Scripting for No Budget Films

Before you ever begin producing your narrative digital video film you have to put together a quality screenplay to use. This constructs characters, plots, and an over all story arc for your project. If you are producing this guerilla style, with an ultra-low-budget, then there are certain things you have to remember while you are actually writing the script.

Limit The Characters

Since you will have to be dealing with actors, and will most likely either need to compensate them or give them some type of post-distribution deal, you are going to need to cut down the number of characters as much as possible. This usually isn’t hard because most films, stories in general for that matter; focus on only three or four characters. Try and narrow down the speaking roles as much as possible, but keep at least three characters because that is the number that is usually needed for a really climactic situation to occur. This will also cut down your shooting time, and since only a few people will be working the whole time their immersion in their characters will reduce the number of takes you have to do for each scene.

Limit The Locations

The next most important thing to consider is lowering the number of locations it occurs at. For every new location you have to move the equipment, arrange it perfectly, and get clearance to film there. If you keep it down to just a few central locations this is going to shorten the schedule and keep the cost down. This does not mean there has to be only a couple locations in the story space, but make sure that all locations you are describing in your script can be replicated in just a couple locations.

Do What You Know and Have

Make sure that the stories you are writing, and the characters you are creating, are based on things you have and experiences you know. This is good for creating a really in depth story that is personal, but also because you will most likely own everything you need. Any time you have to go purchase a prop you are cutting into your already thin budget. Try writing characters that would wear clothes that you already have, and that would drive the kind of car that is already parked in your garage. Also, remember that anytime you have to build something you are cutting into your schedule and that costs money.


Artificial lighting is one of the most expensive parts of any clandestine production. Shooting at night, or in dark or dim areas, requires you to use complicated and often expensive lighting set-ups. Use natural sunlight whenever possible, and so think about having as many scenes occur in the daytime as possible.  At the same time, this is going to have to be considered in the location choices more than you may think at first.  The locations that you use will limit, or enhance, your lighting choices.  If you want to lower the overall coast you should find locations that have access to natural light that can easily be restricted, lots of available outlets, and multiple circuits that can handle a large workload.

An Interesting Screenplay

The most important thing that you have to remember when you are writing a screenplay like this is to make the story, the people, and the dialogue as intriguing as possible. You do not have big stars, special effects, and other elements of a large studio production to draw an audience so you better make the material as quality as you can. This is true of any production, but especially for this kind of independent film.  You may also want to consider revising the screenplay in response to what you are able to get for a low cost.  This includes altering the script to accommodate certain sets and props as well as to accommodate the actors that you have available to you at your cost.  It is great to have fully realized characters that exist on the page, but it is also wonderful to create characters that can be easily inhabited by those available to you.  Your budget is going to limit your acting pool, both because of the limited resources you have to pay them and the inability to provide travel and housing stipends or per diem.  Instead, you need to apply the limits of performers to your screenplay and try to adapt the themes that made it great to this situation.

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