Here’s some frugal filmmaking tips I’ve been picking up this year (2017):
1. Use a location that can serve as several things. Find a locale, for instance, with a couple of shops, two front doors (or a back and front to double as two houses), a bench, one house (shoot tight in different rooms to make it seem like different houses) and a road – that way there’s little waiting around for new camera/lighting setups, no travelling, you can literally turn around and shoot the next bit. I can shoot inside a car several different ways to make it seem like different journeys and intercut different car exteriors.
2. Schedule cleverly, shoot continuously – if you get all the shots of a crowd say in a couple of hours continuously there’d be no need to buy people lunch, just provide water and fun! If an actor only has to come for an hour then all they need is travel expenses and something to drink.
3. Set most things outdoors and be flexible when you shoot. Obviously the sun isn’t always going to be on your side but with half-decent lenses, as long as it isn’t raining, you can get good shots. The sun (or sun through clouds depending on time of year) is the best lighting. It’s soft, flattering (!) and there’s no lighting setups.
5. Do everything handheld – this is a biggy, messing about with tripods, re-framing etc takes loads of time. Having it on your shoulder on a rig with the same lens doesn’t. You do have to shoot more because it isn’t an exact science but in the end it works out as less time spent. Obviously, this is a particular aesthetic and might not be right for everything but mostly… Watch Breaking Bad, that’s pretty much all handheld.
6. Plan the shit out of a shoot day. Make sure you have call times set for everyone so there’s no hanging about between shots. Drive around to find locations beforehand, it’s surprising what’ll can find that will suit.