Low Budget Indie Films: How Are They Financed and Can They Make Money?

February 16, 2019
Is it possible for a limited budget flick to make money? The exact figure required for a film to be considered low budget is relative. Major studios would say $20 – 30 million, guilds and unions may say anything under $5 million, but for completely new independent directors you will want to consider this number somewhere between $100k and $500k, or even less.

Is it really possible to produce a successful film for less than one hundred grand? The answer is a resounding yes!

Low Budget Films Can Make Money

You don’t have to spend a fortune to create a masterpiece. This has been shown time and time again. In fact, sometimes keeping the budget low provides more margin for profit. If the film flies and costs little to produce, then you are on to a real winner.

The classic example of a low budget indie film that made it big, is The Blair Witch Project. This simple fantasy horror explores the recovered footage of a group of teenagers camping out, and it cost around $60,000 to produce. The film has now grossed over $250 million and has developed into a full franchise, complete with books and sequels, making it one of the most successful indie films of all time.

But this was not a one-off or a fluke. There have been many other films that have taken this route. El Mariachi, directed by Robert Rodriguez, cost just $7,000 to make, and grossed over $2 million. The director is said to have financed the film partly by signing up for medical testing.

Kevin Smith’s Clerks is another prime example, costing just $27,000 to make and grossing $3.1 million, 114x more than the budget.

These films serve as an inspiration to all aspiring directors and filmmakers. It is also possible to make a film on a reasonable and accessible budget, and still make a tonne of money. It’s much easier to secure finance for $10-20k than it is to approach Disney for $3 million.

Financing A Low Budget Film

It’s very difficult for young, inexperienced or unproven directors to gain funding from major studios. Those who could take a shot on your film may be reluctant to take the risk without proof of prior success. More often than not, this leaves the aspiring directors unable to finish their production.

But there are plenty of other ways to fund a film, especially if it is low budget. Raising the money yourself is one approach, whether through friends and family, your own finances or loans and credit cards. Bad credit loans are also an option for anyone who can’t secure a line of credit.

Private investment is another option, but again, this can be tough if you are new to filmmaking. If you’re struggling to gain interest, gather the first round of funding first and use it to secure talent for your film. This can make you more credible among private investors.

Pre-sales are another method. This is where you sell some of the domestic and international licensing rights before the film is produced, often at more favourable rates. This can work, but the pre-sale market is drying up at the moment.

Incentives are also available from grants or art programs. These can be used to part-finance a low budget film. Whichever avenue you take, don’t give up! Keep your budget needs small and aim to secure enough to make your film.

Photo caption: The horror genre lends itself well to low budget production. Photo by Joan Soralla // CC BY 2.0


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