No Budget

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search


Oh—uhm, hello! Sorry about the mess, uh, we couldn't afford hiring cleaners, and the light, well—one lightbulb should be enough, right? No pesky lampshades blocking the light, too, although this is All The Tropes, so I suppose no lampshades isn't really appropiate, eh? Heh—oh, uh, manager says we can't afford jokes like that.

And...uh, manager says we can only afford two-three paragraphs, so I got to cut short. But basically, a show with No Budget is Exactly What It Says on the Tin—it lacks budget entirely. Symptoms may be reusing sets, props, costumes, only having a small amount of actors, and so on. If it's a comedy show, it's often lampshaded. It mostly happens in film and television, for obvious reasons. There are a lot of reasons for No Budget—sometimes mistakes were made while dividing the money, sometimes a Pointy-Haired Boss wanted to pinch pennies in every way, sometimes the money was blown too early (leading to Bottle Episodes), and so on.

In animated and CG shows, it can cause Off-Model, Special Effects Failure, and Off-the-Shelf FX—although keep that splurging at a hush-hush, manager would flip if he knew we were getting so many related tropes...

Uh...manager says we've gone over budget now. Please put your examples at the bottom (categories abbreviated, please, text's expensive), and we'll deal with them in the morning. Maybe then the appeal for more cash will have gone through...


Examples of No Budget include:

AN[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Anime in general is made around a 1/3 of a western cartoon's budget (anime tends to be about $123,000 dollars, when western cartoons tend to be about $300,000 dollars) but the last two episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion show what happens when even that runs out: the action-packed ending is later made into a movie and the TV series is rounded out with Stock Footage and philosophical exploration of the characters' inner psyches, the representation of Instrumentality from the characters' and then Shinji's perspectives.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena was made on a limited budget; however, the creators utilized it to add to its mind-warping appeal, making it an actually successful series.
  • Unintentionally happened with the anime adaptation of Lost Universe because of several factors; foremost, it was made during the southeastern Asia financial crisis in 1998, and most animation studios that year were given meager budgets to begin with. Also, a fire partially destroyed the studio that animated the episodes, resulting in the first bunch of them being of a sketchy, poor quality (since they had been completed, they couldn't have been fixed after the fire). The fourth episode had to be animated in South Korea for this reason, and it was so Off-Model that the episode title became synonimous in Japan for bad animation.
  • Musashi Gundoh.
  • Chargeman Ken.

FI[edit | hide]

