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Old June 12th, 2008, 12:42 PM   #1
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2,500 budget - what can I get?


I am very new to film-making so forgive me if I come across like a complete newb. I have just finished a script for my first short and wish to direct and film this year. I want to buy my own equipment as I do not have the flexibility in my life at the moment to set aside a particular weekend and hire equipment etc.
I've got 2,500 to spend on equipment and out of that obviously needs to come a camera, a tripod and microphone(s). My short is very dialogue based, with lots of close-ups of the actors faces. It is also set indoors. I intend to follow similar lines for future shorts as I figure there is no point on trying to put together complicated action sequences when I'm so inexperienced.

I have been trawling this site and the internet for the kinds of cameras I can get in the 2,000 range but still feel slightly overwhelmed by all the equipment that seems to be needed. Can you guys please advise me on how best to spend the money so I can begin shooting and get it looking at least ok. Thanks a lot!
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Old June 12th, 2008, 03:01 PM   #2
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I don't know if you are in PAL region. If yes then how about this one:

My Blog: http://steliosc.blogspot.com
"I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free" Nikos Kazantzakis
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Old June 14th, 2008, 06:07 AM   #3
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thanks for the link Stelios
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Old June 14th, 2008, 07:59 AM   #4
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Paul - For dramatic work I'd still suggest hiring over buying if you mainly want to direct/produce, or just end up with a really well put together short - I always try and hammer home this point to people for a couple of reasons.

It gives you more contact with the professional industry and experts - because if you are looking to hire gear for a shorter period of time you are also going to need to find someone to operate it for you (as you won't have the ability to just keep playing with it on weekends and stuff.) and hire places are probably the best port of call for things like that (walk in, say who you are and that you are wanting to put together a short, limited budget but want to hire from them - do they know any good cam operators/assists, boom ops/sound recordists etc who may be interested in stepping up to become HOD's on your short).

This has the advantages of
A: Letting your limited resources gain access to better gear for the short,
B: Forcing you to interact with people with more experience than you, who have experience on better gear, generally making them much more knowledgeable allowing you to learn much more off them in a short period of time then you could just by teaching yourself.
C: Getting you to make new and possibly life long friends (honestly - film making as a collaborative experience is like going through the trenches with people sometimes - it has the potential to create the types of bond that you can't get elsewhere)

It also forces you to plan your short a little more carefully - but don't think that should relegate you to having to shoot it all in one weekend.

The short film I produced, Big Bad Wolves, was shot across 5 days of filming across four separate weekends, across about 6 months - you can check it out here if you want to see whether that negatively impacted the film or not:


This wasn't ideal - but it was the only way to get the film made with the budget we had, the actors availabilities, our availabilities etc.

Yes, that meant we had to spend a bit more on hiring some gear then if we could have managed to squeeze it all into two weekends back to back - but it also meant as the filming progressed we could show some of the people involved in the process rushes from the last part of the shoot, start to get more people excited about the project, save more money if necessary to get that one extra thing that we really needed to hire for the next days shooting etc.

No - with the "Hire rather than buy" spiel out of the way - when buying cameras and equipment you should really look at it's potential longevity beyond just one production if the money you are spending is going to be a major investment.

E.g A really good tripod might be a must for dramatic shooting to help your short - but that's a lot of dollars that you may not be using very often if you would otherwise only be using the camera you brought for your short film for blocking tapes, and personal stuff.

Instead, perhaps you should spend more on buying a good camera, and put some money aside for hiring the good tripods on those days that you do want to shoot your film? Of course this depends if you are relatively near a rental place geographically to make it worthwhile - but the point I'm trying to make is there are a lot of seeming VITAL accessories for short film making - Camera, Tripod, External Mic etc - but to get maximum quality for your project it may be a case of buying one bit of kit that you'll use all the time and then hiring the other stuff when you need it - rather than having a whole bunch of stuff sitting idle most of the time.
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Old June 16th, 2008, 11:29 AM   #5
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Hi Craig,

Thanks very much for your reply - it was very informative and showed me how much I still need to learn in this industry! I totally get where you're coming from saying that I should devote resources to hiring a crew and learning that way; but I would be more comfortable hiring other people when at least have some knowledge of how a camera works and operates. I'd like to work by trial and error at least for a little while - I mean, how can you direct people with any amount of authority if they know you don't really know anything! When I've spoken to industry people in the past, I've felt like a fraud! The film course that I went on recently seemed to suggest that the best thing that newbies can do is just get shooting straight away, get used to how lighting affects the picture, audio etc.
Can you tell me a little bit more about yourself- how you got into films, what projects you're working on at the moment and if film is just a hobby for you or whether you intend it to be a way of life?
Oh, I watched your film and enjoyed it - especially the premise. I couldn't really tell that it was filmed over separate weekends, but then again my eye isn't the most trained. What was your budget for that film, what cameras were you using, and how big was your crew?
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Old June 16th, 2008, 06:13 PM   #6
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Hi Paul - my background is having a passion for Production since I was in high school - where I did learn a basic understanding of production and editing (a mix of cutting on linear VHS editing suites and the very early days of Premiere)

