Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Three Cardinal Sins of Low-Budget Filmmaking - Part 2

No. 2 – Casting bad actors in supporting roles.

Most low-budget filmmakers do a good job finding a couple of decent actors to play the primary and leading roles. But what about the three or four supporting roles? They are equally crucial. Although your principle actors will most likely make up 70 or 80 percent of your screen time, you’re supporting actors are capable of derailing all of your hard work and effort. Although their role on screen may be limited, bad acting sticks out like a sore thumb.

It appears that in the supporting roles we’re just trying to fill out the roster, and it looks like we’re just pulling people off the street. Bad idea. I realize that whatever funds you have are going to pay your leads. So what’s the solution?


Look for nonprofessional actors who are playing an extension of themselves. Why work with bad actors that can’t act? Find someone who isn’t really acting because they are naturally playing the part. Sometimes you have a better film working with nonprofessionals.

Mistake No. 1 – Bad Dialogue

The problem with bad dialogue is you never know it’s bad dialogue until it’s too late. Everyone is so involved in the production process and focusing on making the film that bad dialogue somehow just slips through. It becomes painfully obvious during the editing process when the pieces are finally assembled. You think to yourself, how did we miss it. This is awful. Nobody would really talk like this or say something like that. Too late.

The sad fact is you might have a good story and a good concept on your hands. But it doesn’t matter if the dialogue is just not up to speed. Dialogue is the hardest thing to write. You can learn the mechanics of scriptwriting, but the gift of dialogue is pure talent.


No easy answer. Your best bet is to get honest feedback from multiple sources before you decide to make your movie. I realize you’re probably in love with your script, especially if you have written it. But if you don’t get an honest assessment, you could be looking at a train wreck. Find money in your budget to bring in a good writer who can help with dialogue. I’m sure all of the seminars and workshops you attended told you that it’s always about story. In the world of low-budget filmmaking, that’s even more true. It’s about the script but especially the dialogue.

Now you’re ready to make your movie. You know how to compensate for lack of action. You’ve found the right people who can play the roles, and you’ve got a fantastic script. And it didn’t cost you $30 to buy that film school book. Just remember to add me to the credits as an Associate Producer.

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