In an effort to gather inspiration for my next project, I’ve been reading Fast, Cheap, and Under Control: Lessons from the Greatest Low-Budget Movies of All Time by John Gaspard. In the book, he examines 33 independent films, ranging from the well-known (The Blair Witch Project, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, sex, lies, and videotape) to the more obscure (Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One). From interviews with the directors, Gaspard collates 69 rules for low-budget film production, some of them overlapping, others contradictory, and summarizes them in the appendix. Some of these ‘rules’ have limited application, but many of them are worth considering when planning or thinking about a low budget film. At the very least, it is worth reading what successful indie directors have to say about their craft and the lessons they learned from it.
Overall, I would recommend the book if you are looking for a broad introduction, although it is rather lacking in specific detail. You won’t find much about the technical aspects of filmmaking, such as lighting, sound and cinematography (although Gaspard’s other book, Digital Filmmaking 101: An Essential Guide to Producing Low-Budget Movies may contain more in that regard; I haven’t read it yet.) and you won’t find much advice on directing actors (for that I recommend Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film & Television by Judith Weston) but you will find general information on how to get your movie made without falling into the major pitfalls of low-budget production along the way. After all, much better to learn from others’ mistakes than repeat them all ourselves.