How Much Does it Cost to Make a Low Budget Movie?

A series on budgeting $0 to 2 Million


The cost varies considerably. Low Budget is usually known as "under $2 million." You might be able to make it for $500.00. Realistically, the lack of a big budget doesn't mean that you have to create a chinzy movie that looks cheap.

Somewhere between the Troma Entertainment style movie, and the typical Hollywood Independent Low Budget style, lies a very creative and entrepreneurial area where producers have major opportunities. If you have never read any of Producer Loyd Kaufman's books, you should.

Loyd Kaufman's excellent book, Make Your Own Damn Movie, from Troma Entertainment, can be purchased for as little as $11.00. In the style of low budget - buy it used.

Budgeting doesn't start the day before principal photography. Budgeting requires keeping an eye on the expense budget when writing the script. Does the setting have to be the Brooklyn Bridge? Or can the tension and visual excitement be just as effective on a bridge closer to home - and with less production hassles? Does it have to have a big name actor?

Movie Stream Productions (MSP) recommends working with approximate union scale, adjusted for New Media, and targeting movie budgets in the $100,000 to 250,000.00 range up to, but not including, distribution. This is a "sustainable model" for continuous production. MSP offers very low cost advertised distribution. Aside from MSP's recommended budgeting, there are many other ways to make a low budget movie.

"New Media" means that it is made for non-traditional distribution, possibly using non-traditional methods and budgeting. It includes "Over the Top" (OTT), typically meaning Internet and other distribution methods. Currently the motion picture unions have issued no member binding policies regarding New Media as this fledgling venue and profit model develops.

Many excellent movies have been made for much less. Raindance (see below) created a list that includes Night of the Living Dead, Cube, Halloween, The Blair Witch Project, and Paranormal Activity.

Raindance offers Low Budget Film Guide, Part 1, and Low Budget Film Guide, Part 2. "Lacking a big budget doesn't have to be a problem." They compiled a list of some of the greatest low budget films ever made, with budgets ranging from zero to $500k.

This article series will feature the Movie Stream Productions recommended New Media method, guest articles from others, and a blog where others can share their experience.

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Effort is never wasted. You learn. You may get picked up. Examples of series that got their start on the Web, at How Do You Define Web Series Success?

LAFF: Mark Gill on Indie Film Crisis.

joke and 3 Things We Look for in Aspiring Filmmakers.

Kevin Shah's article on, Nano Budget Filmmaking: The New Sustainable Cinema.

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Mention of any business or movie in this article is not intended to endorse, disparage, or favor any business.

Movie names that are mentioned are not given reference citations. This is because numerous studios are involved in production, and they then assign distribution rights to multiple distributors, and these rights can be sold to other distributors. For production and distribution information on any movie mentioned, consult the Internet Movie Database, or other authoritative listing.

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