When I used to hear the term “low-budget, DIY filmmaker,” I’d cringe because in my mind I was thinking, “Why would I want to learn about DIY low-budget filmmaking? That title doesn’t correspond with my ultimate goals. I don’t want to make low-budget movies; I want to make big-budget movies; I want to work with famous actors and produce real content.” The honest truth is that most filmmakers working today are DIY low-budget filmmakers to an extent, regardless of what kind of budgets they have to work with.
Anyone from Tarantino to Scorsese, Robert Rodriguez, and Christopher Nolan use and utilize DIY, low-budget filmmaking techniques in their current work, despite the humongous budgets they appear to be working under. In addition, most of them started from nothing and had to prove themselves with a DIY low-budget film before ever getting a chance to work for a major studio. And, even after getting hired by bigger companies, they are still required to adhere to budgets.
Christopher Nolan made three short films before making Following for a mere $6,000. Robert Rodriguez had a lifetime of practice as a DIY filmmaker before making El Mariachi for $7,000; Quentin Tarantino was going to shoot Reservoir Dogs himself with the money he made from selling the True Romance script to Tony Scott. Before that, he made a low-budget DIY indie feature called My Best Friend’s Birthday, which got burned in a lab fire and a big chunk of the film was lost.
Even someone as celebrated as Steven Spielberg made three low-budget shorts before making his first feature, Firelight, for a mere $400. Anyone and everyone who is doing something in this industry started as a low-budget, DIY filmmaker – and the skills they developed over that period of time are ingrained in the way they make their movies today. It’s the ultimate prerequisite to being successful in this business, and it’s something that you need to embrace.