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Student filmmaking: 6 tips for telling stories on a budget

William Bareford
October 25, 2018 by William Bareford

Making a film, any film, is hard work. But making a film while juggling a class schedule, roommates, and all-nighters can be a particular kind of crazy. While it would be nice to have a silver screen budget with unlimited resources, most student filmmakers are strapped for time, talent, and cash.

That’s where we come in. We’re offering a 50% Vimeo Plus or Pro discount for all full-time students. And to get you started on your filmmaking endeavors, we’ve also compiled a few tips and suggestions to get your video projects off the ground, no matter your working budget.


Get filmmaking software for free (legally, of course) —  While Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Draft might be big names in the industry, there are a lot of equally powerful programs that you can snag for free with just a little digging. There’s Lightworks and WeVideo to help with editing, Celtx to help with screenwriting, even Shot Lister to help organize your shooting schedule. The internet is beautiful thing, especially when it comes to video tools that won’t break the bank.

Don’t fear the phone — Today, there’s more computing power in the palm of your hand than was used to send a man to the moon. Don’t be afraid to skip the expensive camera rentals and shoot on your smartphone. Even major directors, like Steven Soderbergh whose last film Unsane was shot on iPhone, are doing it. With features like motion stabilization, 4K video, slow motion, and much more, your smartphone camera is no slouch. And to help achieve more cinematic results look to apps like FiLMic Pro ($15 in the app store) and check out this post from Cinema5D that goes deep on everything from exposure to frame rate.

Network. Network. Network. — We can’t say it enough. Whether it’s your fellow students, your instructors, or other creatives you meet online, any filmmaker (student or not) is only as successful as their network.  They serve as collaborators, give feedback, and even find you paid gigs down the line. Vimeo groups are a great place to start (this one is popular with students). Or if you’re in New York, check out NY Video Meetup.

It’s okay to improvise — As a student, it’s important to embrace the DIY mentality. Go to a thrift store to find the right costumes. Shoot in natural light. Use those old, colored CD cases as instant gels and diffusers (it’s a thing, trust us). Even Jean-Luc Godard, when he couldn’t afford a dolly, used a wheelchair, and it worked. Take every limitation as inspiration. We all remember the story of Spielberg and the shark. So, if something isn’t going exactly to plan, put those creative chops to work.

Lean on your school —  Take full advantage of all the resources your school has to offer. Outside of your campus walls people pay good money for time in an editing suite or a recording studio, and most schools offer those for free (well, technically you’re paying for them). Also, be sure to seek out the eternal wisdom of your professors, and not just the film professors. Run your screenplay by someone in creative writing. Ask a history professor if you’re working on a period piece. Everyone is there to help. Use them!

Vimeo’s got your back — Seriously. We know how hard it is to get any film off the ground and out into the world. That’s why we now offer 50% off all of our Plus or PRO annual memberships to students. Embed, customize, and share your projects in our stunning player, and so much more. Whether you’re sharing work with your crew or the public, we want to be the platform and community that shows you off and celebrates your hard-earned success.

Now get out there and start uploading your beautiful stuff.

Want to learn more about the 50% discount? Head over to Unidays to get your student status verified. 

Thumbnail artwork by Yan Dan Wong

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