Zero Budget Short Films Needn’t Look Cheap

It is almost always the case that our personal character traits influence how we do things in our profession. For instance, I am obsessed with simplicity, elegance and perfection. Naturally, it shows in how I think as a database architect, and how I design and manage database systems, at work.

But what about the opposite? Can the habits learned through work shape us? I think, Yes. I spent decades at work, looking for things that could break, and figuring out how to avoid them. My work taught me how to do more with less, and squeeze the best quality out of whatever I’ve got.

So what happens when somebody with such natural and acquired traits sets out to try something new, out of their field of expertise? We shall see.

That something new for me was a zero budget short film that I decided to make this summer. It was intended to be a boredom buster — a project to keep my family engaged during the quarantine. The goal was to spend nothing on this short film, hire only family and friends to act, use equipment I already have, and make a quality short with a simple plot that leaves the viewers thinking, “Wow. Did that really cost nothing?”.

That’s how ‘The Boogeyman’ came into being.

Naturally, I had many challenges to overcome. First, my actors never acted before. Then how do I draw decent performances out of them? I managed by writing a script around characters modeled after my non-actors; so they can be themselves.

Second, I couldn’t setup my location to meet the script’s needs. What did I do then? Same technique as above. I made the location, the furniture, and the environment, all a part of my story. There are also other tricks, which I will save for a future writeup.

Third, filming technique. I didn’t have fancy equipment. No lighting gear. No sync sound option. No helpers either. It had to be a one-man show, using just a camera and a tripod. But, that was wonderful! Instead of feeling constrained, I felt liberated. I didn’t have to worry what’s the best way to light a scene or what’s the right way get a certain shot — because often I only had one option to chose from.

Finally, post production. This was done using free editing software. It was hard work, but it was something I felt I was in full control of. Why? Because this part was done on a computer — which is my domain.

And thus came ‘The Boogeyman’. It’s 10 minutes long. It’s a zero budget short film that doesn’t look cheap. Why don’t you watch and decide?

Short story writer and film maker.