With the current global economic crisis in full swing the bottom line is that shooting a film on a big budget, especially in a country like South Africa which has many other pressing social needs, becomes a huge luxury.

The talk in the industry for a while now has been how to shoot on smaller budgets. This idea also encompasses the objectives of creating a sustainable industry whereby money is recouped at the box office and off DVD sales.

There have been many independent filmmakers who have opted for the low budget route. Some of the low budget theatrical released films include: Bakgat, Poena is Koning, White Wedding, Confessions of a Gambler, Big Fellows, uMalusi, Discreet and many more.

Jann Turner, who directed White Wedding, which has currently made R5 million at the local box office, says it is imperative that South Africans shoot lower budget films that have the possibility of recouping money back for investors.

"White Wedding in that regard has been successful. We opted for a low budget of
R6 million and we will make money back. This has also enabled us to find investment for our second film, which we will be shooting towards the end of the year."

Jahmil Qubeka, producer of uMalusi, says that local independent filmmakers have to be far more pragmatic in their approach to filmmaking. "Local box office returns clearly show that you will not make most of your money back. So it stands to reason that one should minimise the risk as much as possible. Technology has really opened the arena up for low budget filmmaking. With the advent of cameras like the Red, a high quality aesthetic can be achieved at a fraction of what it used to cost."

Aryan Kaganhof, who has had an extensive career shooting independent low budget films and notably SMS Sugarman (the first mobile filmed feature), elaborates: "Until South African films start to make money and we start to produce far more films on lower budgets, we do not have a sustainable industry. I think it is fundamental that we embrace other models, like Nollywood and South Korea. In South Korea, the government regulated that films shot by local filmmakers had to receive cinema distribution. In this way, many films were produced and they were successful in creating a national cinema."

The producer of Confessions of a Gambler and Big Fellows, Ross Garland comments: �The rise of low budget films in the past two to three years has lowered barriers to entry, allowing new filmmaking talent into the industry, both in front of and behind camera. It has expanded the range of films we make and challenged preconceived ideas of what should work in this market. Audiences have voted with their feet and seem more driven by the buzz around a film than put off by low budgets. They have certainly helped bridge the ever wide gap between hope and reality in local film.�

Bakgat producer, Danie Bester, concludes: �We prefer to call our movies conservative budget and not low budget; low budget usually implies low quality. Conservative budget to us means progressive filmmaking with no excessive frills and spills. We hope that good stories told well will lead to a sustainable South African film industry. The day South African audiences automatically choose a home-grown film over any Hollywood production at the box office, will be a glorious day for South African filmmakers.