This entry is trivia, which is cool and all, but not a trope. On a work, it goes on the Trivia tab.

No Budget

Sorry, we can't afford a page image. Even this caption was just borrowed from a friend in exchange for a walk-on.

Q: Again, on the low budget problem, in Paradise Towers you have a monster that was two neon rings in a dark room...
Cartmel: We were lucky to have the neon rings! Thank god it was a dark room!
— Andrew Cartmel on Doctor Who, "Paradise Towers"

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 TVTropes, so I suppose no lampshades isn't really appropriate, 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 number 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: mistakes were made while dividing the money, a Pointy-Haired Boss wanted to pinch pennies in every way, the money was blown too early (leading to Bottle Episodes), the execs want to see failure from someone they don't like, and so on.

In animated and CG shows, it can cause Off Model, Special Effect 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...

Sometimes the filmmakers are good enough to make the best of it and produce a good work out of it. For instance, Mad Max was a cheap 1979 Australian film that proved a Sci Fi action classic that made the Guinness Book of World Records for the most profitable film ever, until topped 20 years later by The Blair Witch Project.

Uh... manager says we've gone over budget now. Please put your examples below (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...


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  • Anime in general is actually made on half or less of a western cartoon's budget.note  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.
  • On the North American side, if you are curious as to why voice actors don't get paid much in working anime compared to doing pre-lay, and some anime titles being released without dubs, this is mainly because those who work to release the anime in North America are given limited budget because anime in general is a very niche nerd interest when compared to Marvel and DC comics, largely because of peoples' perception towards animenote  unless if you are talking about Cash Cow Franchises such as Naruto, Bleach, and Dragonball Z). If a title needs around 3,000 units to break even (and this is without an English dub), then it gives you the idea on how limited anime budget tends to be in North America (as opposed to many popular video games like Call of Duty and even niche jRPGs where units can sell tens of thousands or even millions).
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena was made on a limited budget. However, the creators embraced their limitation with stock footage, stylised animation and surreal environments, making it one of the most visually distinctive animated series.
  • Kill la Kill, in spite of the series' stellar Animation Bump and Awesome Art moments, was made on a rather tight budget compared to similar shows that premiered around the time, resulting in many Limited Animation moments (episode 4 and 22 being the biggest cases). Nui Harime actually uses this to show how inhuman she is.
  • Lost Universe was made during the southeastern Asia financial crisis of 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 reasonnote , and it was so Off Model that the episode title became synonymous in Japan for bad animation.
  • Violinist of Hameln has the nickname "Slideshow of Hameln" for this reason, as the budget only allowed for animation in non-action scenes. Most of the money that should have gone towards the animation instead went towards purchasing the rights to use the classical music pieces that Hamel and Raiel play.
  • Musashi Gundoh, to the point that it became a Cult Classic purely based on its terrible animation. Much of the Off Model-ness was cleaned up for the DVD release. Fans were not pleased.
  • Kemono Friends had a staff of only 10 people working over 500 days with a budget that was extremely limited and had to make extensive use of CGI, and even the director had no clue how it gained the kind of popularity that it did despite all of this.

