A Different Understanding of Low and Micro-Budget Film Production in the UK

Authors: Fair, J.

Editors: Mills, S. and Webb, D.

Conference: Staffordshire University


This thesis examines whether there is a different perspective to low and micro-budget filmmaking than has previously been understood, challenging the Low and Micro-Budget Film Production in the UK report, commissioned by the UK Film Council (UKFC) in 2008 to inform their policies. The introduction of this thesis illustrates how the UKFC report used inappropriate methodologies and poses the research question: would a different methodology present a perspective of low and micro-budget film production that differs from the ‘comprehensive picture’ that the UKFC claimed to portray?

Participatory Action Research (PAR) is presented as a suitable methodology, as it has not previously been used to explore film production and it enables a plurality of perspectives to be presented from across the crew. However, the participatory action of filmmaking is resource intensive and required various stakeholders to collaborate in order to address the research question. A feature-length film, The Ballad of Des and Mo, was shot, edited and screened as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2010, and artefacts created as part of the film’s production (including a further feature length documentary following the process) are presented as evidence within this thesis. However, serious limitations were encountered within the PAR process, including incomplete data collection, contested representation of the process within the artefacts and struggles over ownership. The discussion contends that PAR within film production is unreliable, but argues that the artefacts created were still examples of low and micro-budget filmmaking, and subsequent analysis is conducted using grounded theory to establish themes within the artefacts. The outcomes correlate with wider literature and establish that the UKFC’s report was incomplete and did not present a ‘comprehensive picture’ of low and micro-budget filmmaking.

Two findings are established: the limitations of PAR in a filmmaking context and the discovery that low and micro-budget filmmaking places unique pressures on social relationships.

Source: Manual