Screenwriter, Paul Peditto has neatly summarized the makings of the perfect micro budget film.
“The ideal low-budget movie is set in the present. few shots, lots of interiors, a couple of speaking actors (unknowns), no major optical effects, no horses to feed. bunch of not-in-the-guild teens running around an old house with a dude in a hockey mask chasing and skewering them.”—John Sayles
Central, accessible location (s) if possible. Use exotic locations only if they available to you.
Opt for non-union roles rather than those requiring SAG minima. Use extras sparingly and only if they’re free.
LIMIT SPECIAL EFFECTS AND STUNTS
Explosions, rain, car chases and action sequences cost. Blocking off streets, hiring PAs, shooting at night and remote locations are time consuming and expensive.
WRITE TO A GENRE
Forget the period piece: expensive set design, costumes… write for what sells, micro-budget: horror, suspense, sci-fi, comedy and character driven drama.
WRITE LONGER SCENES
This often equates to dialogue scenes over action. 95% of clerks was set inside the convenience and video stores.
WRITE TO A REALISTIC BUDGET
Gunfights, explosions, special vehicles & prosthetic makeup, the vampires you gotta have, that shot of the golden gate bridge that’s absolutely necessary, that Madonna song you don’t own but is perfect for the movie, the must-have crane shot, steadicam or helicopter mounts can all go. Embrace your limitations. Don’t worry about what you can’t do, focus on what you can do.
BEWARE OF FIXING PROBLEMS IN POST-PRODUCTION
Digital enhancement can work, but limit the green screen & CG effects, color correction etc as post production can chew up more of your budget than you anticipated.
BEWARE OF WRITING SPECIFIC WEATHER CONDITIONS
Rain, snow, floods and strong wind cost money. Also have a contingency plan in case any of these events occur during shooting.
MISCELLANEOUS DON’T WRITES
Animals and Children
Scenes inside football stadiums with one thousand extras.
FIND THE DYNAMIC CONCEPT IN YOUR STORY
Saw, Open Water, Buried, Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch Project are contained micro budget thrillers. Audiences will forgive the technical limitations of your film if your story has heart.