From there I had a strong passion for production, but didn't attend film school as I wanted a broader base. Started a communication degree that I didn't finish, because I didn't like that particular course - and began a full time job in IT after competing in a local television competition for young people (I was 18 at the time) that I got to the finals of, but didn't win (Finalists had to make a 5-10 minute TV Show on a $2000.00 budget).

I used crew who I knew from High School who had gone on to do film courses - as such they were far more experienced than me, having learnt full time for about 8 months by the time we went into production, but I could just approach them knowing that they would help, they in turn found more crew and the project ended up 20 times better than if I had tried to do it all myself.

While working in various jobs and industries from age 18 til 24, I saved money, worked with people on various student projects, passing on my experience from my projects and learning from there's - while voraciously reading everything I could about the industry I wanted to work in.

At 23-24 I produced the short film you saw above, mostly self funded by myself with great assistance from family and friends (I didn't direct - I have a very talented directing partner who I approached with the original sketch to turn into a film) - total NZ$ spent would have been around $13,000 - so I guess about 4000 Pounds- the film took over a year and a half to complete from conception until we got it in it's first film festival in a not quite complete form (sound mix wasn't quite finalised). after which we continued to tweak it while submitting and going to more festivals. We got a lot of help. It realistically should have cost probably 10 times that if we were paying anything like commercial rates to crew etc (everybody volunteered).

We shot on DSR-300 series cameras - which we either hired or borrowed from a film school (through one of the cam assists who was currently studying at film school) depending on the cam assists availability and our budget (or lack thereof).

Crew size varied depending on shoot day - but between probably about 25 -35 crew on the busiest day (the forest scenes - where we got a whole bunch of crew to help clean, prep and move stuff in the location we were shooting in) and about 10-12 on the smallest crew days.

In the industry - most producers and directors have very little idea how cameras operate - directors obviously more than producers as they have to understand lens choice etc to be able to talk about framing with DOPs (but not always then).

It's good to have a basic knowledge - but for narrative work you will get more knowledge from buying a book on cinematography and reading it, and borrowing a 35mm/DSLR stills camera to take photos etc then you will from buying most video cameras necessarily.

Currently I work for a production company doing a mix of production and post production supervision based off the strength of my short film and other work.

Ultimately - my advice is to learn as much as you can out of books, start talking to people about your short film project, find someone to help you out with it who has a bit more experience, be humble and learn as much as you can from them.

Alternatively, find someone who will let you spend a day on their short film, being a runner, getting coffee, whatever - and learn as much as you can that way.

The key thing to remember is that as a producer and director you are responsible for equipping the cast and crew as best you can to tell your short - so when they say they need something, and you don't know what it is - ask them what it is and how much it will cost and if you can't afford it ask them if there is a way to compromise and be really honest.

My approach isn't right for everyone - some people want to learn by doing and that's fine - but I've seen lots of really talented people spend way too long futzing around on their own without embracing the assistance of others, and stagnating because of it.

If you want to learn camera before approaching people because you are worrying about feeling ignorant - how are you going to feel when you also need to approach the makeup people, or the costume people, or the art department, or the sound department, or lighting, or editorial, or the actors, or the vfx technicians, or the safety officers etc etc?

You don't need to know everything - It is in fact impossible to know everything first hand - the key is learning what needs to happen to make a film (can only be done by either talking to all the other people, or working on a film and making it happen) and then getting it done.

No one minds if you don't know anything as long as you
A ) have a good script,
B ) are a nice person and treat them well
C ) are willing to offer them the opportunity to do something they wouldn't normally get paid to do (e.g approach a Cam Assistant or lighting assistant to be your DOP, or a Gaffer to be your DOP even - approach a boom operator to be your sound recordist, student actors or character actors to be your lead, etc.)
D ) are willing to learn and communicate well

If you can do those things - and can get together enough cash to grease the wheels, then you can make a film.
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Old June 23rd, 2008, 05:33 PM   #7
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Thanks for all your advice Craig - I really appreciate it. Good luck with all the projects you're working on now and in the future. Maybe our paths will cross one day.

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Old June 23rd, 2008, 06:22 PM   #8
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No worries Paul - hope your projects work out well for you!
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