  • Hardware Wars was, relative to its budget, one of the most profitable films of all time, making over one million dollars on a budget of eight thousand.
  • Clerks is famous for having been made on a budget of $27,575, boosted to $250,000 after Miramax bought the rights to it and added music. It was filmed at night in the Quick Stop where Kevin Smith actually worked, and most of the actors are his friends and relatives.
    • Kevin Smith later made Chasing Amy for $0.25M.
  • The Blair Witch Project holds the world record for budget to box office performance. Filmed for less than $0.5M, made almost $250M.
    • The budget of Blair Witch has been variously reported at different amounts, all of them less than $0.1M, and at one point Chris Rock mentioned that it cost $65,000, remarking that "somebody's walking around with $64,000 in their pocket!"
    • My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a strong contender—made for $5M, totally grossed about $368M.
  • Napoleon Dynamite was made for $0.4M. Half of it was for the after-the-credits scene.
  • Primer had a budget of $7000, most of which was spent on the film stock.
  • Christopher Nolan's first feature film, Following cost about $6–$7000. The cast and crew were all employed full-time, so everything was filmed on weekends. Every scene was extensively rehearsed, because they didn't have enough film stock for more than two takes. Nolan used his friends' and family's homes for location shooting, and had to film with natural lighting.
  • Ink was made for $0.25M.
  • El Mariachi was so low budget that Rodriguez and his crew had to participate in medical research to earn the money to make it. The fight scenes were filmed using toy guns. However the sequels Desperado and Once Upon a Time In Mexico had no such problems.
  • Many films made by Ed Wood had very low budget. It shows.
  • Halloween was shot on a budget of $0.2M, bringing in $35M (today equal to over $100 million). John Carpenter spent most of the budget on getting anamorphic lenses (to hide its low budget), so they didn't even have enough money to make a mask. Instead they just painted an off-the-shelf William Shatner mask white.
  • The British zombie film Colin made some headlines due its reported £45 budget.
  • Paranormal Activity cost $15,000 to make (and that's after Spielberg gave money for the director to shoot another ending!) and grossed $193 million worldwide. This success allowed the filmmakers to do a sequel with the high budget of $3 million.
  • There is an unproduced Jim Henson script titled The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made, in which the director (Gonzo) blows most of the budget on the Title Sequence, forcing the cast to make do with what little they have left.
  • Slashers was shot on a single handheld camera in a paintball arena. This was an appropriate choice, since the cameraman was also a character, hired by the game show 'Slashers' to keep a live image of the contestants as they attempted to survive the killers.
  • While 30 million dollars seems pretty high for this list, District 9 is a film where at least half the cast are entirely CGI, and ends in an awesome sci-fi battle sequence, never once looking cheap for a movie that was basically made with leftover pocket change from the aborted Halo movie. And it did pretty damn well both with critics and at the box office to boot.
  • Mad Max was made for $0.4M.
  • The Castle was made on a budget of AU$19,000.
  • Every Roger Corman movie ever made.
    • Particular example: Constantin Film had to make a Fantastic Four movie quickly to retain the film rights. They handed Corman $1.4 million, and it was made! (only not released)
    • A better example would be The Little Shop of Horrors. It was even shot on sets from another movie, before they were dismantled.
      • Or The Terror, which was made AS they were dismantled. A film that didn't even have a script, but they had Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson and built from there!
      • And then Corman handed Peter Bogdanovich footage from The Terror and the last two days Boris Karloff was obliged to film for him and said, "Make a movie". The results was Targets.
  • Mike Jittlov's original Wizard Of Speed And Time short had no budget and was created entirely by Mike.
  • A Fistful of Dollars was made on the set of a much crappier Spaghetti Western called Guns Don't Talk as an attempt to recoup its budget. The actors had to provide their own costumes.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (most of the money came from rock groups such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Genesis). The Gainax Ending is partially because the team couldn't afford the one they had written. (They'd blown too much money on the pyrotechnic effects for the Tim The Enchanter scene.)
