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Making free adverts on zero budget

It’s a universal fact that most people like to get paid for work that they do. After a long days work, it’s not easy to acquire a pint of special brew at the local public house if there’s nothing in your wallet! But to get anywhere in this world, especially in this industry, you have to pull the odd favor. Fresh filmmakers starting out often ask me how to get the paid jobs, but if you can cut your teeth doing freebies it gives you exposure, experience and something new for your reel.

English Butchers was such a freebie. I left the rat race back at home and started fresh in Spain, primarily to spend time with my young son in his formative years (I’d have no chance of this back home). With no hire shops for hundreds of miles, I had to start buying my own film equipment. Setting up a new independent production company takes time and getting a foothold in the foreign industry corporate/commercial market means you need to prove yourself all over again.

With no experienced crew around to draft and no budget, it’s not an easy task making a commercial for a local TV broadcasting company that caters for the English-speaking community. Experience helps, but I quickly realised how spoilt I had become having a team of people taking care of production, co-ordination, location management, people, props, lights, equipment…

It was like being at film school all over again. Asking the local dance school for a favor here, winning the free time of a music composer there, looking everywhere in the local amateur theatres for a Fagin! Okay, yes. I’ll admit it was fun… But what was better was getting the foothold required to create more opportunities locally without having to fly out all the time to do paid work away from the family.

It’s a weird life, pulling together an amateur cast and crew to make a zero-budget commercial one minute, the next jetting off to Dubai to direct a dozen crew on a $750K shoot the next. I’m afraid to tell you which one was more labor intensive.

And as for my son? I’m sure he will understand one day. After all, diapers and formula milk don’t come cheap either!

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