Producing a successful micro-budget film is about optimizing your on-set workflow to capture the most amount of footage in the least amount of time.
There are plenty of ways you can do this, but today I want to share my 4 step workflow for getting there.
Here it is in a nutshell:
- Block scenes at the top of the day
- Rehearse talent during lighting setup
- Capture < 3 takes/shot (averaging 1 – 2 pages/hr)
- Record wild sound & b-roll after each scene wraps
By following the above, you will be able to capture 10 – 15 pages per day under the right conditions.
Let’s briefly unpack each step:
Production days are always smoother when the entire crew takes 30 minutes at the top of the day to walk through each scene with the actors.
This can be led by the 1st AD (if you have one) or by yourself.
It sets the pace by making cast & crew more proactive and in sync. This in turn speeds up the day dramatically.
During this phase, you want to determine:
- Where the actors are going to be
- Where the cameras are going to be
- What coverage angles you need
- What lighting setup you will need
- Any other technical considerations
Having one in-depth conversation up front save you from 100 unnecessary conversations during the day.
Talent Rehearsal & Lighting
The two biggest variables that can make or break your day are:
- How prepared your actors are
- How much time you need to spend on lighting
Most indie productions spend the majority of their day in discussions with talent (figuring out performance) or in discussions with the camera team (figuring out lighting).
You can eliminate wasted time by giving yourself a short window before each scene to rehearse and pre-light simultaneously.
It’s so much easier to dial in performances before the camera starts rolling.
The same goes for lighting.
Plan as much as you can before you get to set, but give yourself 10 minutes before each scene to get everyone into the zone.
Now once you start rolling, you don’t have to stop until you have it.
Limit Takes Per Shot
On a micro-budget production, capturing a sufficient amount of coverage is always a major challenge.
When you’re working that quickly, it’s easy to lose sight of “less important” shots that you end up desperately needing in the edit.
To solve this issue, optimize your workflow to capture the widest variety of shots so you can have maximum coverage.
My rule of thumb for getting there:
Limit yourself to < 3 takes for each shot or coverage angle.
If you don’t give yourself a limit, you may end up capturing way too many takes that you don’t need, and neglecting coverage that you do.
3 takes isn’t a lot, but it’s enough to get it done – especially with a well rehearsed cast and crew.
And at that pace, you should be able to shoot up to 2 pages per hour.
Wild Sound & B-Roll
It’s unfortunately all too common to neglect important sound or visual details when you are working so quickly.
But those extra details make all the difference. The two biggest missing pieces are often:
- Clean performance/dialogue recordings
- Additional b-roll for inserts or transitions
If you don’t have these assets in the edit, it can mean a ton of ADR work and potential re-shoots or pick ups, which are both extremely costly.
If you do have them in place, you will save yourself time & money while improving your final product dramatically.
After you wrap each scene, take 5-10 minutes to record wild lines with actors, sound effects, and inserts/b-roll shots.
Start with wild lines – have your actors read the script into the mic for audio only to ensure you have every line recorded clean.
Next, have the actors play out the scene with no dialogue so you can record all of the sound effects.
Finally, shoot some b-roll of the environment to capture any inserts, cutaways, or transitional shots that may be helpful to you.
These extra little bits and pieces will be a lifesaver in the edit.
That’s it. Hopefully all of this has been helpful in streamlining your on-set workflow!
When you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:
1. Make a feature film today: The No-Budget Feature Film Blueprint
2. Build your network and sharpen your craft in our community: The Backlot
3. Color grade & polish your footage with my post-production tools on: Cinecolor