Do I Need Millions of Dollars to Shoot my film?

By Daniel Patiño


That’s a question that a lot of people ask themselves. They watch a movie noticing aspects like the

special effects, the expenses of car explosions, vast decorations, and other concerns when making a

very expensive movie. They are taking Hollywood movies as a reference for sure, probably without

watching other types of independent movies at all. But when you get really interested in making

your own movie, you start to find out that you don’t need millions of dollars to tell your story to the


Some experts would say that the biggest aspects in a film are the script, direction of the

photography, art direction, and the cast. But without a really good story, you can’t basically do too

much. Lots of recent horror movies have a great direction of photography but are very predictable.

You can also see great actors in the worst movies that you can’t possibly believe that they are in.

Art decoration in a movie is very attractive, and you can find a great deal of people that admire it,

but at the end, it is not art decoration what makes a movie great. It is the script where everything

begins. It is not what assures you that the movie is going to be great but for starting is what assures

you that any problem that you have when shooting the movie is not about the story but anything

else. Another good thing about writing a thorough script is that you can adapt it to your real context

and your budget. You are not thinking of Al Pacino or Robert De Niro to cast your characters while

you are writing the story. Also, you are not thinking about writing a scene where a car jumps off a


However, there are some things that you do have to your benefit when you are writing your adapted

script. This, of course, can vary according to the person. Maybe you own a big country house that

can be used as the most important location of your movie; maybe your sister is very beautiful and

can be used as the main actress (directing her correctly if she isn’t an actress), perhaps you have

some costumes in your place that can be used as well. You get the idea. The most important and the

key is that you think about materials that you might use in your movie production while you are

writing your script.

Hollywood industry has a philosophy for their generic movies that doesn’t have to be the same one

as yours. Your context needs claim for other kinds of movies. What matters is not the subject but the

treatment (style as the author) you give to your movie. You must understand that your parallel goal

apart from making a great movie is to adapt your budget to your narrative and sequences of the

movie. Once you accomplish that, you can be sure that you have a great deal of your movie


Have you ever done a short film without spending too much money? Have you ever done a short

film without too much money that is actually pretty good? Then if you have done it and you feel

proud about it, what stops you from doing ten or twelve short films and putting them together



You must think “I don’t want to shoot a mediocre movie”, “People are going to laugh because of

my actors”, or “I don’t have a great camera”. All these worries have answers. Your actors can be

managed with your treatment as a director with your camera and perspective. When having a great

actor is common to see that the director gives him lots of space to develop his abilities as an actor,

but if you don’t have great actors you need to take that space and develop your skills as a film

director changing the staging or mise-en- scene. Also, having a great camera is not what makes a

great film. The only thing you can get out of having an expensive camera is higher resolution and

definition, period. It is true that is better if you have an A-1 camera, but if you don’t you can always

take an advantage of the aesthetic that your camera gives you and adapt your script to it.

Remember the important thing here is to be resourceful. And the only way that you can make a

mediocre movie is not writing a meticulous script with its technical writing that provides you the

base from the beginning to understand what is that you need for making that wonderful movie that

you want.


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