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Life as an indie filmmaker is not easy. With precious little time and your bank account looking sad, here are some creative ways to cut checkbook corners.

DIY filmmaking gear you can make for $15 or less

Filmmaking is an expensive business. Even after a successful crowdfunding campaign, an unexpected (and very welcome tax return), or months and months of working double shifts flipping burgers between planning your passion project, it’s surprising how quickly the money gets sucked into the filmmaking vacuum to cover actors’ fees, travel costs, and equipment.

Basically you need all the help you can get. Depending on what equipment you decide to go with, videography gear can bust your budget before you even start shooting – but there’s no reason to go broke before you’ve even yelled “action”. There are a number of ways to cut corners and keep costs low, especially if you’re willing to go down the DIY route.

Being a filmmaker is all about being creative, after all. So why not get creative with the gear you’re using to shoot with too? We’re here to help you on your path by suggesting a number of ways to obtain your own filmmaking camera with resources you can buy for $15 or less. This way you can get that A-list look on a D-list budget.

The light stand that’s light on the pockets

As you’ll see in the video above courtesy of Film Riot, it’s totally possible to make your own professional light stand using materials that’ll cost you around $10. You’ll need a load of PVC materials which you can get at any DIY store for next to nothing (or order on Amazon if you’re really strapped for time), a PVC cutter, a tape measure, some all purpose cement glue, and some nuts and screws. Hopefully you have a number of those items at home too.

The process of making the stand is simple and actually a fun way to pass the time – it’ll take you right back to kindergarten craft lessons. Just go easy with those PVC cutters and whatever you do, don’t eat the glue.

Make it rain . . . literally

Yes, if you’re looking for that Notebook-style kissing scene but you’re stuck out in the hazy desert heat of LA, fret not! You don’t have to wait for Mother Nature to answer your call because it’s perfectly possible to make your very own rain machine and it’ll cost you practically nothing.

As a tutorial by Tom Antos above shows, you can create two different rain machines: one’s a $15 rig made out of a flat sprinkler hose and the other is a $60 rig made out of PVC pipe. Obviously the latter is studier and better-equipped, but the former will do the trick too. It all depends on how far you’re able to stretch your budget and how integral rain is to your film.

Keeping a steady hand

Nothing gives away the game like a shaky cam (unless you’re going for the whole Rec vibe, in which case go mad). However, as a filmmaker or photographer you’re probably well aware that steadicam systems cost an absolute bomb.

Fortunately there is a made-at-home option for those who want to achieve that professional look without compromising their budget. The one outlined in the video above uses materials that’ll set you back around $15 and it’ll only take you around fifteen minutes to put together (depending on how skilled you are with a drill – don’t speed through it if you’re a little shaky yourself).

DIY shoulder rig

As you can probably tell by now, in the game of DIY camera gear PVC pipe is your friend. In this instance it can be used to make a shoulder rig for around ten bucks. You get what you pay for and it’s not the most robust or professional shoulder rig – but ten bucks. When you’re tight on budget sometimes you’ve got to compromise and work with what you’ve got and in this sense, this piece of gear makes for a frugal and worthy alternative.

Slip ‘n’ slide

With your average camera slider totalling a good few hundred dollars, you’ll be pleased to know there’s an alternative DIY version that’ll set you back just $9. Caching! In the above video which is also from Film Riot, you’ll see it’s a relatively simple piece of gear to put together that requires a tape measure, some nuts & screws, four half-inch emt connectors, a deep handy box, one piece of half-inch emt conduit, and of course more PVC piping and joints.

You can also paint your new slider in whatever colors you choose, although this is of course optional. (Pink & yellow camera slider? Tempting!)

Mic drop

Sound design is one of the main stars of any film, so it’s not something you want to overlook when producing your own movie. A mic windscreen is a necessary part of this as it will dampen high frequencies and level out any background noise if you’re filming outside. To keep the wind out of your film, make your own microphone windscreen with this easy-to-follow tutorial. And as is the case with most on this list, the materials you’ll need will only cut around $10 out of your budget. Get in!

Make it yourself: Snorricam

Snorricams are those devices used in filmmaking that rig the camera to the body of the actor to face them directly. They’re used a lot in Darren Aronofsky and Guy Ritchie films, often to portray a moment of delirium, panic, or fear. You can make one of these bad boys at home and it’s ludicrously easy – all you’ll need is your tripod, a couple of belts, and some moxie. Check out how to do it in the video above.

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