCC

How do we accomplish this way? Let's always start with your story. There are plenty of features that center a story around 1 location or 1 lead talent. That means there are plenty compelling ways to tell a story without incorporating multiple set pieces, large stunts or SFX. We accomplish a compelling story by writing and re-writing a story that we can tell a big story with using the least and this can mean shooting in one location to explore a device and how characters react to this device. However you choose for your production, make it the most interesting and creative without trying to impress with fluff that does not contribute to the telling of your story. For example, How would you scale an heist movie? You won't have the money for location, props, street shutdowns for car chases, so instead you need to find ways to creative tell a story with subtle impacts that enhance your story. Start your story before the heist or the drama after the completion of the heist: Check out Reservoir Dogs that is what Tarantino did to save his budget and it's considered as one of his greatest movies to be associated with him.

But back to micro budgeting your film, it is important to gather your story and your resources and make the most of it. Consider it doing the small things correctly and consistently in efforts to make a project outshine its budget.

Image from the film "RedWine", DP Carlos Bradley, SCC

At the time of me writing this blog, I will have completed my the second short film in the collaborative series with writer and director Ashley Anjalique. We completed the film "Goodbye" back in the summer of 2022. We utilized my childhood home which really serviced the story and we didn't need set decoration because the home had so much natural character from being lived in for over 30 years. Moving forward to our second film, "Redwine" we used the same approach with a 1 location film that takes place over a kitchen and living room. We were able to use our lead talents home in which we had the ability to load gear in a day before the shoot and pre-light ( Setting up Lights) which saved us a considerable amount of time on the day of shooting.

In conclusion, I think the mindset of micro budget filmmaking should resonate with filmmakers as your budget continues to grow on your next films. Moving forward, this space continues to grow with a wealth of information from other creators sharing their knowledge and experience with micrbo budgeting practices.

Below are a few places where you can learn more.

The Microbudget Film Podcast:

"All glory to God and peace on your filmmaking journey"

Carlos Bradley is an Atlanta based filmmaker, and the founder and President of the Society for Cinematographers of Color. His work can be seen on network digital platforms, and in various publications. Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram and reach out — "I love meeting new filmmakers!"


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