How to Get Along on the Set of a Low Budget Short Film

Have you ever wanted to make your first film, but worried it might cost too much? Making a low-budget short film may be the best use of your time. However, there are a few things you should be aware of before.

A Quick Lesson on Interpersonal Relations on a Film Set

Young filmmakers can be pretentious. Many of them try to impress others by affecting greater importance or talent than they actually possess. This can be a problem on a film set because the cast and crew need to get along to solve problems, and whenever crew members act arrogant around each other, it makes that nearly impossible.

Part of what acting arrogant is all about is when a person makes themselves out to be more important they are, while simultaneously pretending like others are less important than they really are. I’ve seen this on all the low-budget short film sets I’ve been on, and even on projects with larger budgets and a more experienced crew. It’s a toxic way to act anytime and anywhere, but especially on a low-budget short. In this environment, you’re doing something really hard, which is trying to shoot a film, with a bunch of people who are not super experienced. If they were super experienced, they wouldn’t be working for cheap or, in many cases, for free.

The best way to get along on a film set is to select the least arrogant people you can find. Shockingly, those people usually are the ones who are the highest paid and have the most experience so they might not make it on your low-budget short. However, still try to find constructive and humble people to surround you on a film set and do an inordinate amount of pre-production planning. That pre-production planning will hopefully give you fewer problems on set and that makes the whole process easier, regardless if you do or do not end up with a few pretentious apples in your crew.

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How Buying a Cinema Camera Can Make More Sense Than Renting One

A while back I bought my first cinema camera when I initially had the idea to make my own films. I decided to purchase a Canon C100 Cinema Camera from B&H Photo because someone I had worked on another project with had used that same camera and I really liked the way the images turned out on that film.

Sometimes Conventional Thinking Is Wrong

The first few short films we made, I had an Assistant Director strictly tell me to never ever buy equipment and to always rent the equipment. The reason why that statement is wrong is that there are huge differences between prices to rent and buy cameras and the opportunity cost really can be significant depending on the use of those cameras.

Are you shooting a feature film for 30 days, never using the camera again after that and the camera body cost more than $30,000? Are you making 10 projects over the next 10 months and are able to use the same camera? Are you looking at a $95,000 Arri Alexa or a $7,400 Canon C200? What is the resell value on your camera? Are you dealing with a company like B&H Photo who will purchase the camera back after you get ready to sell it if you decided to sell at some point in the future?

In Some Cases, the Numbers Work in Your Favor to Purchase, Not Rent

I purchased a camera and used it on about 9 different projects over a course of 10 months. The days we were on a set totaled about 30 days in actual use, but there were many more days whenever I found it useful to just have the camera on hand. In this case, the camera was sold back to B&H Photo for $1,224.99 and with free shipping. I originally paid $2,999.00 including shipping. I owned the camera for a full year exactly, totally random I know. During that same year, I could rent a C100 for $100 per day. Well $100 per day for 365 days is $36,500 or if you look at it for the days I used the camera on set, which was for about 30 days, then that total is $3,000. Basically, I paid $1,774.01 to own a camera for an entire year, which if I had rented it for that time period would have cost $36,500 or for just the days we used it on a film set, $3,000.

But don’t buy an Arri Alexa for $95,000 for a 30 days shoot, when you can rent one for much less than that.