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Adapting to budget limitations

Short film budgets: working within limitations can often make the film better. Watch the video where Gabriel Gauchet discusses the impact of budgets.
What if the budget would be more or less, actually? Would it be different? I think me as a director, I have requests that I ask the producer to make it happen. So I go to the producer and say, I want this, and this, and this. And then the producer tells me, well, we have this budget. We can’t do that and that. And in my experience, very often, that I think when I see the film in the end– and it happened with a couple of short films that I did– if I would have got what I wanted, then the film probably would’ve been less good.
But because of very limited budget, or like sometimes when you don’t get the special effects right. And you don’t have the, for example, the money for the special effects, so the way you try to cheat as a director– also as a cinematographer and with a team– when you try to hide things or something, the storytelling becomes so much more better, and more intense, and more powerful. And I realise, especially with the violent scene, and things like that, the decision we make on set or just before, knowing the restrictions we have, that actually they’re much better than the ones that maybe I would have done if I would have had a lot more money, or like a lot more possibilities.
So for me, it’s always really nice to have lower budget. I mean, it would be nice to be paid a lot of money one day. But in terms of filmmaking, it’s actually good to have limitations, because it really makes you think better. How can I do it much better, in a more effective way. And it’s great. So I don’t think if we would have had less budget, of course we would have thought how to make it better together. And then like, OK. What can we get? Can we do this maybe? Can we do that alternatively? And then you come up with a solution all together. And then you have a big meeting.
And the cinematographer’s ideas sound wise, very important ideas. How can you fake certain things with the sound? Because it’s also very forgotten tool, but actually very powerful. So very important. And so you end up thinking about solutions. And it’s great. So I think budget is never really an issue. Obviously, you need budget for transport. Otherwise you don’t get there, and nothing happens. But apart from that. So having the budget in mind while writing the script. I don’t think it affected us at all.
I know that there was a particular moment where actually we had like scenes in the bus, where we wanted to show the travel to the job centre, him being in the bus, and of course there was an issue, how to get a bus and things like that. Of course it was not possible to hire a bus from the budget. But I found actually that Emily would have made it happen if we really would have insisted. I think. And then we would have done it. But in the end we realise it’s not as important. So we thought, OK. How can we reflect on the stress of bus driving in a different way?
But then it’s like when you go to the directing somehow. But otherwise we didn’t have that at all in mind, I think. Because whatever you have, just at first try to really in the story, in the script– and this is what we tried the best possible way– to reflect what emotion do you want the audience to feel. And what message, and whatever reason you have to make the film. And then of course, when it comes to making the film, is just, OK, all these big things that we have. How can we make it with the budget? You try to make the budget work.
And then if the budget is very limited, and you really can’t get for example, a bus, how can you do it alternatively? Is there another way to show? Do you have to change complete location or not? In our case, we didn’t have to. He doesn’t enter the bus. [CROWD NOISE]
And it works in the cinema. And then especially with the sound. We have a lot of– [BUS SOUNDS] –like the bus is coming and out, and we feel a lot of stress. And we pushed it. So yeah. So in the end, for me personally I don’t think a budget should be in the mind of writing, because there’s always a way. And even producers shouldn’t think too much first. Just does the story really bring the emotion that you need? And then you can think as a team, how do we make it happen? How do we make it work? And then of course, we can’t get this big explosion. But maybe how do we get the sense of an explosion, or whatever.
How do you translate it in the budget? I think often you come up with fantastic ideas and good solutions.

Gabriel discusses the impact of budget on production and how working within limitations can often make the film better.

He considers how a filmmaker may have to adjust expectations and adapt in the light of the budget, but how that can sometimes actually improve the story and also talks about how members if the crew might come up with solutions which benefit the film.

Can you think of examples of films which may have been disadvantaged by having too big a budget?

Gabriel also addresses the question of whether the filmmaker should have the budget in mind while writing the script.

He argues on the whole that the answer is no. His example of the bus in The Mass of Men is pertinent here; in not showing Richard’s journey to the Job Centre, but showing him miss the bus instead, it could be argued that he succeeds in building more of an emotional investment for the viewer.

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