While us no-budget filmmakers face a variety of challenges - having no budget being the chief among them - there’s one area where our cups run-eth over, and that’s free online resources. There are more YouTube channels and audio podcasts and websites dedicated to sharing no- and ultra-low-budget filmmaking tips than there are conspiracy theories about what happened to that missing Malaysian airliner, which we all know was the result of a bigfoot uprising.
In fact, there are so many online resources available that it’s a little overwhelming. For every one that is well made and helpful, there are a hundred more that are, to be kind, absolute crap.
I spent a few hundred hours pouring over a lot of what’s out there to find which I found to be the most helpful. And after a short incarceration at a mental facility for trying to gouge my own eyes out, I've compiled my favorites into the list below.
Please note that these are the ones that I found helpful. You might have a completely different opinion, and of course you would be completely wrong. If there any that you felt deserve to be on this list, please share them with us!
Over the years, Ryan Connolly, along with his brother Josh and a few of his friends have produced what I think is the most entertaining online show for no- and low-budget filmmakers (Film Riot).
They delve into low budget lighting solutions, cheap and easy special effects, how to audition actors, building your own gear, and tons of other subjects.
The production quality of the show is excellent, everyone on the show is funny, and it’s chock full of useful advice and information. Many of the shows (especially the early ones) start off with a skit that is usually funny haha and features some special effect, and then they spend the rest of the episode explaining how they pulled it off.
In a few episodes, vendors or friends have lent them gear such as RED cameras, etc., and some viewers criticized them for it since most no-budget filmmakers don’t have access to such expensive equipment. The very valid counter to this criticism is that they hope that not every project of yours is going to be no-budget and that eventually you’ll be able to rent more expensive gear. By showing you what else it out there, you’ll be better prepared when you finally can afford to get your gruby little mitts on C300.
I recommend that you start with the first episode and work your way forward. The early episodes are still very relevant, especially for lighting and practical effects, but avoid the one or two episodes that feature interviews with <snore>Full Sail University staff </snore>.
John August (Big Fish, Charlie Angels: Full Throttle) and Craig Mazon (Identity Thief, The Hangover Parts II & III) are your hosts for this weekly audio podcast about screenwriting and things that screenwriters are interested in (johnaugust.com).
I’m not going to lie – when I first saw that this was an hour long weekly podcast about writing, I thought that this was going to be the cure for my insomnia. I mean, how can two guys get together and talk about screenwriting for an hour every week?
Turns out I was wrong, and the show is pretty interesting. Both hosts are successful screenwriters, and they’re the only ones on our list based in L.A., but don’t dismiss them because they’re not “indie” – a lot of what they discuss concerns writing regardless of who’s producing it.
They’re down to earth and a little corny, which I like. I particularly enjoy a segment called the Three Page Challenge, which involves the hosts providing detailed critiques of the first three pages of user submitted scripts. They can be harsh, but never mean, and you can learn a lot about your own writing by listening to them discuss what works and what doesn’t. And the best part is when they don’t agree on something and go back and forth about why each feels the way they do, which teaches you this: there is no one right way to write a script.
If you do any kind of visual effects with After Effects then you should already familiar with the wit and wisdom of Andrew Kramer and his amazing tutorials (videocopilot.net).
If you’re not familiar with Video Copilot and you use After Effects, go to the site and behold for yourself the scores of tutorials that Mr. Kramer has given unto the masses. For After Effects noobs, start with his Basic Training videos and work your way through from there.
The tutorials are very detailed and he presents you with a lot of information but in a very easy to digest format. The files from each tutorial are available for download for you to try out each lesson on your own.
And the best part? It’s all free.
There’s also a store that offers packs of really cool effects to incorporate into your projects – everything from muzzle flashes and bullet hit and explosions to jet fighters and armored trucks to clouds and skies and music
Indy Mogul is the original no-budget tutorial videos (Indy Mogul). Back when the earth was still molten, Indy Mogul was a series of crudely made tutorial videos shot in creator Erick Beck’s back yard.
In fact, the original name of the show was Backyard FX.
Since those early days, the earth cooled, and the channel evolved. Becoming more polished and winning a Webby for best DIY in the Variety Show category.
Eventually Griffon Hammond and Russell Hasenauer took over hosting duties. They produced several videos a week featuring gear review, news items, links to cool movies made by viewers, behind the scenes footage from their own movies, and all sorts of miscellaneous goodies designed to bring mankind one step closer to enlightenment.
Despite their more polished veneer, they never wandered from their original mission of educating and providing resources and entertainment for no-budget filmmakers.
In December 2013, YouTube, who owns Indy Mogul, cancelled production of new episodes, despite its large and loyal audience. Still, the 1200 or so videos remain online and are an invaluable resource for the no-budget filmmaker.
If there’s a topic that you want to find out more about, chances are there’s an episode out there with the answers you need. Also, Griffon and Russell both have personal YouTube channels where they continue to post helpful videos.
DSLR Film Noob
I found DeeJay Scharton by accident while searching for something else on YouTube. His videos are specifically geared toward the DSLR video shooter, and they’re short and to the point, usually only running between 1 ½ to 7 minutes.
He’s energetic, entertaining, and usually focuses on reviewing gear that’s in the price range of your average no-budget weekend warrior (like me).
He has 2 YouTube channels – one with his regular videos and another one for quick unpolished videos that he can quickly fire off (giggity).
In addition to his YouTube channels, he also has a blog (dslrfilmnoob.com) and an audio podcast called SplatterCast, which is one of the oldest and longest running horror-themed podcasts in this part of the galaxy. Although, at 2 hours an episode is bit beyond the scope of my attention span.
If you’re a no-budget filmmaking chump like me, you’ll enjoy Scharton and the DSLR Film Noob YouTube channels.
No Film School
Another Webby award winner, Ryan Koo started the blog that is No Film School (nofilmschool.com) as a site “by filmmakers, for filmmakers”.
Luring new readers, Koo had the ingenious idea of writing an e-book on DSLR filmmaking and then offering it as a free download to anyone who signs up for the site’s newsletter. And it worked. No Film School has a ton of followers.
The site offers a constant stream of articles on a variety of independent film related subjects, though topics tend to lean toward cameras and gear. Most of the articles are brief and provide an overview of videos or articles from other sites. It’s a decent aggregate of interesting things from around the web.
While there’s a lot of camera related stuff, there’s also plenty of articles about screenwriting and crowdfunding and all sorts of other tasty topics.
And I enjoy the newsletter, which is a simple list of links to all of their articles over the past week, so you can choose which ones you want to read without scrolling through the site itself.
If you like snarky Brits, you’ll enjoy Phillip Bloom’s site (philipbloom.net). He’s a cinematographer and director who has worked for Lucasfilm and the BBC.
His blog and videos focus mostly on mid-range cameras such as the Black Magic cinema camera and C300. But there are also some great videos on lower priced DSLRs, including a 3 part series on how to get amazing footage from a t2i. Definitely worth checking out.
While this list isn’t all-inclusive, hopefully you found at least one new thing on here to help and entertain you. I was surprised to find that there weren't any produced by locals here in Georgia. If you know of any, please share them with us!