30 Tips to help you make an Award Winning Film on a Low Budget

In low budget and community film making a lot of attention is paid to the participatory process and less to what creates an imaginative product worthy of a wider public. But I believe that creativity and quality are essential.

Experience shows that there’s some core advice that could help you to produce a high impact and engaging product. 

With that in mind I’ve produced a short list of tips from my project notebooks. in order to help you to create an award-winning short film. 

If you have any other tips and advice or stories, why not share your experiences?

  1. We followed a 40 20 40 'Guide' for project time and resources: 40% Pre-Production planning / 20% Production Filming / 40% Post-production - editing, reflecting, promoting, screening
  1. We are close to the life of the people involved (by us, for us / inside out)
  1. We have a lively sense of where we live: place, environment, or locality = our grassroots, our heritage, our futures
  1. We explored relevant issue(s) (for participants making the film AND for viewers at screenings or online)
  1. We employ film ‘crew’ services, and trainers and facilitators who who have experience of participatory work and who are committed to our project aims
  1. A new take on an old question; re-framing, re-imagining a question
  1. An embodied concept – our idea grew hands, legs, feet, eyes and ears – it came alive
  1. Engaged and participatory exploration of the topic with research ‘answers’ from many angles. But more than just face-to-face interviews with experts (talking heads)
  1. Telling a story well – twists and turns, surprise endings, re-appearances, character work, setting and context
  1. We identify and discuss anchors for our film to hold it all together – place, person, topic, journey, object
  1. Smiling and laughter in the making. Not another miserable and hopeless and dreary community film…
  1. We seek out older and younger perspectives (avoid what do they know? / I’ve seen it all before!) – collide and overlap opinions, make them meet?
  1. Everyone works as a team and also gives his or her best as an individual
  1. We love and relish our detailed planning and development – who, what, where, when, why. It’s our roadmap to success
  1. We like the big picture: a sense of the whole visual environment (panorama) or soundworld
  1. We like the little world; zooming in on telling details (the part is a part of the whole story)
  1. We are sensitive to ethical issues and educational growth; to risk analysis; we have consent forms and use them; safety first.
  1. We analyze stereotypes and extreme positions (sensitively) and find the story behind the story
  1. Fact: Those who do great interviews are not always the most senior, best paid or most confident people
  1. We pay a lot of time and attention to sound recording and soundworlds because film is also about listening skills
  1. Compellling music can lift a film / soundtrack editing matters too. We like visual rhythm.
  1. Time-keeping and time-management – are everyone’s responsibility
  1. We make an honest and critical choice of the best footage throughout and enough we leave enough time for a good edit as a collective
  1. We review and reflect as we go along – are we getting what we want? quick n tight?
  1. keep it short – no windbags please ! not a 2 hour community film!
  1. We present real issues and people, not a Hollywood fantasy land !
  1. It’s not about the money, it’s time and commitment …
  1. We share our experience with other groups and learn from them
  1. we thought and did a lot about screenings, DVD design and packaging, online, publicity; we had a great product as well as a great time making it
  1. golden trophies? really ?


  1. I read your stuff with interest - Alinsky meets Friedman in an Ambridge trembling with fear of everything!

    I've been involved in community development for a number of years and been working with communities in Paddington, North Westminster, trying to apply Alinsky et al in the process - www.pdt.org.uk. - don't take the hurd/cabinet office stuff too seriously!

    I want to explore a filmed chronicle of the impacts on communities as tory stuff comes down the line and would appreciate a conversation if you have the time.


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  4. You can save a great deal of money (and thus spend far more time and energy on the film) by shooting and editing it yourself. This is remarkably easy to do, and broadcast quality equipment now is both inexpensive and simple to use. It is crazy to waste money on 'crews' or 'producers'. Do it yourself and have total control. See www.nyvs.com for all the info you need.

  5. sound advice from Michael, but seek some training or mentoring, if you can afford time and money?

  6. datemi il modo do iscrivermi e lo farò volentieri. prove fallite!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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