  • After Last Season is a subversion: despite looking cheaper than most every single damn last one of the films on this list, it was made with a $5M budget ($40,000 which was dedicated to production renting a warehouse and a crappy video camera, the rest to post-production hiring an editor whose services they apparently didn't use, and a college kid with a rudimentary knowledge of Blender to make the special effects.)
  • Ditto for The Room. Extremely limited sets, very few location shots, crappy blue screen effects. Final cost? Six million. Part of this was due to things like Tommy Wiseau being an idiot not knowing the difference between film and HD, and deciding to shoot with both side-by-side (with cameras he bought instead of rented).
    • Also he spent a fair amount on buying the copyright so the characters could sing "Happy Birthday".
  • Bollywood. Which also contributes to its sheer awesomeness.
  • According to The Other Wiki, Saw was made for $1.2 million and grossed over $103 million worldwide. Saw II was made for $4 million, and grossed over $147 million. After that, they started getting an actual budget (roughly $10 million per film), which probably accounts for the amped up gore in the later sequels (more money for special effects = more gore).
  • Peter Jackson's first film Bad Taste was filmed by just him and a few friends over a few years, in which their lack of budget led to things like several actors playing two or more roles, making latex moulds in the kitchen oven, and various other (sometimes quite ingenious) solutions.
  • 12 Angry Men partly counts as they could only afford enough film to record once so no mistakes were allowed.
  • Since United Artists wanted a famous protagonist in Rocky but Sylvester Stallone sold his script on the condition of being the star, the studio only lent $1 million for production. The producers had to mortgage their houses in order to get extra $100,000 and finish the movie. It ended up grossing $225 million worldwide and winning 3 Academy Awards (including Best Picture).
  • In 1962, Dr. No was made for just $1 million. When an art director found out his name wasn't in the credits, producer Cubby Broccoli gave him a golden pen, saying he didn't want to spend money fixing them. This results in the most subdued James Bond movie.
  • In-universe example: Chubby Rain, from Bowfinger. Bobby Bowfinger says the $2,184 spent are the actual budget for every blockbuster, the Hollywood Accounting just inflates it to a million dollar figure.
  • Birdemic. The part of the birds is played by low-quality .GIFs with poor seagull cries.
  • The whole reason Manos the Hands of Fate was even made was because the director had a bet going that he could make a movie based on a shoestring budget. He technically won...
  • Monster a Go Go started filming as a B-Movie, but ran out of budget partway through. After being shelved for a few years, it was finished in a way so cheap as to be insulting.
  • Many Nollywood (the Nigerian film industry) movies are like this, and a lot of times it shows.
  • Hard Candy was made for $950,000, mainly to avoid Executive Meddling. It was filmed in 18 days, in chronological order, and used a bare minimum of takes.
  • ThanksKilling was made for $3,000.
  • Violent Shit was made over four weekends on a budget of $2,000.
  • Insidious cost $1.5 million and grossed $92 million worldwide. The film's producer and director are no strangers to this list as the producer directed Paranormal Activity and the director did Saw.
  • Woodchipper Massacre apparently had a budget of only $400.
  • Darren Aronofsky's first feature Pi had a budget of $60,000.
  • MonSturd, another for $3,000.
  • SLC Punk! cost just $600,000 to make, even after its cast of familiar names, soundtrack of classic punk tracks and the use of anamorphic lenses.
  • Anything made by the Polonia brothers, like Feeders.
  • This Is Not A Film was...not actually a film production. It's a personal video diary by Iranian political prisoner (and "former" high-profile film maker) Jafar Panahi, filmed on his iPhone in his own apartment. The video was smuggled out of Iran inside a birthday cake, and screened internationally in movie theaters to critical acclaim. Its actual budget is rather difficult to factor—how much did the birthday cake cost?
  • Amateur Porn Star Killer - $45
  • Margin Call was made on a $3M budget. 90% of the film was shot on a single floor of a recently vacated trading firm.

