For those unaware, I had the good fortune last year to connect with a producer-director seeking a writer for their microbudget feature project.
After hearing their ideas and what they were looking for, I started developing the story, keeping them updated as things progressed at a decent clip.
One of the comments occasionally made during all this back-and-forth was, and I’m paraphrasing here – “Is there a way to cut the costs on that?” Since this is a micro-budget project, it’s imperative we get as much out of every dollar as possible.
Thus the changes and alterations began. A scene originally intended for a hospital room now takes place in somebody’s bedroom. A scene in a restaurant now has the two characters drinking to-go coffee and talking on a park bench.
You get the idea.
As the writer, it can be a bit of a challenge to revise a scene or sequence to accommodate the budget, but it also forces you to dig deeper into that creativity and come up with a solution that works just as effectively, if not more so.
If this were a regular spec, working within a budget wouldn’t be an issue. I’d just write whatever worked for the story. But if that script got picked up and the producer needed changes made, then they would be made.
Looking over some of the revisions, I also realized that some scenes could pack even more of a punch by utilizing sound and lighting (or lack thereof) for emphasis, rather than on just what we see. Leaving things to the imagination – what you hear and don’t see – has the potential to be much more effective.
(For a strong example of this, check out the 1942 classic horror-thriller CAT PEOPLE.)
Taking this “less is more” approach also helped with resolving a story problem in a significant way. A sequence that would already have been challenging to make is now drastically different but would be very simple to pull off, and we’re both very enthusiastic about how the end result would look.
While some aspects of the story and how it’s presented may have changed, the tone remains the same. There’s still a ways to go with the script, but writing it with this kind of mindset helps me figure things out so the story is just as compelling while also getting the most bang for the buck.