  • 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 sequels, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, had no such problems. In The Robert Rodriguez 10 Minute Film School, the director lists the at times crazy techniques used to make the film on such a low budget, including shooting everything in one take to save on film, incorporating bloopers into the plot in order to avoid retakes, using toy guns for fight scenes (or even at times real guns), using desk lamps for lighting, and using no actual film crew; Robert Rodriguez directed, produced, wrote, shot, edited, scored, and provided the sound and special effects all on his own.
  • Hardware Wars was, relative to its budget, one of the most profitable films of all time, making over $1M on a budget of $8,000.
  • Clerks is famous for having been made on a budget of $27,575, boosted to $250K 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, several of them playing multiple roles. Smith stated that he maxed out eight credit cards to make the film.
  • Kevin Smith made Chasing Amy for $250K. Initially, he was given a budget of $3M, but only if he cast David Schwimmer, Jon Stewart, and Drew Barrymore. He didn't.
  • The Blair Witch Project holds the world record for budget to box office performance. The cost to create the film itself has been listed as between $25,000 to $750,000. It went on to make $250 million. However, it did receive a $25 million advertising budget.
  • Napoleon Dynamite was made for $400K. Half of it was for the after-the-credits scene. Said scene (depicting Kip and LaFawndah's wedding, and Napoleon taming a wild stallion) wasn't even part of the original release; it was added for the wide release after the film's explosive popularity at Sundance.
  • Auteur Shane Carruth makes extremely smart films on extremely low budgets.
    • Primer had a budget of $7,000, most of which was spent on the film stock. It received strong reviews, but critics complained that the dialogue was made even more impenetrable by the terrible sound quality in some scenes.
    • Upstream Color was made for about $50,000 and manages to both look and sound fantastic.
  • Christopher Nolan's first feature film, Following cost about $6-$7,000. 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 $250K.
  • The films made by Ed Wood had very low budgets. It shows.
  • Halloween (1978) was shot on a budget of $200K, bringing in $35M (today equal to over $100M). 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.
  • There's 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 titular game show to keep a live image of the contestants as they attempted to survive the killers.
  • Mad Max was made for $400K. The director donated his own car to get smashed up in a chase scene.
  • The Castle was made on a budget of AU$19,000. Not only that, but it was filmed in 11 days because the budget didn't stretch enough to cater anymore.
  • Every Roger Corman movie ever made.
    • Constantin Film had to make a Fantastic Four movie quickly to retain the film rights. They handed Corman $1.4M, and it was made (but not released).
    • The Little Shop of Horrors was filmed in less than 48 hours. It was even shot on sets from another movie, before they were dismantled.
    • The Terror, which was made as said sets 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 Karloff was obliged to film for him and said "Make a movie." The result was Targets.
  • Producer Jason Blum is famous for his low budgets and the high returns he gets off of them, which has earned him comparisons to Corman. His strategy is to give filmmakers a few million dollars (Blumhouse Productions had never made a non-sequel film with a budget exceeding $5 million) and near-complete creative freedom, and let them go wild. He's best known for his involvement in the horror genre; he made his name by producing the Paranormal Activity series, and was also behind a number of other major horror films starting in the late '00s.
    • Speaking of Paranormal Activity, the first film cost $15,000 to make (and that's after Steven Spielberg gave money for writer/director Oren Peli to shoot another ending!) and grossed $193 million worldwide. This success allowed the filmmakers to do a sequel with the comparatively high budget of $3 million.
    • Insidious cost $1.5 million and grossed $92 million worldwide. Notably, it was written and directed by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the people behind Saw (described below), and co-produced by Oren Peli, the maker of the aforementioned Paranormal Activity.
    • The Gallows, another film that Blumhouse picked up, was made for only $100,000. Since they didn't have the money for stuntmen, all of the actors had to do their own stunts.
  • Mike Jittlov's original The 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 ending used was 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.)
  • You can tell the makers of Forbidden Zone had way more ambition than they had budget to pull it off, as one can tell by the sometimes outrageously cheap-looking sets. But, given that the film is so damnably surreal, it kind of works at recreating that strange, Fleischer-cartoon feel they were going for. Plus, it helps that the director was related to Danny Elfman and able to get him to compose a really awesome soundtrack.
  • 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 produc-er, renting a warehouse and a crappy video camera, the rest to post-er, 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.)
  • Subverted by The Room. Extremely limited sets, very few location shots, crappy blue screen effects. Final cost? $6M. Tommy Wiseau wasted money like crazy, buying two cameras to film every scene side-by-side in film and HD. He spent a fair amount on buying the copyright so the characters could sing "Happy Birthday". Some people speculate that the film was a money laundering scheme, which would be where most of the supposed budget went.
