How To Make Independent Horror Films Under $10,000

If wondering how to make an independent horror film for under $10,000, it’s important to realize in today’s economy that $10,000 is not a lot of money. So know you need to:

  • Learn by example.
  • Know your limitations.
  • Take advantage of everything free and/or cheap.
  1. Study. A good first step in learning how to make an independent horror film for under $10,000 is to study past projects done on extremely low budgets and their producers. (And there are a number these.)
  2. Consider the master of low-budget production. Roger Corman (a.k.a. “King of the B Movies”) wrote a book titled “How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime”that can teach you a lot. And though Corman’s productions typically cost more than $10,000, his principles are effective when making an independent horror film for under $10,000.     
  3. Success on the cheap. You can also study low-budget projects such as 2009’s “Paranormal Activity”and learn by example, since this film was made for approximately $15,000…which you can cut down to $10,000 if you’re creative enough. This particular film can also serve as a source of inspiration, due since to date it has grossed in excess of $100 million.
  4. More specifically…The majority of the “Paranormal Activity” budget was spent on equipment, so take note if you’re starting from scratch. But take heart too, since a fine digital camera like the Panasonic SDR-H200 runs under $800 and editing software like CyberLink PowerDirector 8 Deluxe lists for under $50/  
  5. More specifically still. Today’s digital cameras are quite versatile and don’t necessarily require external microphones or lighting to capture images and sound (which can often be enhanced later with the proper film editing software). So unless you feel such peripherals necessary you can film away without such components.
  6. Improvise whenever possible. Years ago, Vincent Price advised filmmakers on a budget to emulate blood on film through the use of ketchup (as opposed to the goop special effects artists charge a fortune to supply). So keep such a prolific thought in mind as a general principle showing that you should never spend $10 when you can get the same result for $1.      
  7. There’s no business like Show Business. You should basically forget about working with professionals, since making an independent horror film for under $10,000 makes this nearly impossible. Instead you should consider anxious students with stars in their eyes, repertory theatre players dreaming of fame and/or regular folks who just happen to have natural talent in acting, cinematography, etc.
  8. Use what’s available. Blake Edwards wrote (paraphrased), “In an actor’s world, things are seldom what they seem. A prince is a pauper, a beggar is a king…and a shotgun is a mop.” So remember this statement while realizing that likewise your living room can be a brothel, your buddy Ed’s gas station can be a police station and a toy pistol can be used on film as a lethal weapon…thus saving a fortune on props and sets.        
  9. Brown-bagging it. When making an independent horror film for under $10,000 it must be understood by all the cast and crew that there are no frills. In other words, everyone better eat before they show up, throw a sandwich in a sack or bring money to chip-in for take-out…and likewise  use their own clothing for wardrobe, etc.
  10. There is no “I” in team…and there is no second comma in $10,000. More than likely, making an independent horror film for under $10,000 will require that the participants take a percentage of future profits as opposed to anything more than payments covering their expenses. So keep this in mind as you seek out your cast and crew.
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