What Do You Do When You’re Short of Extras in Your Indie Film?

Making an indie film can frequently mean having cutbacks on production costs due to limited funding and having to rely instead on ingenuity. But anyone who’s had experience making an independent film knows that working with limited budgets helps you think more creatively. Many low-budget indies have been made that turned into cult favorites as a result of using creativity to enhance mood rather than use expensive special effects.

At times, those cutbacks have to involve the actors themselves. That’s especially true when you need extras in order to create a crowd scene. You may not have enough money raised to manage paying dozens if not even hundreds of extras to pretend to be passers-by in a particular scene.

Is there a creative way to work around that so you can give the illusion of crowds, or will you inevitably have to use some actors to accommodate a crowd scene?

Using Fewer Actors to Create the Illusion of Larger Crowds

One secret to giving the illusion of more people is to use a few actors in the foreground of a shot as a trick of the eye. By doing this, you give the impression of more people in a scene. But a long shot establishing a larger space in the beginning will set up the idea in the viewer that there’s a lot of people there when there really isn’t.

In fact, you can use the same few actors over and over in certain shots in the foreground using different wigs or outfits to fool the viewer into thinking you hired extras. You don’t even have to hire actors to do this and can utilize your production crew to stand in since they won’t be uttering any lines. Just be sure they’re able to look natural so it appears you used real people.

Using longer lenses is said to also be helpful in establishing the illusion of more people in a scene when there’s actually fewer. That’s because it gives a more cluttered feel to a shot to it looks like more people are in the shot than there really is.

Other Psychological Tricks

The use of crowd noise in a shot can also give the illusion that more people are there than in reality. Plus, the use of music and the sounds of general chaos can help when you’re showing a party scene. With the audio, you can use a few of your crew members again in the foreground of every shot to establish the illusion of crowds.

Don’t underestimate the use of sound in your film in creating a mood or making a shot convincing. One valuable lesson in filmmaking is letting the audience fill in their own imaginations with insinuation rather than needing to literally show something.

Use Real Crowd Scenes

If you’re able to film real crowd scenes in a location somewhere and don’t show faces, you might be able to legally use that footage. However, when you have identifiable people, you’ll have to have them sign a release so they don’t sue over being in a film without consent or being paid.

Many films of the past have used mass crowd scenes taken from afar so no one could be readily identified. Using stock footage, it can be effective if you want to create a mass crowd scene from the air. Sometimes public domain shots like this can be available so you don’t have to put production money into capturing something similar.

Of course, all of this still takes money, and we want you to succeed at getting your indie film crowd funded here at indieFilmFunding.com.

Contact us so we can get you started on promoting your film here on our site and attracting investors. The earning potential is unlimited so you can have a big enough budget to hire extras anyway, regardless of the advantages of using your practical filmmaking prowess.

Thank you,

Edward Panos