There’s a reason why so many low budget horror films take place in a house – All you need is one location, half a dozen college kids to kill off, and a serial killer determined to kill them.
Every additional location you add costs something – time to set up and tear down equipment, the sets and props, and it costs time and gas to get everyone to and from each location. Centering a story inside one location is a great way to keep it simple and cheap, but to add a little extra production value to your film without spending any additional money, consider taking it outside. A few exterior shots can help your film breathe.
Maybe show your characters pulling into the driveway of the house where they will be staying, or at the very least at the front door finding the key under the door mat or planter before entering the house. Maybe later in the script they can run outside only to find their car won’t start or they get chased back inside the house.
In my film, THE FINAL GOODBYE, the opening scene was filmed across the street from my house, followed by a reverse shot of him walking towards my house and then entering it. I also grabbed a few shots of him getting in his car so I would have more footage to use when editing. It didn’t cost us anything but a little bit of time to get these shots, but it added so much to the final film.
Taking it out side to shoot some exterior shots is a great way to help your story breathe without the added expense of moving everyone to a new location because all you did was step outside.
TIP: Don’t forget to grab some footage on the way to your location. For THE FINAL GOODBYE we grabbed some shots of the actor driving to the cemetery location.
On our way to the cemetery location there was a secluded stretch of road that looked amazing. The overcast skies, the wet road and dying trees would really help establish the hopelessness the character was feeling. I want to get a shot of our actor driving towards the camera then shoot the reverse or him driving away from the camera, but Murphy’s Law was working overtime and the typically quiet road had a lot of traffic, then it started to rain. After several failed attempts to get the shots I decided it was best to just scratch the idea and get to the actual location so we could film the story.
Always remember that the story is more important than B-Roll footage regardless of how amazing the shot may be. If it’s not an integral part of your story, you don’t need it. So don’t waste too much time and resources trying to get that amazing shot that has nothing to do with your story.
If you’re shooting a thriller about a serial killer who is stalking your characters, you don’t even have to move the actors outside – just take your camera outside and shoot the exterior of the house. Maybe have a character looking out the window and the camera dips behind a tree, bush or fence. That will raise the production value and the intensity because now you’re showing the killer’s POV (point of view) of watching the characters in the house, and all you did to raise the intensity (and the production value) was to take your camera outside.
Thank you for reading this post, I hope it inspired you to think outside the box and take it outside to raise the production value of your indie film. If you have any comments I’d love to hear from you and please don’t forget to like and share this post. It really helps. Thank you.
All the screengrabs used in this post were taken directly from my film THE FINAL GOODBYE – the very first short film I ever made. To watch it in it’s entirety, click the link below.
Kenn Crawford is an author and filmmaker from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Click HERE to watch his YouTube Videos