Work with your friends
Friends will often work for free, and because they know you there’s already an unspoken connection there. Directing is all about getting people to do something you want, how you want, when you want: and if your cast is already disposed to make your life easier then you can shoot faster and with more control. If your friends are wary of the project, woo them with the thought that an unexpected hit could make them all famous!
Work with your equipment
Beg, borrow and steal the basic equipment you need – which at the very least means having access to one camera and one editing suite. To make the best film you can, you need to write and frae your shots for the equipment you are able to find. There’s no point in writing a shooting script that calls for a broad establishing shot, or a smooth tracking opening sequence, if you can’t get your hands on a good wide angle lens or a reliable dolly.
Work to a precise shot script
When you have your equipment, plan your shots in great detail. If you have them all written out before you begin, you can set them up with the minimum of fuss and bother. Shot arrangement takes time, and time is money – so the less you waste, the less you have to spend. If your budget is really tight, you could even give yourself a time limit. When the clock stops, the shooting stops too.
Write for your cast
If you can, write a script that works to the strengths of your key cast members. Having an organic script is a good way to get the best from the actors and actresses at your disposal. You keep in what works, and you take out the stuff that doesn’t. This won’t affect the shots you have composed, unless the changes wrought in the script as you go are exceedingly drastic.
Choose your locations cleverly
A clever set of locations can make even the smallest budget go a long, long way. Set the whole thing inside a house, and then use a friend’s home. Or give yourself the run of a city you are familiar with. The key word here is “familiarity”. The more places you know, the better your film will look: because you’ll be able to compose shots and scenes to fit them. Some shots or scenes may have access requirements beyond the norm. If you need to get heavy equipment out into the woods, you may need to use trackway to get it there. If that’s the case, condense all of your woodland shooting into a consecutive period of days, so you only have to hire the stuff once.
The Author is a documentary film maker. His personal blog network covers every aspect of film making, from finding funding to honing your script. He is followed by thousands of film fans, cinematographers and directors – and his posts often attract the attention of back links and re-tweets. He lives and works in Cardiff.