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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.  I was filming a scene and our steady-cam broke down and we did not have a dolly for the regular camera so we put the camera man on a trash can dolly, yes I said a trash can dolly. You do what you have to in making an Independent Film and it worked.

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 to expensive professional rigs, and microphones, (once I actually use the headlights of a vehicle shining in the windows for atmosphere).

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)…..

Why Lighting Is Important?

  Lighting is a fundamental to film because it creates a visual mood, atmosphere, and sense of meaning for the audience. Whether it’s dressing a film set or blocking actors, every step of the cinematic process affects the lighting setup, and vice-versa;

  • *Lighting tells the audience where to look. The lighting setup guides the eye to a specific actor, prop, or part of a scene.

  • *Lighting reflects the psychology of characters. The amount, size, color, and harshness of light surrounding a character can be adjusted to match their emotions.

  • *Lighting defines and supports the genre of the film.

  • *Lighting is the tool that conveys mood most clearly. For example, one of the film genres most known for its distinct lighting style is film noir, characterized by stark contrasts between light and dark, dramatically patterned shadows, and unique framing and composition choices.


The funniest use of a lamp, though, occurs when Bogart is in a bar. He’s pondering what to do next, and just as he has an idea – aha! – the barmaid in the background turns on the light above his head. PING! A lightbulb moment!


Makeup-a really important part is the makeup. Do not take any shortcuts, if your actors do not look good, your film won’t look good. People will notice the makeup on an actor right away. Take the time to set up for Makeup and wardrobe, it is a must.

You can buy authentic wardrobe for less than $20 an item at a second hand store and sometimes you can have your cast or crew donate to the film. You will be suprised at what is out there just for you to use.



There’s no real solid way to work it out. On a Sy-Fi film I made, I payed the actors by the 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. 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!

Do not forget our additional resources page to help you find what you need.

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