LATV[edit | hide]

  • Game shows: This became something of the standard after the Quiz Show Scandal broke and people became very distrusting of high-reward game shows. After that, the format switched focus from "winning" more to "playing," where they made quirkier shows with lower budgets where the focus was more on having fun instead of big payouts. Big-money shows didn't really get revived until "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" in the late Nineties. This leads to lots of examples:
    • Wheel of Fortune, when the original NBC daytime version moved to CBS in the summer of 1989. The show adopted an all-cash format (as its syndicated companion did two years earlier), but the wheel's dollar values were slashed, sometimes by more than a half, with $50 and $75 amounts dotting the wheel and the top value in the third—and later rounds—a very modest $1,250. (Compare the NBC and pre-1989 syndicated episodes, which had the same dollar amounts as the syndicated show except the daytime show's top dollar value was $2,000, not $5,000 as on the nighttime show.) Also, the CBS show's grand prizes were $5,000 cash and subcompact/mini-compact cars, as opposed to the $25,000 cash and super-expensive luxury/hand-built/exotic sportscars common in syndication. (To be fair, many of the other daytime bonus round prizes were more practical/desirable game-show fare, as opposed to the syndicated show's "other" prizes, such as precious gems, log cabins, trips to private islands, $50,000 silver coffee and tea services, rooms full of lavender-colored furniture that didn't fit any average suburban home, and tickets to the year's top sporting events.)
    • Sale of the Century: The 1980s NBC version originally began with a shopping round, where contestants could decide to buy sometimes opulent prizes such as a $25,000 precious commodities package or a $20,000 Oriental rug. Midway through the show's run, the show switched to the Winner's Board and later Big Money Winners Game, dropping the super-expensive prizes in favor of more standard game-show fare in the $1,500 to $5,000 range, and moving its car prizes from full-sized Cadillacs and top-end Porsches to mainstream cars such as the Ford Taurus, entry-level luxury cars such as the Mercedes-Benz 190 or BMW 528i, or compact convertibles including the Chevrolet Cavalier (although the occassional Chevrolet Corvette and Cadillac De Ville was offered). Some say this was a cost-cutting move, but contestants could still win more than $70,000 cash ($50,000 as the top prize, plus other cash bonuses along the way) for a successful stay. Still, the big-ticket items, such as $13,000 European tours and $21,000 cabin cruisers, were gone.
    • The Price Is Right: Season 38 onward has been accused of this, not with the prizes offered but prizes being offered only as "show" and the pricing games themselves set so hard that, short of a lucky or exceptionally skilled contestant, nobody will win it. (This was a common practice prior to Roger Dobkowitz's departure from the show, but less criticized because the games—while still set to a more difficult solution—could still be won by good contestants.)
      • A common example is Lucky $even, where the contestant guesses digits in the price of a car one at a time, and for each digit he/she is off, he gives back $1 out of the $7 they start with; the contestant can be off on all four digits by a maximum of six, since $1 is required to win the car. The trope comes in when an expensive car is offered, but the fourth and fifth numbers of the car's price are either 1 or 9, and with most of their leeway had already been spent, the contestants invariably guess 4, 5, or 6, causing them to lose.
  • Rutland Weekend Television was notorious for this, as they were given a far smaller budget than intended. ("We were given a shoestring budget, and someone else was wearing the shoe.") Lampshaded. (Often—they even got a cheap song about it, once!)

Host: Hello, and welcome to Rutland Weekend Television. We've got a really great show lined up for you...not that you can tell, mind you. I mean, for instance...look at this suit. It's rubbish! Feel the quality of that, hm? It's not even theirs! Everything's hired.

  • In general, this applied to many shows on The BBC in the 70's and 80's:
    • Recycled from the Doctor Who tropes: "The BBC was somewhat notorious for giving the set and costume designers of Doctor Who a shoestring budget; that is, a bundle of shoe strings that they were expected to make fifteen monsters out of."
      • Interestingly, the reaction of more classic fans when the reboot started getting a bigger budget, and thus, better effects, was that the show had become too focused on visuals and they'd liked it better before. The Fouth Doctor's actor, Tom Baker, was quick to rebuke that nobody liked the bad effects- you just bore with them. Anyone who says anywise is looking through the nostalgia-glasses. Though the show's inability to rely on visual spectacle to distract the audience from ropey plots or wooden characters and dialogue probably didn't hurt.
    • Blankety Blank had nearly all Undesirable Prizes because they could never afford prizes someone would actually want. This was frequently Lampshaded via Self-Deprecation; one Running Gag was for host Les Dawson to claim their prizes were fire-salvaged.

Les Dawson: And for the benefit of anyone who hasn't got an Argos Catalogue, here's some of the rubbish you might be saddled with tonight.

  • One episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus had The BBC run out of money. The credits were written on scraps of paper, and the heat turned off in the flat they were renting as a studio.
  • One episode of Head of the Class had an In-Universe instance—Mr. Moore was directing Little Shop of Horrors as the School Play, for which he was given zero budget. He talks the principal into being in the show as Mr. Mushnick, then explains his concept for production. (Quote not guaranteed exact—we couldn't get someone to search it out.)

Mr. Moore: You heard of Japanese Noh theatre? No sets, no costumes, no props. Because, you know...no money.

