Zero Budget Filmmaking: A Creative Philosophy

What is zero budget filmmaking?

Here at Outward, we view zero or no budget filmmaking as a creative space to experiment with visual language, teach yourself budgetary discipline and refine screenwriting skills. It’s also a route for independent filmmakers and visual artists who have no industry resources: the outsiders, the free thinkers, the conceptualists. We’re talking about the ones who create, whatever way they can, no matter the challenges facing them. We’re the belts and braces end of independent filmmaking.

Though there are broad definitions of what ‘zero budget’ means in industry terms, we consider the financial thresholds to be up to £10,000 for a feature film and up to £1,000 for a short film. But these are ceiling amounts, not set rules. Rules, as we know, can be bent and even broken to achieve something artistically satisfying. If you think your £10 film is proper ‘zero budget’ filmmaking, we agree with you. Films are getting cheaper to make, thanks to digital technology. As a result, tools of the trade are now accessible on everyday devices and through applications such as mobile phones, PCs and cloud-based software.

Zero budget filmmaking can also be a useful gateway to a wider film career. There are many examples of established filmmakers starting their careers on zero budget projects, namely Christopher Nolan, Robert Rodriguez and David Lynch, which proves this is a tried and tested formula for success. And a new generation of filmmakers are making innovative debuts with less and less money all the time.

Now You Can Make Your Own Film

Removing a traditional budget, for the most part, as an obstacle to making a film is a great way of realising your own dream projects. If all you have is a tenner scrunched up in your wallet, call up a bunch of friends and put your heads together. What can you borrow? Where can you film for free? Who of you wants to act? If you don’t have a camera, or can’t afford one, use your phone. Edit it on your bundled-in computer software. Light naturally or with work lights and practicals. Comb charity shops or use your own clothes for costumes. And teach yourself a few practical special effects (we’ve made plenty of fake blood, alcohol and even rain effects to greater or lesser success!)

The point is there’s no excuse any longer. The tools are there for you to try things out and make something. For the true creative, it is an exciting challenge, not an obstacle to be feared.

Be Part Of Filmmaking Freedom

We practice what we preach here: none of us are funded by industry routes or have access to wealthy trust funds! We have day jobs and, occasionally, a bit of luck. And we’ve done alright, too. Why not check out our short films for some inspiration, which range in budget from the £90 award-winning ‘@MovieGeek’ to social media satire ‘Chloe: Daily’, which was filmed on Zoom for a truly authentic no budget of £0 during the 2020 lockdown:

And in 2021, ‘Nightlens’, our first feature film, is set for release. It was made for just 10K:

More to come on ‘Nightlens’ very soon…

We want you to join in our discussion about zero budget filmmaking and share our passion for film. If you’ve made a masterpiece for the price of a second-hand car or can’t get enough of the creative freedom of zero budget projects, invested only with the true guerilla spirit, we want to hear from you. We want to see your films, promote them, talk about them. We want you to join us from the underground and create a community that helps other independent filmmakers, storytellers and artists come into the light.

Let us know how we can help promote your work by contacting us on social media or via the contact page on this website. You can also support our work further by subscribing to our YouTube and Vimeo channels.

There are other organisations who share our beliefs when it comes to the democratisation of filmmaking. For additional resources, explore further:

Raindance Film School

No Film School

Can-do Festival