Independent films are breaking through the film industry, yet they are much more difficult to create than one would initially believe. A strategy for creating a well made independent film is making sure that you are utilizing the strongest forms of production design you can.

Let’s discuss some strategies for creating stellar production design, which, as a reminder, is the visual elements of a film.

Do Your Research

While this may seem like an obvious point, make sure when you’re creating your indie film that you’ve done your research. 

The Film Fund Podcast: Colleen Brady
The Film Fund Podcast: Colleen Brady

If you’re writing a western, make sure you’re educated on what elements must be included in a western. Likewise, if you’re writing a historical romance, make sure you’ve done your research on the time period and are creating realistic characters and a realistic romance.

Western landscape film fund.

For example, the 1939 film Stagecoach is a tremendous example of well conducted research. Stagecoach incorporates all of the elements of a western, while simultaneously creating an accurate visual of what the west would have looked like in that time period.

Writing a Film for a Particular Location that Already Exists 

Something that can also be helpful when creating your independent film is basing your film in a location that already exists. In doing so, this can help you to save money since you will not have to spend money on props, sets, and costumes since you are already writing about a place that exists. 

A prime example of this is from the television series Dawson’s Creek, featuring an aspiring filmmaker as its protagonist. Dawson, the series’ protagonist, is making a film to submit for a film festival and he utilizes his back yard, his bedroom, and his friends as backdrops and actors in his film. This saves him money and enables him to spend money on other production elements in his film.

Write About Props you Already Have or are Affordable

Similar to the last point, if you write about props that you already have, then it saves you money when you are budgeting for your film. For example, if you’re creating a film that is set in a town like the one you live in, work into your plot props you already own. Like, if you want your character to have a particular hobby, centralize that hobby around objects you already have. 

To circle back to the Dawson’s Creek example, Dawson’s film centralizes around characters who are passionate about boats and life on the water. Therefore, because he lives on a creek, he is able to use his own boat and his own dock as props and settings in his independent film.

Adirondack chairs set up on a pier film fund.

Hire a Production Designer

Something else that can be helpful would be to hire a production designer. Although this would take money from your budget, it would be beneficial to have a production designer who could help you to budget your film and help you to bring your vision for your film to life.

The job of a production designer is to help you budget, organize wardrobes, lighting, and filming locations. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to film or what you would like your characters to wear, it could be helpful to utilize a production designer to help you organize these things.

Work Closely with People You Know Who Are Willing to Help You 

If you’re having trouble figuring out what you want your actors to wear or how you want them to look, try working with people you know who have specialized skills.

For example,  if you are unsure what you want your characters’ hair to look like or how to do their hair the way you envision, but you know someone who is a hairdresser, try reaching out to them for assistance. Similarly, if you know someone who is skilled as a seamstress or has an eye for fashion, try reaching out to that friend to see if they are willing to help.

Although you will likely still have to pay those friends, it can almost certainly be said that the rate you will pay them will be far less than a professional hairdresser or costume designer.

Study Film

Camera set up on top of worn books film fund.

This is another seemingly obvious point, but before starting to craft your film, be sure to familiarize yourself with what goes into making a film.

For example, even if you’re a skilled writer, remember that writing a screenplay is different from writing a novel or a short story. Similarly, it is important to familiarize yourself with lighting techniques, camera angles and camera movements, and different ways to utilize space and time within your film before beginning to film.

Although a director and a production designer can help you with these things, it is important to educate yourself before beginning the endeavor of creating an indie film.

If you’re feeling ready to begin producing your own film, consider entering our contest to win up to $10,000 to fund your independent film!

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