Tips and Resources For Indie, low Budget and First Time Filmmakers.


The Big Idea -The first step in making a successful film, forming the main idea, may seem like an easy task. But without careful consideration and self evaluation your film's main idea may not be your best possible work. Every filmmaker should follow their own vision, of course, but many successful filmmakers have worked hard to be able to asses their ideas honestly and put aside a notion that might not be the best option at that point in their career. Here are some resources that may help spark that perfect idea and help shape it into a solid outline.

What's a Good Idea - Part 1

What's a Good Idea - Part 1

The Save the Cat!® Lite app for iPod, iPhone, and iPad - Free

Another classic story structure breakdown.

The Black List Table Reads Podcast - inspiration

The Official Screenwriting Blog of the Black List - inspiration

Get Everything on Paper -Once you have your big idea it's time to start getting down to brass tacks! And by brass tacks I mean pinning 3x5 note cards to a cork board to get your outline in the perfect order. Just kidding...sort of. Whatever process works for you is best but here are some app and resources that might help get things finalized and ready for production. 

Celtix Screenwriting Software - be sure to get the free version for now. there are other options out there at a cost but this should work just fine. 

Studio Binder - production scheduling and project management. There is an always free version that is great for getting everything in order but you can't send out the call sheets you create. it's a great software and, if you can swing it, a one month subscription to an upgraded version might be a good investment to save some time. 



In the Trenches - Many of you have worked on film set's before with varying levels of production value and you may already have access to gear and good grasp of how to use it effectively. These links are probably not tailored specifically to you but you may find very useful info on the parent websites if you don't already religiously follow them. I also strongly encourage first time filmmakers to consider making a film using a cellphone camera if that is the only camera you have access to. It is true that you will have to make up for the lower video quality with a strong concept, good writing and good pacing but you should strive for greatness in those areas regardless. A million dollar budget will not make up for a weak script but festival selection committees and judges will gladly overlook a low budget if an effort is clearly made to craft a strong visual story using available resources. 

Safety first! - 

  1. keep a first aid kit on hand at all times and be aware of the nearest hospital in case of emergency. 
  2. Do not ask your actors or crew to put themselves in situations where they could sustain physical harm.
  3. Make sure water and snacks are available for long shoots and be aware heatstroke and other possible on location emergencies. 
  4. Know your limits! Don't push your team too far or for too long or the whole production will suffer.

General Equipment


DIY Lighting Equipment

5 DIY Lighting Tips For Filmmakers on a Budget - Premium Beat 

$50 DIY light kit - nofilmschool

Low Budget C Stand Alternative - Note this will not safely replace C-Stands for heavier equipment but could work great for diffusion, reflectors and other light adjusters. 

Fog, Smoke, & Haze: The Swiss Army Knives of Cinematography Tools

DIY Camera Equipment

$0-15$ Mini Camera Slider

$75 More Robust Slider - probably can be built for a bit less and you get a fairly good amount of movement.



One of the most important notes to keep in mind for post-production is to avoid the inevitable slow down that will happen once you have wrapped the actual shoot. Treat Post-production as a continuation of the production by having a reasonable but clear schedule that includes regular meetings (even if they are online or conference calls) and clear deadlines. Producers and directors should be able to confidently schedule screenings and submissions to festivals and they will need promotional material and a final cut to do that successfully. 


*This list is a work in progress. Please check back soon for more resources.