Five proven tips on how to write a no-budget movie


Julian Grant and Jamin Townsley hold Best Screenplay Award for “Fall Away” from the NYFF

Want to get your script produced? Are you tired of writing screenplays that go nowhere? Are you frustrated with the lack of response to your work? I’m going to show you how to write a NO BUDGET SCRIPT guaranteed to get made.

1. Write your script around locations you have access to.
Do a location survey and see what you have available right now. Your Dad’s apartment. Your uncle’s farm. The local forest?

Forget about crafting an elaborate script based upon expensive locations or permissions. Use local resources and ask friends, family and film making friends if you can shoot at their place.

Create an outline based upon your locations at hand. You start at your apartment. You move to the garage. You end up under the freeway and have your final moments at your uncle’s barn.

2. Take pictures and make a beat sheet to work with.

Now that you have your settings, it’s time to introduce your characters. A Beat Sheet is an industry standard outline that you can look at like a graph. Use Excel or similar to plot your story in advance and figure out all of the key components and Act Breaks.

Detail only after you have an outline you can follow - and DO NOT start writing until you have a complete overview of your story for review.

3. Create characters that hate/love each other - and give them a problem.
Conflict is everything. No one wants to watch 70-90 minutes of two people or more talking about themselves. Give your limited cast of characters a problem. Elmore Leonard excels in this kind of writing.

Make every moment count as you create a love triangle (except one of the people is undead/ a vampire/ a werewolf) and have at it. Make your characters suffer and redeem them at the end. have them find a solution - good or bad.

4. Avoid VFX
Don’t make your film about giant robots or visual effects unless you know how to do it yourself or have someone competent who can help you.  Cheap FX hurt you more than help.

Make your film script unique by capitalizing on interaction and drama. Pose problems and solutions in an ever-escalating manner. Make the world a tough place to live in - and have your characters excel in defeating this dilemna.

5. Buy “Save The Cat” Book Series

There isn’t a better example of writing for screen than this. Blake Snyder has crafted a HOW-TO series that outlines all the key paradigms of script storytelling and it’s an ESSENTIAL READ.

You need to figure out what genre or style your story is and pay attentions to the rules that Blake sets up. Ignore this at your peril. If you read only one book on screenwriting, make it this one. Buy it on Amazon; price, $10.88 as of Nov. 1.

Summary:

Keep your script short, sweet and full of drama. Base it around elements you can control and follows the rules of style set by Blake Snyder.

Follow screenplay format choices (naturally) and READ, READ, READ other low-budget and no-budget scripts for inspiration.

Julian Grant is an acclaimed indie cinema filmmaker and a Columbia College professor.  His latest film is award-winning “Fallen Away.”  Email news of your project to juliangrantproductions@gmail.com.

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