Top 6 hacks on how to make a zero budget film

“I have no money but I want to be a filmmaker so people give me money to make more films. Help me!”

Whether you’re an aspiring filmmaker or have a few productions under your belt, we all come across the same issue when it comes to kicking off a new project. Funding. The bane of our existence.

I’m sure you’ve either read or at least heard of Robert Rodriguez’s book Rebel without a Crew. There are some incredible tips in there on how to make films when you don’t have funding and although it was published back in the 90s, the theory is still the same. 

So below, I’ve pieced together my 21st Century tips on how to make a movie with zero funding. 
It all starts with resources. What do you currently have access to?

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Hack 1: Use your own smartphone

“Is that a phone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

Let’s start with technology. We live in great times. Forget the state of the world, let’s focus on how far technology has come and how all these tech bits now fit into one device.

Chances are, you own one of these already. Amirite? That means, you’ve already got the main tool you need to be able to make movies. Booyah! If you have a digital video camera or anything else you can point and shoot with, then you’re ready to capture your scenes.

Hack 2: Use free editing software packages

“I have too many paid software subscriptions!”​

Once you finish shooting your film, there are a number of FREE video editing software applications you can download and use straight away. I personally recommend Davinci Resolve as you can edit, grade and master all in one.

Hack 3: Use a royalty free music site for the movie score

“People will forgive bad picture, but they will NEVER forgive bad sound.”

What’s a film without a score? You can find a tonne of royalty free music sites online, just be sure to read their licence and crediting terms and conditions!

Here are some links to royalty free music sites:

Hack 4: Use household items instead of expensive gear

“If you can move it, you can use it.”


You heard that right! Own a selfie stick or tripod for your phone? You can use that to mix up your handheld shots. But I also recommend you think about innovative ways to use household items as part of your film kit. Like attaching your camera to the end of a broom to use as a monopod or a jib or positioning a camera on top of a suitcase to create a dolly. 

Check out this
video for more hacks.

Hack 5: Use items you own for props and locations you can access for free

“I’m not a hoarder, I just might need these boxes to build a fort some time.”

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Or in this case, everything in your house can be used as a prop in your film. Make a list of everything you have. Got a piano? A drumset? A firepit? A swing? A wheelbarrow? A wedding dress? Whatever you’ve got, add it to the list. By creating your story around what you already have access to, you reduce the chance of you needing to source it later. 

This also goes for locations. Got a house or apartment? A garage? A friend’s place? Your folk’s place? A shop? A car? An alleyway behind your house? A pool in the backyard? Whatever you’ve got access to for free, list it all down. You’d be surprised at how much you already have at your fingertips.

Hack 6: Inspire friends and family to be part of your film for free

“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.”

This also goes for your cast and crew. Most people just want to create so find “your people” whether they be your mates, your fam, your pets or some awesome people you’ve met through film networking sites like FML.

What now?

Now that you know what resources you have available to you for free, you can write your screenplay using the locations, props and talent you have access to. Writing within your limitations may not be as exciting as writing an action flick with a bunch of explosions, but it does evoke a sense of creativity and one that allows you to create a script that you WILL be able to produce. And if you’re having problems unlocking your creativity, check out this awesome blog on How to overcome the CREATIVE BLOCK aka writer’s block.

As long as you have a story to share, passion in your pocket and the drive to deliver, you can produce an epic film with zero budget. So show me what you’ve got. Go out there and 

Until next time!
RBM

Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in Film & TV, Pre Production, Quick Tips & Tricks

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  1. Love this one @RBM  It’s true, there is alot we can do with zero budget. You just have to dig a little deeper, thanks for sharing these resources. 

  2. Great Blog. I can so relate to all of these tips. Use what you have access to. I total feel and understand the budget filmmaking world and process. 🎥💪 Looking forward to more of your helps tips and ideas. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Hello @RBM
    Its an honour to have such an amazing talent like yourself in this platform and your first blog is a stunner and the most common significant aspect of creating content as a beginner which is budget or and your blog was the most suited resources for filmmakers who are beginning their journey. There are creators out there who have made award winning short films made just on a mobile.

    Thank you for sharing this amazing blog.

    1. Hey @Vik . Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts on my blog article. I really appreciate it and I’m so glad to hear that you see the value in these hacks. You’re totally right, so many filmmakers have gone on to do great things just by using their smartphones. We are very lucky to be able to connect and share our content all across the globe without having to leave our homes!

  4. looking back at this blog again. making me think that I REALLY need to start pushing more to get a short film started asap.
    Short and easy so I can get use to the whole process.
    But I often get stuck right in the very start………
    What do I want the short film to be about? I ask myself.
    what is my storyline / message in the short film?
    what characters and props do I have access to.
    the list goes on.
    Audio, lighting, location, storyboard etc.

    I think this would be a cool topic for a live video chat with other FML members that are also interested.

    1. Hi Lenny,
      I’m so glad to hear this article has got you thinking about making your short film. I’ve always said to people (no matter where they are in their film career): Make a movie that you care about, tell a story that you want to tell and do it for you. No one else. This is because all those hard days throughout the entire filmmaking process you’ll often wonder what the hell you’re doing and wishing you could just quit. But what keeps you going is your reason for telling this story. And to tell it for you. No one else. Start small, think about what you can shoot in one day and in one location. Write a good script and the rest will follow. Good luck!

      1. Thank you sooooo much. I need that reply. I’ll be looking back on this msg as a reminder. Not just for myself but for everyone else that will be involved with the creation of the short film. Really inspiring . Thank you. I hope to share with you one day my short film.