Working As An Actor On Low Budget Shoots

One of the really fun things about producing fiction is working with actors. Although it may seem like more of a directorial advantage, as a producer you are just as much involved from script to screen, and it is massively exciting watching a character go from a word to a human being to an everlasting image.

From this, I thought I would just give my thoughts on how as an actor to deal with working on low budget short films. This is by no means an absolute guide, and certainly not a criticism of anyone in particular; just a few hints and tips from a production eye on how to impress and how to cope with the ups and downs.

Auditions is of course the chance to make a first impression, and I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to turn up on time. There is every chance the casting group will only have the room for a limited period of time, and may well have to call it off if you are much longer than twenty minutes late. Read any script they give you (although in many cases you may have to go in cold), and make sure you have a list of questions. A lot of productions will be the virgin project of the director/producer, and although they might be nervous about organising it, they should be full of ideas on how they want it to turn out. Any passion you can deliver will boost their confidence in you. Although it’s a pretty sorry state of affairs if refreshments aren’t provided, bring a bottle of water just in case.

A little tip at this stage is do some research on different formats of shooting- knowing the difference between  HD, S16mm and 35mm is important as it may show the professionalism of the crew. For example, 35mm is very expensive (at least £200 for ten minutes), and  anyone spending this kind of money should hopefully know what they are doing. When trawling adverts, anything shot on film is worth you attention, and with a good DP will always look quality.

When it comes to pre-production, accept that dates may swap even a few days before the start of shooting, so try not to have anything serious booked in around the film. Certainly don’t arrange anything else for the same day, as filming will almost certainly run over.  Make sure you know whether expenses and catering are going to be provided (they really should be), and how it will work on the day.  This is the point to question your involvement in the film; if you have to shell out fifty quid train fare for a ninety second cameo, is it worth it? Only you can decide.

Offer suggestions of costume from your own wardrobe if it is not a period piece, and raise any issues in rehearsals, not on shoot day. I once worked on a film where an actor suggested a massive deviation from his character’s initial personality, and although interesting, thirty minutes over schedule was not the time to raise it.  If you have any non-creative issues, speak to the producer of the 1st assistant director before consulting the director himself,  and get a call sheet before production starts.

And so onto the film itself, and it’s here that my heart really pours open for low budget actors. I’ve seen accommodation range from a separate room for the cast with a constant supply of catering, to a chair outside in the cold with some water and dry sandwiches. There aren’t really any clues bar budget to spot what kind of production it will be, but you can make the experience more pleasant with a bit of prep.

Bring refreshments of some kind so you will definitely have something , and most importantly of all, bring something to do. A shoot time of eleven will probably end up being somewhere around one or two o’clock, and a book, newspaper, or even some work will go a long way.  Patience is a must. Although it might seem like the crew are rowing or seem inconsiderate, they want the project to succeed as much as you do. This is the time to remember why you got into acting in the first place, and leave the technicalities to those in charge. Being enthusiastic and considerate is the biggest help you can be (bar the actual acting itself). Once it’s shot it is shot forever, and as long as you deliver your best possible performance, bar a huge cock-up there should be something great for your showreel.

When the film is in post-production, make sure whatever happens you get a copy of the final film- there is simply no excuse for you getting a copy. Editing can take a while on low budget films, as editing software might only be available on a part-time basis. Do nudge to see what is going on, but never rely on a project being ready by a certain date- it will almost certainly run over. Move straight on to another production, and let its completion be a treat rather than an inconvenience.

Although this article may seem discouraging in places, the most important thing to remember on low budget shoots is that you are  always making someone’s dream come true.  Best of luck!


Corporate Video Link#1:Sussex Oakleaf

Here is a link to a corporate shoot I did long ago, was a really great experience for a brilliant charity!


Film VS Book #5: The Mist

Happy Halloween!

Film VS Book #4: The Bonfire of the Vanities

My favourite book of all time!

The 405- Metalocalypse Review

Hopefully there will be more of these on the horizon!

Top Ten Title Sequences

Here is a list of my favourite title sequences. Some of the films on the list aren’t that great, but have a really engaging beginning. They are in no particular order, and I tried to think outside of the box to an extent.

Se7en (1995)

This can be found on many lists, but I feel its place is more than deserved.  It draws the viewer in to the world of John Doe with the images and font, whilst introducing the feeling of the cold dark city with the music. It won’t be a surprise to learn there isn’t much hope to come…

Mean Streets (1973)

God I hate how Dirty Dancing stole this song. This intro not only sums up the decade and the friends’ relationship, its breather with Keitel at the start lets us get to know him separately, and introduces us to the guilt he will feel throughout the film.

Donnie Darko (2001)

For what could be quite a light start, the eerie music, strange font and empty mise-en-scene are very unnerving. Once the music kicks in however, it is a flight straight back into the eighties.

Shallow Grave (1994)

Apologies I could only find the trailer for this movie. The actual intro is a boom through Edinburgh, and the setting up of Danny Boyle’s career. You’ll have to find it to see for yourself!

White Heat (1949)

Each individual part is not so great in itself, but brought together (especially with the music), there is something just so fantastically epic. A brilliant film as well.

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

This intro basically sums up the movie as a whole, especially Voight’s character. Another fantastic song, all I want to do when I watch this is watch the whole film again.

Spun (2002)

Just for its amazing cover of Number of the Beast alone. Very 2002, but just a good music video in itself.

Casino Royale (2006)

Bond had to get somewhere on this list, and this for me was the best of the intros. Again feels a bit dated for something so recent, but is still gorgeous to look at.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

This is rather cheesy, but nicely sums up the film, and brings home what has happened without the use of exposition.

Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Most musicals have pretty good intros, but this one is just so simple and effective it edged out the competition.

There is a great deal of room for debate on this, so any thoughts post below!


Here is a link to my showreel, was a great deal of work!