  • Roundhouse functioned on a very small budget. It used recycled actors, about two boxes' worth of props - mostly cardboard, and two "sets" that were just wheelable walls loaded with random stuff that was probably bought from a garage sale. The only impressive thing they had was their motorized recliner. The simple "improv" look - combined with their humor, singing, and dancing skills - was a good deal of their charm.
    • And very likely the point. It would appear that Roundhouse was aiming for a version of Stylistic Suck, giving it a "bunch of friends putting on shows in their backyard" feel.
  • Space Cases was a Sci-Fi show that was filmed on almost no budget (it was both a cable show and a kid's show, two strikes against it money-wise). Aside from putting CD's on the sides of chairs and handheld video games for control panels, they had the one advantage of being on Nickelodeon, so they could recycle props (most notably from Are You Afraid of the Dark?.) Fans tend to agree that this adds to its charm.
  • Red Dwarf was deliberately written and designed to be as cheap as possible before they started scrimping on models (the first Starbug was made out of a discarded lawnmower).
  • Parodied on The Cheap Show, a pseudo-game show created by Chuck Barris. The prizes were intentionally cheap on purpose; panelists were intentionally announced but didn't show up, and host Dick Martin was referred as the only person they could afford.
  • Blakes Seven was allocated the same budget by the BBC as the much cheaper show it was replacing. The per episode effects budget, for example, was £50. Expect to see plenty of sets, costumes, and props nicked from Doctor Who, or perhaps some baking tins stuck on the walls.
    • The special effects designer spent his budget for the entire series on the first episode to be filmed, "Space Fall", because Star Wars was debuting at around the same time. The actual first episode, "The Way Back", went so far over budget it affected the rest of the season—and became one of the best stories in the series.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a pretty big budget, but due to the show's nature it was mostly spent on film rights, leaving little money for anything else, so most of the program plays this straight.
    • The first (KTMA) season had a legitimately tiny budget even for the movies, which severely restricted their options. Thus were born many of the... interesting props that adorn the show.
  • The first season of Double the Fist (8 episodes) was made for $250k, which is pretty impressive considering the amount of CGI effects used.
  • PJ Katies Farm is defined by its utter lack of budget. Everything is done by the eponymous PJ Katie - the characters were literally made by her out Crayola Model Magic, there are no writers (the scripts are all ad-libbed by PJ Katie), there is only one voice actor and she is the same person as the puppeteer. The only other person on set was the cameraman. At one point a danish, which was obviously PJ Katie's lunch, was used as a prop to represent a flying saucer and you can see her eating it during the credits.
  • Said to be the reason for the strange shape of sheets of paper in Battlestar Galactica Reimagined. When the pilot was made, they were apparently told to "cut every corner" as far as the budget went, and so cut the corners off the paper as a bit of a joke. Of course, once the series was picked up and given rather more of a budget, the paper was subjected to Fridge Logic and just looks a bit silly.
    • Not to mention a continuity nightmare for the props department
  • Early public access producer Paper Tiger Television used any camera they could get ahold of, often shooting shows in both color and black and white. Cameramen would also be shown in shots to show the community aspect of the programming. These shooting techniques were copied endlessly by outfits that did have a budget, including MTV for much of the 1990s.
  • Starstuff
  • The Late Late Show: Although this is commonly joked about, Craig Ferguson has said in interviews that the reason they rarely do sketches is a lack of money for props. The show only purchased one puppet and got the rest for free from the company who made them, and when the show went to Paris, they couldn't afford to rent a studio.
  • The Taiwanese version of Cash Cab is so cheap that they have to deduct the cab fare from contestants' winnings. Early episodes also had extremely paltry prize amounts - the grand total given away on the first episode, after cab fare deductions, was less than US$1.
  • The Mighty Boosh runs on a notoriously small budget, and as the show progressed the BBC actually cut the budget smaller and smaller as the poor quality of the costumes and sets only served to make the show funnier. During one early episode, Vince draws attention to some serious Special Effects Failure and Howard quips "we spent the budget on your hair".
  • This is among the many things spoofed by the Stargate SG-1 episode "Wormhole X-Treme!". The guy playing Jack O'Neill's Expy asks Martin what color the beam from his blaster is. Martin tells him they can't afford a beam; they're just using sound effects.
  • The Late Late Show often pokes fun of this, but it's the reason they very rarely do skits as they have almost no prop budget.
  • The Show Within a Show on Garth Marenghi's Darkplace suffers from this, being funded mostly out-of-pocket by Marenghi and Dean Learner. This leads to some epic Special Effects Failures such as a motorcycle chase done on bicycles with engine noised dubbed in. Of course, it's exaggerated considering the actual show does have a small but reasonable budget.

