Movie Making Manual/Low Budget/Shooting on Film

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This Module is part of the Movie Making Manual

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You can shoot on 16mm very cheaply if you want. If you wish to shoot on film, here's one way of doing that (prices are for the UK):

Stock[edit]

  1. Get yourself some short ends AKA free film.
  2. Run the stock through a dip test to find out which cans are dud and which are usable.

Camera hire[edit]

Most large rental houses have some very nice people in them who are willing to lend cheapskates like us a decent 16mm camera kit for virtually nothing. Just be honest with them - tell them you've done everything you can to raise the money and promise them a screen credit. Be VERY nice to them. You could get an Arri SRII, with a set of primes and a handful of glass filters for around UKP 100 - 200 for a WEEK. Try to avoid shooting in summer though as all the film students will be using the kit. And remember to budget for transport - all those flight cases are very heavy and large. And for God's sake CHECK every bit of kit before it leaves the camera floor and when you return it. And I don't mean just check you've got the right number of boxes - look inside each box and tick off every cable, bolt and filter - I almost got myself in UKP 35,000 of debt because the camera hire company claimed we'd forgotten to return the remote control for the dolly (it turned out they'd screwed up and sent it to the wrong place - but I wasn't sure because we hadn't checked properly).

If you're really skint then try to blag a 16mm camera from your local film society or school. Or, even better, find a Director of Photography who owns their own camera and persuade them of the genius of your script.

And budget for insurance! No camera hire company will give you the kit without insurance. Insurance for UKP 100,000 worth of kit for a week should cost around UKP 150 - 250. Shop around for insurance - the premiums vary by about 200% between insurers.

Developing[edit]

8p per foot is probably the cheapest anyone will develop it. (400ft of Super 16mm = 11 minutes at 25 fps ... so, if your running time is 10 minutes and you're using a 10:1 shooting ratio, that's 100 min of stock, which equals 3636 foot of Super 16mm, which comes to a cost of UKP 330.

Telecine[edit]

Return again to your bible (The Knowledge). Find the chapter on Telecine. Phone them and ask, very nicely, if they have any trainee telecine operators who wouldn't mind scanning your film during down-time in return for a generous volume of their favourite drink and a special thanks on the credits. Most will reply "no" or "sure, that'll be £400 per hour". But some will say "not a problem, come round next Tuesday evening and we'll se what we can do".

See also the "Amateur Telecine of Super 8mm Footage" guide in the Telecine section for a cost-free telecine method. Before some wiseguys rush to say that the method is useless, I would like to make clear that this is an AMATEUR method, suggested for personal, non-critical usage only, not for professional use! And if one follows all the steps EXACTLY, he/she will get very good results. After all, it is free, trying it won't hurt...

Guestimate budget[edit]

So, a rough camera hire and filmstock budget for a week's shoot for a 10 min short would be:

UKP 100 dip tests + UKP 200 camera hire + UKP 200 insurance + UKP 330 developing + UKP 50 alcohol for TK opp = UKP 880.

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