Cost of Making a Independent film!
It really depends. The first cost is your camera. A DSLR capable of shooting something at least good enough to go online (something like monetized YouTube distribution) costs around $500 to $600 with two lenses.
That being said, people have made some nice-looking footage for online distribution with just an iPhone and careful usage of lighting, apps, and rigs to hold the phone steady. If you want something that looks like a professional film that you’d see in theaters or on Netflix, the camera alone will run $15,000 to $20,000. You’ve also got lights, which can range from desk lamps or iPhone flashlights, (once I actually use the headlights of a vehicle), to expensive professional rigs, and microphones.
From there, it’s how much you’re willing to spend. Are you buying clothes off the shelf for $20 to $200 an item, having custom clothing commissioned for everyone, or having actors wear their own clothes? Are the cast and crew being fed? Are you paying actors at all, and are you paying hourly wages or a set amount per day? Do you even have a crew or are you and the actors doing everything yourselves? Do you need to pay for actors to be trained on driving a stick shift or shooting a gun?
You’ve also got lights, which can range from desk lamps or iPhone flashlights, (once I actually use the headlights of a vehicle)…..
There’s no real solid way to work it out. On a Sy-Fi film I made, I payed the actors $12 an hour and having minimal or zero crew to minimize costs. I also gave each member of the crew and cast a copy of the finished product as well as all outtakes they were in for their video reels. I bought authentic wardrobe for less than $20 an item. We then shot fast shots that I’ve pre-planned to make filming days short and simple, which also removes catering cost because I can bring snacks and drinks instead of a full lunch break for an 8 to 12-hour day.
My camera is one I already own, so there’s no need to add that to the budget, and I’ve made a fig rig from PVC pipe and a screw to hold the camera steady while running. A blank gun and a box of ammo for one scene will cost about $120 total, and I keep the gun and remaining ammo for future films.
All of this could be done with greater expense. A big RED camera on Steadicam harness, highly paid actors making $1000 a day, a full crew operating lights and sound, etc. But you don’t need that to make a pastiche of 1970s low budget slashers.
The main point is to “JUST DO IT”, you will never know what you can accomplish until you try, heck you may be the next Steven Spielberg!
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