  • Bollywood. Which also contributes to its sheer awesomeness.
  • According to The Other Wiki, Saw was made for $1.2M and grossed over $103M worldwide. Saw II was made for $4M, and grossed over $147M. After that, they started getting an actual budget (roughly $10M 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 $1M for production. The producers had to mortgage their houses in order to get an extra $100,000 and finish the movie. It ended up grossing $225M worldwide, winning three Academy Awards (including Best Picture), and became one of the most famous movie franchises ever.
  • In 1962, Dr. No was made for just $1M, before the effects team asked for an extra 100K to do the climactic explosion. James Bond's watch was producer Cubby Broccoli's own, and when an art director found out his name wasn't in the credits, Broccoli gave him a golden pen, saying he didn't want to spend money fixing them. This results in the most subdued Bond movie.
  • In-universe example: Chubby Rain, from Bowfinger. Bobby Bowfinger says the $2,184 spent are the actual budget for every blockbuster, but Hollywood Accounting inflates it to a million-dollar figure.
  • Birdemic. Made for under $10,000. Where to even begin?
    • The birds are played by low-quality GIFs of hawks and vultures with poor seagull cries. They tend to explode upon striking the ground. All explosion, fire, muzzle flash, and smoke effects are likewise extremely low-quality GIFs.
    • In an infamous scene, the protagonists fend off a bird attack with coat hangers. They were scripted to use curtain rods, but the Motel 6 used for filming had no detachable curtain rods and apparently it would have been too much money to buy them.
    • Many of the businesses appear to have been filmed in while closed for the night, such as the restaurant which is completely empty except for a waiter and a singer. Only a few corporate meeting scenes have an appreciable number of extras, leaving other scenes set in diners and restaurants conspicuously empty. Filming done near roads during the actual bird apocalypse shows traffic passing unimpeded and even real birds flying around.
    • The whole film appears to have been shot on a low-quality video camera with little to no editing.
    • One of the extremely few practical effects in the film (birds spitting acid) was done by hurling several cartons of orange juice from off-camera onto the actors. This could only be done in one take, as that was all the orange juice they had.
    • Sound editing was almost non-existent. No room tone was taken and the background noise changes wildly between angles due to it. All sound was apparently taken off the camera's own microphone, with greatly varying levels and clarity.
    • Except for a few songs, all of the music is royalty-free. The infamously long opening driving scene has a short royalty-free clip simply loop multiple times.
    • Filming could only take place intermittently on weekends due to everyone having day jobs, causing the movie to take 4 years to complete.
  • Ben & Arthur is practically the Birdemic of gay romance movies. Despite a budget of $40,000 (4 times that of Birdemic), it somehow manages to accomplish even less in scope.
    • The diner Ben and Arthur work in is represented by a fast food chain restaurant.
    • One of the pistols used in the film is obviously a water pistol painted black. The many gunshots have no special effects except for a stock "gunshot" sound effect and cutting back to the victim with a bloody injury.
    • The church set includes a "stained glass" window that looks like it was made of thin paper.
    • Shots of Ben and Arthur taking an airline were apparently made by going to an airport and filming the first plane to pass close overhead. The two planes used are a FedEx cargo plane and an Alaska Airlines plane (flying from California to Vermont).
    • All of the music that isn't royalty-free is composed by Sam Mraovich, the star, director, writer, and overall creator of the film.
    • A Sony VX2000 camcorder with a tripod was seemingly the only camera setup used, making the film resemble a home movie. Two of the actors in the film were also credited as "cinematographers", suggesting that they hung around when not being shot to help manipulate the camera. The lack of a proper stabilizing rig makes any shots in motion very shaky and nauseating. All lighting is apparently whatever natural light was available, with one scene of Ben in a dark bedroom waking up being almost pitch black because of it.
  • 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. But contrary to Bollywood, there is not even awesomeness in their cheapness. It is mainly silly stories about miracles, serving religious propaganda. And yet, it is the first cinematographic industry in volume. Quantity is not quality, definitely.
  • Hard Candy was made for $950K, mainly to avoid Executive Meddling due to the controversial topic. It was filmed in 18 days, in chronological order, in the director's own house, and used a bare minimum of takes.
  • Thanks Killing was made for $3,000.
  • Violent Shit was made over four weekends on a budget of $2,000.
  • Woodchipper Massacre apparently had a budget of only $400.
  • Darren Aronofsky's first feature π had a budget of $60,000. He didn't both paying to secure outdoor locations and had one member of the crew stand by to look out for cops.
  • MonSturd, another for $3,000.
  • SLC Punk! cost just $600K 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 partially on his iPhone in his own apartment. A good part of it is Panahi summarizing the story of a couple movies his government did not let him make because he was banned from directing, screenwriting, and interviews but not acting. 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 and made almost $20M. 90% of the film was shot on a single floor of a recently vacated trading firm. The All-Star Cast actors apparently liked the script so much that they agreed to the Screen Actors Guild's minimum salaries.