Dean Learner: He had a very ambitious script. I said: "Garth, this is a very ambitious script for the money we've got. Seeing as we've got no money, it's extremely ambitious." We were filming it in my garage. I had a big garage, but still it was ambitious to film a TV show in a garage.

MV[edit | hide]

  • Beyoncé Knowles filmed two of her videos, "If I Were a Boy" and "Single Ladies", back to back, and wound up spending a lion's share of the budget on the former and forcing her to take a minimalist approach with the latter.
  • Country Music artist Sarah Buxton said that the video for her single "Outside My Window" was filmed by one of the song's four songwriters on a budget of $80.

TH[edit | hide]

VG[edit | hide]

  • Katawa Shoujo has about 20 international developers and no budget - they're all volunteering in their spare time to make a free game. They won't even accept any donations, although they have sold some very limited physical goods.
  • This is the reason behind many indie games using Retraux graphics rather than being in 3D. 2D pixel art is easy to attempt on your own if you can't afford an artist. (Doing it well isn't always so easy.)
  • Touhou, Cave Story, and various other one-person efforts.
  • Dwarf Fortress is either a straight example or an inversion, depending how you look at it. Donation income came to around $50,000 in 2010, an incredibly impressive figure for a one-coder operation whose star attraction started off as a hobby project. But for a game whose sheer scale and complexity impress people who work with Cray supercomputers in their day jobs, on the other hand...
  • Sins of a Solar Empire is a non-indie PC game with budget of $1 million. For comparison, average PC game cost is $18–28 million.
  • Katamari Damacy was made by a group of 10 in less than 18 moths on a budget of under a million dollars (leading to the Lego-like art style that's now a series staple. Yes, it was successful enough for a series). The original also included many large levels, multiplayer, etc.
  • Plumbers Don't Wear Ties was very cheaply shot even for a 1990s Full Motion Video game, and most of the time it fails at being full-motion. Low production values are evident even in the game interface (what there is of it, anyway).

WA[edit | hide]

  • The Brave Little Toaster was made on a budget of $2.3 M, which was modest even for animated films at the time.
  • Sita Sings the Blues was made for $290,000; $50,000 was spent paying for the music copyrights.
  • One of the theories behind why My Life Me has such jarring animations. The company that originally produced the show declared insolvency during production, causing it to have to resort to Adobe Flash quality animation.
  • Filmation was notorious for making all of their series with absolutely no budget whatsoever. This was, in part, due to their policy of never outsourcing animation jobs, which was expensive.
  • The Simpsons: In-universe. When the Intimidating Revenue Service seized 95% of Krusty's estate and future earnings until his debt was paid and controlled his show, they renamed it "Hershel Krustofsky's Clown-Related Entertainment Show" and removed anything fun from it. There wasn't money even for a pie to be thrown at someone's face. Or someone other than Krusty to be targeted.
    • When Kent Brockman uttered a swear word on TV and the network got a ten-million-dollar fine because of this, they couldn't afford voice actors or any sound effects for Itchy and Scratchy.

WO[edit | hide]

OT[edit | hide]

  • Most Mockbusters.
  • The V 48 Hours short film competition.
    • There are a wide variety of such competitions, generally along the lines of "here's a camera, here's 24/48 hours, make a movie!". A disproportionate number of them are named after Ed Wood.
  • Multimedia students at universities will be allowed to rent cameras for free, but that's it; everything else is down to them. Students being students, your actors are likely not to turn up, and your "props" will be whatever your roommates have lying around. Having someone in the group who is good with editing and special effects can help disguise the fact that it was performed by you and your aunt in the woods behind the main campus.
    • It Gets Worse for independent filmmakers: they don't even give you the camera.