Film On a Budget: Things You Need To Know To Shoot Indie

Unlike films that are produced by huge production houses, indie films often have to be shot in many different places just to make up a sequence. Equipment used aren’t the latest and the fanciest; production crews have to improvise to make things work. The thing is, indie is fun that way.

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Location, location, location. In indie, the budget is limited, so is manpower. Location scouts are done to look for the best set with the cheapest price tag. Since resources aren’t in abundance, it would be wise to look for locations around the city to not have to spend for transportation fees for the whole team. Focus on finding the right location that would bring the vision to life.

Production designers are of great importance. If you don’t know how to bring your vision to life, hire professionals—they can help in cutting costs as they know exactly what they’re doing and they have ways to attain those without spending a lot. Recent graduates are included in the professionals clause, and there is a great chance you could be helping them gain experience.

Set and lighting need not be expensive. With the help of production designers, create your own production set and get the right color going with the lighting. While most of the correction happens during post-production, lighting alters the atmosphere of the set, helping your actors act their best in the most conducive set. Investing can be a great idea, but renting audio and lighting equipment at first can be the wisest move.

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Hello. My name is David Berkowitz. I’m a production designer for indie films. Detail-driven and gritty, I scope out film sets from behind the camera and in front of it. I am based in Los Angeles, California but originally from Chicago. For more about the film industry, visit my other blog.

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The Daily Grind: My Life as a Production Designer

People assume that when you work for the film and TV industry, you’re either an actor, a director, or an assistant. I currently work as a production designer–and being one is no easy task.

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Being a production designer means working for the art department. Together with other production designers and consultants, I help in conceptualizing a film, TV, or theater production.

My role at a certain project starts during pre-production. I meet with directors, director of photography, and scriptwriters to create a strategic visual backdrop for each scene. After this has been established, production designers will go into research and design. How does a salon in the 1950s look like? What were fashion trends during the Motown era? These details are important to make a set believable. After we’re done with the research, we come up with a stage or set plan for the art department. The rest of the art department will materialize this vision that we came up with.

As a production designer, I work long hours. There’s no such thing as a 9-to-5 shift. I also travel a lot, if the script or if the design I made requires me to. Most production designers have finished a degree in architecture, technical theater arts, fine arts, or interior design.

Do you think you have what it takes to be a production designer? The work may be tough, but it’s all worth it.

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David Berkowitz here, a Chicago Bulls fan and production designer for indie films. Know more about my love for basketball and filmmaking when you follow me on Twitter.