  • The Evil Dead (1981) was shot for over a year with less than $375,000.
  • Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! was made on a budget of $100K. The only reason they were able to afford the helicopter crash scene was because it wasn't actually in the script, so the damages were covered by their insurance policy. The second movie had twenty times the budget of the first (which is still pretty small for a movie). It doesn't show (it also has a Running Gag of blatant product placements because they allegedly ran out of money partway through the film and needed an extra source of funding).
  • The original Cube was produced for $400K. All the CG was done for free as a Doing It for the Art moment.
  • Repo Chick was originally budgeted at $7M, which left one line producer wondering how (and where) they were going to secure a California Zephyr railroad car that was central to the plot. When the original financing fell through, director Alex Cox decided to shoot the actors almost entirely on green screen over 10 days, and composite in HO-scale model trains and sets in post-production. Final budget? $180,000.
  • The original Night of the Living Dead (1968) was done on a budget of $114,000.
  • The Boondock Saints had a meager budget of $6 million to work with, which sounds like a lot until you hear Troy Duffy explain how it would cost three times that much just to include certain song tracks in the picture.
  • According to IMDb, Doom House was filmed on a meager shoestring budget of only $60,000 (estimated).
  • For years, the "official" shooting budget of the original Dawn of the Dead (1978) was listed as $1.5 million. It wasn't until 2004, when the "Ultimate Edition' DVD box set was released, that producer Richard Rubenstein revealed (on one of the commentary tracks) that the real number was closer to $500,000; they'd inflated the cost to make the film seem more impressive while marketing it to potential distributors.
  • Monsters was made on $500,000 in spite of the massive, Hollywood-quality CGI monsters that play a small but vital role in the film. The locations, including monster-smashed landscapes and various exotic South American locales are also pretty impressive. The director, Gareth Edwards, made all the CGI on his home computer, most of the locations were stolen, and many supporting characters were simply bystanders recruited to improvise scenes on the spot. The boats and trucks in trees were probably left there by previous hurricanes.
  • The Last House on Dead End Street was made for $800. The budget was originally $3000, but the creator spent most of that on drugs.
  • Manborg had a budget of $1000, and is all the more awesome because of it.
  • Subverted by Adam Sandler's recent comedies, which would use cheap sets and crappy green screening if they weren't shot on locations like national parks or people's homes. The final budgets that go into them are usually around $80 million each. Some theorize that most of it goes into paying Sandler's co-stars.
    "This is a No Budget flick. Not a low budget, but a no budget!"
  • Any movie by The Asylum typically doesn't go over the $1 million mark when it comes to budgets.
  • Frozen Days was made on a $25,000 budget, which the creators had to raise themselves.
  • Absentia was a project on Kickstarter, resulting in a $70,000 budget - this led to liberal use of Nothing Is Scarier.
  • Another Earth was made for about $100,000. When they needed a scene of the protagonist getting out of jail, actress Brit Marling simply walked into a local prison claiming to be a yoga instructor, and then walked out again before anyone had time to realise that she wasn't, while the director filmed it all from outside.
  • All Superheroes Must Die was made on a budget of $20,000. Several scenes were modified as the list of places they could affordably film shrank.
  • Film/Hardcore Henry was made on a budget of $2,000,000. This seems high for this page, but the film features action scenes involving fights against dozens of clones at once, with realistic blood and gore effects for every single death. Major highlights include a minigun shredding a van from the inside during a highway chase/shootout, the top floor of a building collapsing on a 2 dozen clone group, and a scene in which a man is decapitated by a cyborg eyestalk. What makes it even more impressive is that it was filmed entirely in first person. It also manages to have some very convincing sci-fi set design and fx work.
  • The Kentucky Fried Movie cost only $650,000 to make and made $20 million at the box office.
  • The found footage mockumentary horror film The Last Broadcast was made for only $900, and is notable for being one of the first films shot on video to get a theatrical release.
  • Teenagers from Outer Space was made on a budget of US$14,000 (with inflation that's about $114,000 today). This is indicated by such things as a toy standing in for a death ray and an extended sequence featuring a lobster dangled in front of the camera to serve as a giant alien monster.
  • Cry_Wolf is an interesting example. The producers had made a short film as a contest for Chrysler, and the prize was a million dollars. They used the money to make the film, along with quite a bit of conspicuous Chrysler Product Placement.
  • Who Killed Captain Alex takes the No Budget thing to the extreme, which was only made on a budget of roughly $200. For context, the film company that made the film lived in slum in Uganda, so you couldn't really blame them for the money issues. It makes up for it with the sheer level of passion everyone put into it.

