Gareth Edwards is now one of my fimmaking heroes for his work shooting his postapocalyptic sci-fi movie Monsters, (released October 29th, 2010) which the young British director realized that shrewd spending could go a long way. He managaed to make his debut feature for somewhere aorund $500,000 and make it look like 10 times that amount, using cheap remote tropical locals, prosumer camera equipment, homemade special effects, and a mobile film crew of just seven. He works speaks directly to me because I have been an expat in Asia now for over a decade with a lot of my own crazy travel experiences. I can really see how combining a holiday in a remote tropical location and guerilla filmmaking would be very feasible. His methods are something I will be definielty incorporating into my own filmmaking approach in the near future.
By managing the film’s budget in the most economical way, Edwards learned a few lessons about personal finance.
1- Don’t waste money on bells and whistles
The first step in keeping his film’s budget down was choosing the right camera. For Edwards, it was a matter of choosing what works well and isn’t laden with extras. Directors are likely to go for expensive cameras that shoot on 35mm film to garner those beautiful cinematic visuals.
“Because of these new depth-of-field cameras that are coming out with video, you don’t need all these elements to make things look cinematic,” says Edwards, who used the Sony EX3, a mid-range camera between commercial and professional.
It suited Edward’s production just fine, producing stunning visuals that audiences will see whenMonsters comes out. It also eliminated the need for a film crew to manage lighting and camera movements, since the video technology doesn’t require such bells and whistles.
Edwards can still relate to people who want to wield the latest and most advanced technology.
“If something’s got two more buttons than it had before, then they’ll buy the new one. They want the new phone or the new camera or something that’s just a little bit better.”
Edwards’ advice: Spend less on the little gimmicks you don’t need and buy what’s affordable, functional and necessary.
2- Purchase when you can – avoid renting
When Edwards was shopping for cameras for his production, the option of renting was available. However, the director realized that for the price of renting a camera for a longer period of time, he could just purchase it. As a bonus, his financiers got to keep the cameras for future productions. It makes for a smarter investment.
Edwards notes that the same can be said for other everyday products, like cars, condos and even DVDs. After all, if you keep a DVD rental for long enough, Blockbuster would charge you more than the retail price for it.
3- Vacation in interesting but affordable places
Shooting in affordable locations like Guatemala, Costa Rica and Mexico made perfect economic sense for Edwards. For starters, he managed to throw small amounts of money around to locals, so that he could shoot on their property, and garnered many essential performances from the nonactors available there.
These countries also gave Edwards great postapocalyptic-like visuals to include in his movie, like when he saw a man at a border control in a mask spraying a truck with some ominous-looking gas. “To organize that and pay for that would have cost a fortune,” Edwards says, as he relishes how great sights turn up for free in these locations.
Instead of spending wads of cash on resorts in expensive locales, try seeing something exciting for cheap. “When you go somewhere as exotic and interesting as Guatemala, Mexico or Costa Rica, you’re guaranteed so many details and random things that are all visually really interesting,” Edwards says. “You don’t have to organize anything. Something will just turn up. It’s about being open-minded.”
4- Don’t be tricked by sales
Though the only bargains Edwards met with are wholesale nonactors during his shoot, he couldn’t help but offer this advice. Don’t purchase what you weren’t planning to buy, just because it’s on sale.
Bottom line: Keep away from sales. Nothing good can come of it.