For the big-budget Hollywood producer, the concept of production values is a mute point. Production values are practically a given. When you have budgets approaching $100 million, you can put whatever image you want to on the screen. Production values really apply to the world of low-budget filmmakers. They are essential for their success. Everybody wants production quality, but the key for the guerrilla and the low-budget filmmaker is to obtain it through value.
Have you seen the recent J. J. Abram’s film, Super 8? It’s a great illustration of production values. In fact, the term is used several times throughout the movie. In one key scene, Charles Kaznyk assembles his friends to help him make his Super 8 movie that he is planning to enter into the Cleveland International Student Film Super 8 Festival. Charles has little or no money to make his movie. So he’s looking to play every angle and make his movie look bigger than it actually is. He finds a great location at a remote train station. He has his actors dress in the proper wardrobe. He also convinces Alice to be the protagonist’s wife to add an emotional impact and to give the audience someone to care about.
The train did not cost Charles a dime. It was just there free for the taking. As a low-budget filmmaker, you have to see the opportunity and seize it. The best production values are the ones that you didn’t plan and that didn’t cost you an arm and a leg. However, they helped you to create a believable and authentic image.