How To Film On A Budget

Filming anything whether it’s a movie, documentary, or a commercial involves a lot of moving parts and coordination to make it happen. One person cannot do it alone. You need a team of dedicated professionals who are committed to making the final cut as best as it can possibly be.
If you’ve ever done any filming before, you know there is never enough time and money. Even the biggest productions struggle with those two key ingredients – and getting everything done within restraints. A good producer will make the most of what he or she is given and be creative with finding workarounds with the problems that will ultimately arise.
At Kipling Media, we have done more than our fair share of videos and commercials, some successfully – and to be honest – some not so successfully. If you’re putting together a film shoot and need some help then here are some great lessons we’ve learned over the years.


Plan Ahead

The more you plan, the more successful you’ll be. Most people don’t plan enough. You need to be extremely detailed oriented. You need to know exactly what is happening down to the minute – that’s how much you need to plan. Even most experienced Producers think they have everything down but then they inevitably forget something. This is what kills film shoots, especially smaller productions.
Having a detailed storyboard is a key component to success. A lot of times you may be tempted to skip this step especially if you’re only doing a 15-second commercial or are filming an interview-style video. Plan everything – from the angle, the action, infographic, to the special effects viewers will see on screen.
The other thing you’ll need is, create a detailed Call Sheet. A Call Sheet is a term used to create a schedule and is issued to all the cast and crew to ensure they know what they are doing – when to be on set, and who is in charge of what. The most important thing on the Call Sheet is to ensure the shooting schedule is followed. Of course, you also need an excellent Assistant Director to ensure that the Call Sheet is followed which brings us to the second point.

Finding The Right Team Is Everything

As mentioned, the process of filming a television commercial takes the work of many professionals. If you don’t have a team that works well together then you’ll find not only will you go over budget but you’ll also find your end result won’t be as good. If you can find a professional team that has worked together then that is the best-case scenario for your production.
Carefully interview each crew and cast member to ensure they are the right fit. Often times personality is more important than skill. On the set, a lot of people have to work long hours in close proximity to each other and, as such, egos and tempers can flair up if you’re not careful. You have to be the judge about the type of person you want to work with. This comes with time and practice. We always prefer to work with someone who is dedicated and easy to get along with than someone who might be Oscar material – but ultimately, it’s up to you.

Be Creative with Your Script

An often overlooked component in a scriptwriter is that he or she must understand the limitations of the budget you’re given. Writers tend to get overly excited with their ideas and don’t think about how much it will cost. A writer might think: What’s an extra character or an extra prop? As producers you probably know adding any extra elements can get expensive really quickly. There are tons of very good, creative writers out there. When you hire a writer make sure they know the producing side of filmmaking. It will save you lots of headache down the road.
Having said that, you shouldn’t skimp on great storytelling. Even a 5 or 15 second commercial needs a good script that people will remember. Storytelling is a huge concept we don’t have time to cover here but, likewise, just as a writer should have a producer-mindset, a producer must know that the story is always king.

Minimize Your Locations

What really kills a production is the time it takes to set up and break down on location. The more scene changes, the more it’s going to hurt your pocketbook. If you can find a location that can be used for multiple scenes then that’s the best way to utilize your money. Try and use locations that you don’t need to get a permit for or that you can get for free. Also, use as much natural light as possible so consider outdoor locations.

Camera and Equipment

We feel that rental equipment is one thing you shouldn’t cut corners on. Many indie filmmakers will tell you to get the cheapest equipment you can get away with. However, we believe first you should consider the medium the film or commercial will end up in. For example, if you’re filming for a Youtube advertisement, you’ll need different specifications than a movie theatre.
If you don’t have the proper microphone or lights then it will show in the final cut. Reach out to your network to see who has lights or equipment that you can borrow for cheap. Also, ask the Director of Cinematography if he or she owns any equipment or if they have access to equipment.


It is absolutely possible to create something spectacular within a low budget, all you have to do is make a plan, find the right people, have a script & storyboard, get the right equipment and choose the best suitable locations.