Micro Budget Filmmaking – Getting Back to Work

Micro Budget Filmmaking - Getting Back to Work
Micro Budget Filmmaking - Getting Back to Work

As we tiptoe back out into the world, gingerly peeking into restaurants, clothing stores and even the occasional movie theatre, our well-worn masks dangling sadly from one ear, we have one question burning into our indie micro budget filmmaking minds…when can we get back to work?

The answer is, as it always is with zero budget film, right now.  Or, alternatively, never.  Depending on how you look at it.

I have tried to get things going, even last summer in fact, to no avail.  But that might be partly or mostly because it didn’t feel right. For myself, for my everyone.  Of course, now things are different.  Some things have been shot, completely.  Big budget, small budget, no budget.  But there are still many many things to consider before you start thumbing through your rolodex. 

So, here are four questions to ask yourself for getting back to work in the world of micro budget filmmaking.

1. Does what you have to shoot make sense to actually shoot right now?  

For example, if you have a film that requires scenes in a packed club, or a busy restaurant, or anything, frankly, that’s full of people tightly packed, you should probably wait, or rewrite.

2. Do you know for sure that everyone you will be working with is vaccinated?  

It is perfectly alright to ask, in fact you should ask in my opinion. But you need to be sure, because we all have people in our lives who are vulnerable. People who can’t be vaccinated, or who are vulnerable even if they are, and you still are.  Kids, older people, or people with autoimmune disorders, cancer, diabetes.  After all, 95% isn’t 100%. That means five of every 100 people who are vaccinated could still get sick and all of us who are vaccinated could still carry the virus and pass it on to someone who isn’t as protected. 

3. Is any of this worth the risk right now?  

Given that you probably aren’t really employing someone, paying them, taking their career to another level, etc.  Is what you have to say and, importantly, how you are able to say it, worth this?  The risk, the stress, the potential necessity to modify because of all of the above. Be sure that what you are doing isn’t just to do something.  Anything.  Because that is absolutely not worth it.  Wait. Prepare better, save your money, hone your story, rehearse, cast, find better locations, develop it until you can develop it no more, and then still keep developing it.  In short, you can never be over prepared so use this grey time to your advantage.  Be strategic. Check out “What to Do When You Are Not Filming.”

4. If you shoot it, can you complete it anyway? 

Can you get it to the point of release? How will you release? Can you do what you intended to do with this film?  We all want to get into great festivals. But, if you do then what? Is there a market to schmooze in? Are there people to meet and places to actually go?  If we are all stuck in online mode, should you wait until you can stun everyone with your actual presence rather than your insta-feed? Worth considering.

After all, we want our films to be seen ultimately and what we make must find its audience. Obviously, that will be online mostly anyway, but festivals are such a great opportunity to be with people, show them who you are, talk, debate, drink, whatever.  Some of this can be done to a degree online but it’s not the same.  So maybe if this is your “big idea” waiting till you have more to give yourself in a real and visceral sense might be smart.

Micro Budget Filmmaking - Getting Back to Work
Micro Budget Filmmaking – Getting Back to Work

What a downer I am I hear you cry.  You are not wrong.  But I’m trying to grapple with the world as it is right now and, like all of you I suppose, I am struggling.  Everything has shifted. Nothing is the same. What once was important, isn’t.  What once was meaningless, now has meaning.  We are well and truly through the looking glass and we normally just let our passions guide us as artists.  But we must also use our noggins a bit too.  

Meanwhile, I am writing, organising, plotting, “I’m not standing still, I am lying in wait.”  Brilliant, creepy and true.  Of course I will pounce eventually, but for me, now is not the right time.  Not yet.  

When I begin to film again, I want it to be for all the right reasons and with all the right people.  Until then, be careful out there, and be sure of everything.  But, also, don’t let my reservations spook you. If you can find a way and it works for you, or even elevates your idea because you have to adapt somehow, then go for it!! And good luck!!