|Producer Georgy Ragazza of Fragments of Fear!!|
On February 1st 2014 we began the first shoot for Fragments of Fear in an old barn building stuck in the middle of a field in the pouring rain. We had a pile of scripts, a handful of actors and crew, and a passion. We wanted to make a TV show.
|Copyright, Fragments of Fear|
You too may have a dream and a gem of an idea, and you think you have to scale the heights of a Dynasty style mini-series, complete with elaborate wardrobe and billion-dollar budget.
I’m here to tell you to think British, and go the rather more pragmatic DIY, Heath Robinson route. It isn’t an easy one, and there will be times when you feel like giving up, but we’re living proof that it’s possible.
Top Ten Tips for Filming on a Zero Budget:
1. Location: Official locations cost money and there are all sorts of legal requirements and paperwork involved. At a bare bones minimum, you need somewhere quiet and with enough room to fit a skeleton crew and a cast. It helps if you have a friend with a barn in a field, but just as useful are pub back rooms, community halls after hours, or local amateur theatres outside of rehearsals and performances. A generous thank you credit on your film and a raft of social media shares and acknowledgements goes a long way! Be prepared to film in a flat at 3am if that’s when the noise dies down – flexibility is key to No Budget filming.
|Copyright, Fragments of Fear|
2. Source Material: If you have an original idea, that’s a great start. Your idea, your show. There’s also material in the public domain which you can reimagine, update, or interpret – places like Project Gutenberg are brilliant for this. Or, you can collaborate with enthusiastic creative friends who have stories but no publishers. This is the beginning of your network journey, and the point where hugely creative production companies are born.
3. Talent: You’ll need actors! Again, start with your friends – if you’re in a creative social circle, the chances are that you know actors who need additional material for their show reels, or students in the middle of a performing arts course who need credits for Equity membership. A little reciprocal goodwill goes a very long way.
4. Wardrobe and Make-up: As with actors (and most film crew) everyone needs help with their portfolio. An independent film is a great way to give everyone much-needed credits in return for their skills. I came from a theatre background doing make-up and had no TV experience, but a small handful of film credits and so Fragments is an asset for me! You can also approach film schools in your area and offer extra credits.
5. Props: To supplement the usual tables and chairs and other furniture already on hand, a judicious amount of skip diving comes in very handy. Always ask permission where possible, but you can nab a surprising amount of raw materials to which you apply creative Blue Peter style skills. A number of charity furniture outlets will let you borrow items for a small, returnable deposit, but this contravenes the No Budget rule so keep that for emergencies only.
6. Transport and Catering: Car pool where possible, or make puppy dog eyes at your brother’s mates’ band with the van. If you’re filming in a flat, do a potluck supper, or get everyone to bring an ingredient. Most people are happy to bring their own lunch though, especially if you’re nice and make them tea.
7. Equipment: Friends and students come to the fore here once again. If you want to work in the industry you need credits, but to get credits you need to work in the industry. It’s that old Catch-22. This is where you need to get the best that you can though, because your final film will only be as good as the raw footage. A student or aspiring director friend with a decent HD camera and a directional microphone is your best friend for life. There’s even a growing movement now for movies shot on iPhones, with a plethora of tutorials available on how to build Steadicams, auto cues, dollies, and more using bits of old junk from the garage.
8. Post-Production: The process of the edit. Do your homework at the filming stage and make sure that you have well lit, clear footage with good sound, and the editing process will go a lot smoother. Again, it’s friends who need credits, although most laptops come with pretty decent editing programs. Have laptop, will travel.
9. Distribution: After a lengthy and potentially soul-destroying journey around various TV networks both great and not so great, we realized that getting your non-solicited work onto a TV screen is harder than getting Apple to let you play a Beatles’ song on the soundtrack. In this age of blogging and vlogging, setting up a YouTube channel is the key. There are some remarkable projects on YouTube made from anywhere between zero and a modest crowd fund – check out Bloody Cuts, for example. If you can set up a channel on YouTube, you can show your masterpiece across the world to billions of potential fans. Swoon worthy.
10. Publicity: You wrote a short film. You shot a short film. You edited a short film. And now you have a YouTube channel. But how do you rise above the parapets of the billion other YouTube channels and get people to watch your Citizen Kane? You man the social media, and you work your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your Instagram (behind the scenes photos!), and your Vine (here’s us prating about on set!). Talk to people. Get involved. Get your friends and family involved.
You have to work long days at strange hours in weird places with odd people. It won’t be easy. But it’s the best fun in the world!