Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Tip #25: Keeping Production Design Costs To A Minimum

By Sinéad Ferguson (Producer/Production designer)

While there are always ways to keep the production design budget down, where possible you want to do so without limiting the creative choices that will visually enhance the story.

Samantha Bolter and John Hayden
on location in the village pub.

The best locations for production designers on a limited budget are ones that come predressed. You then may modify the layout and enhance or change the dressing with a few limited items. This may not be possible for all locations. However for sets that get a lot of screen time putting in the extra work and effort on finding those ideal locations, can in the long term, save considerable expense and work down the line.

To avoid the mistake of spending time, effort and expense on details that don’t end up being in shot, or on details the camera won’t see, good communication with the director is essential. Put all the money spent on production design on the screen, always concentrate solely on what is within the camera frame. Plan and think before you spend any money, question every decision. You may have an idea that will look great but cost a lot, so you must search for alternatives that will get the same results without costing an arm and a leg.

Low-budget production design is adjustable to the needs and resources at hand. So use what you’ve got, then beg, borrow and steal. OK I won’t go so far as to recommend stealing, but
you get the picture! You would be amazed at the amount of wardrobe, props and so on you can source from those directly involved in the project like cast and crew, not to mention family and friends, even those “friends of a friend” can be invaluable.

Actress Judith Ellis-Jones on location
in the village store shoot.

Remember that low-budget independent filmmaking is a philosophy in itself. So if you keep your mind open and the integrity of the film forefront with the right attitude and a bit of creative thinking there is no reason you have to settle for anything less than the best when it comes to your production design.

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