How to write a $0 Budget script


Do you have a hankerin' for seeing your ideas on the big screen?  Or the 32" screen in your living room?

Do you dream of being celebrated at Sundance or Cannes? Or by the local newspaper?

Do you have ideas in your head ready to pop out and flower?

Do you want to make a movie?

With the advent of affordable HD cameras, the production of indie films has become more available to anybody. With the explosion of, Vimeo, and self-publication and distribution companies like, anyone can become the next backyard Spielberg.

'Paranormal Activity' was just released on a budget of $15,000.   You don?'t have to spend $210 million to make a movie now.  Kevin Smith made the critically acclaimed "Clerks" for $30,000--most of which he financed through credit cards.  Films can be made cheap.

But the question is "how cheap can I make it?" How about $0?  OK, that's a lie.  The term $0 filmmaking assumes you have a camera of some kind. Every film costs, the question is how much do you have available and how big do you want your movie to be?  Maybe you want to make that $210 million blockbuster, but most likely you don?'t have the cash to do it.  You?'re going to have to get a studio to back you?but first you'll have to prove that you can make a film. 

In order to make a $0 film, you have to make some concessions.  You can't remake Star Wars on a $0 budget.  Can't be done.  In fact, if you want to keep down the budget, most special FX should probably be crossed off your mental list. Even though there are some great sites that will show you how to do special FX very cheaply, for example, Bottom line, special FX cost money.

Every film has certain requirements, first and foremost being a way to capture the story, a camera.  But if you already have a camera, maybe you have one for recording your child?'s first steps or anything else, you can make a movie.  If you have a camera or access to one, you only need one more thing to begin?a script. 

One of the first rules of filmmaking is that the script drives everything. 

An audience will sit through a poorly made movie if, at its heart, is a truly engaging story. The key to $0 budget filmmaking is all in the planning of your script.  Devising a $0 budget film is completely backwards. Typically, you have an idea in your head for a great story, funny believable and endearing characters, etc. You can make films that way, but you?''ll be spending a lot more money. No, the first part of writing the script should be finding your location. 

Locations can be very expensive. Filming in places like L.A. or New York can cost you a lot of money?if you want to cordon off streets or attain any kind of privacy. As a $0 budget filmmaker, that shouldn?'t interest you. In a way, you?'re like a guerrilla filmmaker now. You?'ve got to look at the world around you, at places where you can film for free or for very little compensation. Do you live near any woods or parks or mountains?  Can you place the majority of your action in your house or apartment?  In a car, under a bridge?anywhere that won?'t bite into your pocketbook. 

Because the key to $0 budget is figuring out how to do things for free if possible.

Now you?'ve figured out that you?'re going to do your story in your apartment and at your best friend?'s house. Two locations.

Remember this, the more locations and the more characters you have in your script, the more money you will spend.

All stories consist of three elements: Location, Characters, and Plot. With location set, you can concentrate on either characters or plot. Decide whose story you want to tell, or what do you want to happen there?

What kind of story do you want to tell? If you have two locations, that makes for one person living at each location. Now you have the beginnings of any of a million stories. A romantic comedy? A drama? A murderer and a victim?

Secondly, do you have access to anyone who?'d want to be in a movie? Even if you don?'t, don?'t worry, there are plenty of websites dedicated to helping actors meet up with directors, for example,, etc.  

And you don?'t necessarily have to worry about paying them in anything other than maybe a meal or two.  Most actors who are trying to break in need footage for their own clip reels.  So if you plan to distribute your film in any way, they will get recognition.

But first you have to figure out how many actors you need, so we go back to creating your script.  The logical step after discovering your location should be your plot.

Your story could be about anything, as long as you keep the core of the action in your pre-picked locations. Once, you have figured out your plot, start writing the script. Put in as many characters as you need, but only as many as you need to tell the story. Even though you can find actors who'll be in your movie for free, you should still at least feed them.

More actors means more food. Most scripts of this type are going to boil down to two distinct types of story, drama or horror--maybe a suspense thriller, if done right. And drama is definitely the cheaper option. There are great stories in the lives of everyday people. People fall in love, break up, get sick, have accidents, commit crimes, get caught and die every day.

If you build your script around a few relatable characters that an audience can really identify with, you'll have a great movie. If you keep simple locations and a limited cast, you shouldn't have to go bankrupt making it.

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