Killer tips for guerrilla filmmakers

Making a movie on a shoestring is easier than ever. Follow these pro tips to get started.

We are living in exciting times. You no longer have to have be a Hollywood big-shot with multi-million dollar investment to make a movie. The success of low-budget movies such as Kevin Smith's Clerks has given rise to a movement dubbed 'guerrilla filmmaking', involving low budgets, skeleton crews, simple props and a can-do attitude.

As co-author of The Guerrilla Filmmaker's Handbook Chris Jones puts it, the idea is to focus on what you have, not what you don't have. "At the end of the day, filmmaking is simply a series of tough decisions, backed up by your creative talent," he writes on his blog. "By focusing on what you have, instead of what you don’t have, you can actually get your film made now."

Jones' website is full of insightful and practical articles, written by industry experts, to help you on your way. Here we've picked out some of the best, focusing on how to keep your budget down, and ways to raise cash for your movie. Enjoy!

01. Shop around for cheap kit

The cost of camera equipment is nowadays well within the range of the guerrilla filmmaker

High-quality camera equipment is coming down in price all the time, and it's now possible to get a full kit for less than you might think. Chris Jones asked the film community ‘what would be the ideal camera kit for £1,000’, and he's compiled the results in this article. Of course, new kit and new discounts are appearing all the time, so it will pay to do some serious shopping around. Also check out our own recent article on How to choose the right movie camera.

02. Shoot in one location

Find the right location and it's possible to fulfil multiple story locations in one place, saving you a heap of time and money. If that's not feasible, then look at the locations you can afford and tailor your screenplay to match what is available. This blog post offers eight top tips for maximising your location and illustrates the approach with a real-world example.

03. Use open source software

OpenDCP is free and open source

If you’re planning on showing your film on a large cinema screen, you’ll probably need a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) to get the best picture quality. This used to be something that would set you back tens of thousands of pounds - but open source tool OpenDCP has changed all that. This video by Danny Lacey explains how you can set up your own DCP at home, cutting out the facilities house and putting the power back into the hands of the indie film-maker.

04. Use minimal crew

You don't need a massive crew - Ken Simpson made do with just two!

You're going to need a big crew to make a movie, right? Wrong, according to Ken Simpson. In this insightful article, he reveals what can be achieved with a crew of two and budget of £500.

It may sound insane, but Simpson breaks down exactly how it works in practice, with some detailed and useful tips. For example: "If you’re smart about it, a moving camera combined with some creative blocking can do the job of 2-4 stationary camera setups." Here's another: "It’s very easy to park a car in your driveway and spray a garden hose on it." A must-read for all low-budget filmmakers.

05. Learn to compromise

No one wants to compromise their artistic vision. But everyone has to, even at the very top of the industry (Alfonso Cuarón would have shot 'Gravity' in space had money been no object). So guerrilla filmmaking, like any endeavour, has to be about cutting your cloth to fit the available budget. This article explains how to do so, offering six 'commandments' to ensure you complete your movie on budget and on schedule.

06. Tick off the investor checklist

It's a simple question - Why would anyone invest in your film? - but one that a surprising number of filmmakers fail to prepare adequately for when meeting potential investors. This checklist features a range of tough questions they will probably ask, plus hints and tips on how to answer them in ways that will put their minds at ease.

07. Consider crowdfunding

Iron Sky showed that even big-budget movies can be crowdfunded

Crowdsourcing investment for your movie is the hip way to raise finance for your movie right now, but it isn't as easy as it looks, and it comes with a lot of potential challenges in terms of meeting crowdfunders' expectations.

Here are some insightful articles from those who've been through the process and want to share the benefit of their experience:

08. Success is possible!

Heretic is a great success story for UK indie filmmaking

One of the best things about guerrilla filmmaking is that you're standing on the shoulders of giants - others have paved the way and are often happy to share the secrets of their success. This revealing guest blog by producer Bethany Clift explains how she and writer/director Pete Handford secured a UK distribution deal for her £30k horror movie Heretic, with advance. In the article she explains six things that they did to get the deal signed - another must-read.

Delivered in conjunction with ZED!

This content was produced in collaboration with HP & Intel as part of ZED - a Pop-Up Studio for the Creative Community held in Soho, London. For more information about ZED and any future events see here.