The short answer is “it depends”.
And it depends on a lot of things.
One of the most obvious things is the budget. You can get by making shorts for free in a couple of thousand in a few key areas. A big budget would only pay for a couple of days’ work, and there could also be some money spent on the set design or other crew time.
A smaller budget, or one not as invested in producing a good quality documentary, can have an effect on quality too, or even lack thereof.
A budget will also change the way people are exposed to your work.
For many, the idea of a short film isn’t a lot different to the TV format, although in a more accessible manner – they can watch a few programmes – and there are films for kids, documentaries for teens and short films for everyone. Those are the “rules” of short films.
There are exceptions too – films like The Longest Shortest Time or Lullabies For My Younger Self – that have been made in a big budget, to give us evidence as to why it might not be the case – maybe because it was filmed in a different way, with a different team.
And I’m sure you’ve noticed there are many shorts on film festivals that were made on smaller budgets of over $1000.
I don’t want to be all too negative right now – the idea is that in some countries, big budgets have a more beneficial effect than they do in other places. However, a big budget also means more travel time. You have a lot more flexibility to work with a film crew.
If we’re talking about a US location, then it will have the same effect. A few years ago, the budget for a major US feature films was roughly around $300K. Now, that’s down by more than 60% in the last decade. A filmmaker is usually going to have to work with a much smaller crew to make money. That can come from a lot of things.
The bigger the budget, the bigger the risk. Because not every job pays your salary. Or there are no more people to pay, and you have to find another way to make your film.
Even for documentaries, it’s difficult to shoot a scene of a house, and expect everyone to get paid for that and have their own house that they get to see at the end of the production.
A big budget may require a
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