There’s plenty of ways to make a short film (or even a feature) on a budget, even if it’s an ambitious genre piece. And when it comes to props and costumes, you don’t always have to raid your own wardrobe for inspiration.
If you’re planning on making a low-budget film, whether it’s sci-fi, romcom or tear-jerker drama, here are some ideas for sourcing your props and costumes.
Ah, op-shops: a smorgasbord of mothballs and the fashion of yesteryear. These pantheons of polyester are not just a place to thrift for ironic outfits! At your local op-shop, they should also have:
- Lingerie and swimwear
- Toys (and more than a few creepy dolls)
- Glassware, silverware and tupperware
- Old electronics
- Scraps of fabric and blankets
- Picture frames (and weird paintings)
- Vintage furniture
What it’s best for: vintage-looking clothes, or clothes that you want to rip up/paint/dye/burn for practical effects.
Friends and family
It seems obvious – but when it comes to asking friends and family for certain clothes and objects, I don’t think putting a call out on Facebook is enough. Text your friend for those roller-skates. DM your colleague for their old computer parts. Ring your grandma and ask her if she still has that coat. You never know what might turn up!
What it’s best for: if you’re taking the items on a ‘loan’, they have a dedicated spot to go back to when you’re done with them. Hooray for no landfill!
Garage sales are held around the country just about every weekend. These totally independent treasure-troves have a lot going for them: they’re easy to get to, and often have lots of unique items going at incredible prices.
If you really want to do it properly, I recommend the yearly Garage Sale Trail, where thousands of people register their sales on a national map and you can hit up several places in a single afternoon.
What it’s best for: based on what I’ve seen at garage sales, you’ll mostly find clothes, novelty mugs, and physical media like CDs and DVDs.
I can’t end this list without suggesting that you make everything yourself, and yet I know that not everyone has the time, the space, or the skills. This is where knowing a friend who cosplays or has a craft hobby comes in handy. Or, you can always turn to TikTok to pick up a new skill.
Some ideas for DIY:
- 3D printing guns and swords
- Sewing costumes to achieve an exact look and fit
- Altering existing clothes on a sewing machine
- Combining existing items into a new prop
- Painting props to give them a desired effect
- Adding detail to costumes, like lace, glitter, leather etc.
- Making fake blood out of foodstuffs
What it’s best for: those things that you can’t find anywhere else, or would cost a fortune to buy.
Now go forth and get your prop on!
[This article was originally published 29 November 2022.]