This is the final preview chapter of the No Budget Guide To Filmmaking: The 30-Step Guide For Low-Budget Filmmakers, Church Video Production, And Other Artists Who Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too. In this chapter, I will take you through a 5-part process for finding and acquiring the props that you will need on a limited budget. Or maybe you have no budget for props in your indie film, short video, music video, company video, microbudget film, or live event videography. If you're on staff at a church and you have limited funds, you have to be resourceful. The parable of the talents tells us we need to take our dollar and multiply it five or tenfold. So buckle up, bust out a spreadsheet, and get to work!
There are 5 key parts I follow to discover, find, and acquire all of the props needed for a feature film. You can adjust them for a shorter project. I’m going to outline three of them so you can get a handle on this.
Before we do that we need to understand tangible set pieces aka props. These are handheld, they have screen time, and they are instrumental in motivating a character, an action, or even a location.
Every story has them, even those that take place in confined spaces; for example, if you’re shooting a church announcement video, I guarantee you will have a prop on occasion, even if it is just an animated right third graphic.
Let’s get into the nuts and bolts.
1. Do yourself a favor. Use colors.
Highlight the props as they appear in your scene a different color than the rest of the text.
But Jake, my script won’t look as glossy and hifalutin if I mix my font colors.
Yeah, I thought the same thing too but the reality is you’re wearing 27 different hats and you’re the one who wrote the script, so do yourself a solid. Use multiple colors.
2. Modernize your tale.
The benefit of my microbudget western being a modern western as well as being told over the course of a day or two allowed us to minimize our wardrobe changes and props needed.
Each character had a few key props (one or two) that were theirs. So each time an actress or an actor joined us, that character’s prop was required.
I learned this simple device from Rodriguez in his El Mariachi movie: keep all the gear to a minimum. Even if your story doesn’t take place over the course of a few hours or a few days, look to cut corners on the amounts of wardrobe and props your characters will need.
3. Find ways to raise money.
Alas, the purchase of a few key props is inevitable. Raise some funds however you can - if you have zero audience up until this point (or even a hundred followers), you’re likely going to wind up like me and miss the boat entirely with crowdfunding.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2015 that I was a part of two campaigns to the tune of $1,000 and $4400 - something I did with my Maker and a TEAM of people. For our western 12 Til Dusk, it was just my wife and a few close friends and family members who supported the campaign (which we did two campaigns through indiegogo.com).
If it hadn’t been for those close supporters, we wouldn’t have seen a cent. I simply thought that the sage counsel offered to Wayne and Garth applied to crowdfunding: if you build it, they will come.
It’s simply not true.
Banish that fantasy to the farthest corners of your mind.
There you go. That’s the plan I followed. I started pre-production on my microbudget feature 12 Til Dusk in spring of 2013, and by November of 2014, the super guerilla indie film was done done. I did it by going through these steps outlined in this guide.
I want you to do the same thing.
So I’m giving you several bonus resources to help you.
First, I’m going to give you all 5 tips for finding and acquiring props, including tips on crowdfunding.
Second, I’ve included all of the resources from this No Budget Guide To Filmmaking in one document.
Third, one person reading this will get a one-on-one coaching session with me on shooting your next no/low-budget picture. If you can Skype, you're in.