Microbudgeting Media

Sasha Tolmachyov, Media Lab Intern, Emerson College 2016

The first time I touched a real boom pole was during my first year of college. I was finally  working with what the professionals used. On the surface, this was a blessing, but it was also a weird transition from what I was used to. In high school, I was the sound recordist on a film project, and we did not have such technology at our disposal. Instead, we had a microphone, a yardstick, and some duct tape. It worked like a charm.

There are tons of different cameras and software on the market that promise to outperform one another. Even cellphones are competing with each other over their filming capabilities. Now it’s easier than ever before for an average joe to make videos. In my experience, amateur filmmaking falls into one of two categories: painfully obviously bad, or pleasantly surprisingly good. If you’re able to exhibit mastery of even the most rudimentary equipment, you’ll have a better chance of creating something worth watching and sharing. Which just goes to show, even if you have the latest, flashiest gizmos, but don’t know how to effectively tell a story, you could find yourself overshadowed by a video shot entirely on someone’s smart phone. (And I’m not talking about videos of cats.)

So you want to make a video? Great! Your budget is low/nonexistent? No problem! There are plenty of free resources out there to help aspiring media producers like yourself:

1. Online Tutorials: There are a lot of nice folks on the Internet who want to impart their knowledge on beginners. Just go to YouTube, search for something basic, like “How to use a DSLR camera”, and a plethora of how-to videos will appear, made by filmmakers, for filmmakers. The best part about video tutorials is that you can actually see how the equipment is operated, and if you have the same DSLR by your side, follow along with what’s happening onscreen!

2. 30-Day Trials: Editing software manufacturers offer free trials of their products online. You can download a basic version of programs like Adobe Premiere, Final Cut, and Avid, toy around with them for a month, and determine which one is right for you. This will help you make an educated decision when you commit to purchasing a complete version.

3. Social Networks: A key part of filmmaking is collaboration. Depending on the size of your project, it’s good to know people with various skill sets who can help you out. Websites like mandy.com are virtual bulletin boards where you can post classified ads for crew members and actors. The same principle applies to Craigslist, or even Facebook! It’s all a matter of knowing who you need, and properly explaining what your project entails. You may very well find collaborators for life.

4. Kickstarter: This website makes raising money for your project an interactive experience. First, you must create a “pitch”, in which you state the type of project you’re involved in, what it is about, and why the viewer should donate to you. Offer incentives for contributing certain dollar amounts, like a producing credit in the movie, a free poster for the movie, a DVD copy of the movie, etc. Invite charity, but do not demand it. Be sincere and persuasive. Once you’ve reached your fundraising goal, you’ll have the incentive to make the best project possible, knowing full well how many strangers have entrusted you with their money. And if your final product is a success, your reputation on kickstarter.com will guarantee ongoing support in the future.

With these handy dandy tools, I’m sure you can achieve greatness. Just remember, no matter what happens, a positive attitude will make the learning process that much smoother. So go ahead, grab your camera and turn it onto the world. You’d be amazed how much there is to see.