    Gm Shw 
  • This became something of the standard in Game Shows after the Quiz Show Scandals broke in 1958 and people became very distrusting of high-reward games. After that, games switched focus from "winning" more to "playing", which resulted in quirkier shows with lower budgets where the focus was more on having fun instead of big payouts. Big-money shows didn't really return until Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in the late 1990s.
  • Blankety Blank, the British version of Match Game, 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 second 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.
  • The Taiwanese version of Cash Cab is so cheap, they deduct the cab fare from contestants' winnings. Early episodes also had extremely paltry prize amounts — the grand total given away on the premiere, after cab fare deductions? Less than US$1.
  • The Price Is Right: Seasons 37-39 were accused of this, not entirely with the prizes offered but prizes being offered pretty much only as "show" and the pricing games themselves set so hard that, short of a lucky or exceptionally skilled contestant, nobody will win it.
    • Per this page, from at least Seasons 29-36 (2000-08) the pricing game win rate was between 46%-50%, with 36 posting the lowest amount of that group. Seasons 37-39 (2008-11) saw the win rate drop noticeably, with 39 in particular putting up just 34.9% thanks in part to new game Pay The Rent.
    • While this was a common practice prior to Roger Dobkowitz's departure from the show, it was less criticized because while the games were still set to be more difficult than usual, they could still be won by good contestants because Roger believed in not "cheating" the person who was playing — he refused to put the right choice of That's Too Much in the 1st-2nd or 9th-10th slots, or the money of Half Off in Box 13. The subsequent regime ignored both, leading to the Fan Nickname "That's Two Ninth!" in Season 37.
      • A common example is Stack The Deck, in which the object is to select five out of seven available numbers and use them to form the correct price of the car. The contestant can get up to three free digits by correctly pricing all three grocery products in play. The trope applies if any of the products are set up to be incorrectly priced.
    • With the more recent offerings of $20,000+ level trips and very easy pricing game setups (such as Secret X set up for a diagonal win), some have also wondered if trips are even part of the show's budget or if they are furnished by hotels/travel companies.
    • Car games offering compact or subcompact cars often worth less than $20,000 have steadily been on the rise despite inflation. It's gotten to a point where in Season 44, the show seemed to take pride in offering a Nissan Versa worth $12,815 in fee games such as Spelling Bee or Let 'em Roll. Keep in mind, the average price of a new car these days is nearly three times that.
  • Sale of the Century: The 1980s NBC version originally began with a shopping Bonus Round, where contestants could buy sometimes-opulent prizes such as a $25,000 precious commodities package or a $20,000 Oriental rug. The show switched to the Winner's Board in November 1984 and the Winner's Big Money Game in December 1987, dropping the super-expensive prizes in favor of more standard game-show fare in the $1,500-$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 occasional Chevrolet Corvette and Cadillac DeVille 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 Winner's Big Money Game made the $50,000 ridiculously hard to get: the champ had to win the WBMG on their seventh day (to get the car), had to risk it and any preceding WBMG winnings to come back for an eighth day, win that game, then clear the subsequent WBMG to actually get the $50,000. By all indication, only one player won the $50,000 in this format, whereas quite a few won the Lot in the Shopping and Winner's Board eras.
    • The 1980s syndicated version began with the Shopping format, but in November 1985 changed to the Winner's Board as well, played exactly the same way as on NBC. The change was rather noticeable since it was never so much as hinted at until the last segment of the last Shopping episode, when Jim announced it. The fact the Cash Jackpot continued to grow during the final Shopping week, even when it became obvious that nobody would get the $750 needed to win it, didn't help matters.
    • When it was revived as Temptation: The New Sale Of The Century, the budget shrank even further. Prizes were in the $500-$1,000 range, less than 1/4th the typical value of the prizes in the 1980s version if you adjust for inflation. The grand prize was just a mid-range car, worth less than 1/8th the 1980s jackpot (again, adjusted for inflation). Also, Instant Cash started at $500 and grew by $500 per show (with a $5,000 cap) and champs were limited to a maximum of five days. If the shoestring budget had been any tighter, the prizes would've had to be literal shoe strings.
  • Jeopardy!: Averted until Season 31. Until then, the show allowed players who finished tied to keep their winnings and play again on the following game. However, the producers circumvented this after four occurrences in Fall 2014: now, all ties are decided with a tiebreaker clue. The winner comes back on the next show with their winnings, while the loser goes home with $2,000. Though, this situation has yet to occur.
  • Wheel of Fortune, when the daytime version moved from NBC to CBS in Summer 1989. The show adopted a play-for-cash format (as its still-running syndicated companion did in October 1987), but the Wheel's dollar values were slashed, sometimes by more than half, with $50 and $75 dotting the Rounds 1-2 layout and the top value in Rounds 4+ being a very modest $1,250. (Conversely, nighttime used a $1,000/$2,500/$3,500/$5,000 layout {formerly $1,000/$1,000/$5,000} rather than the daytime $500/$500/$1,000/$1,250 {formerly $750/$1,000/$2,000}.) Also, the Bonus Round prizes included $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 nighttime. Even worse, the price of a vowel dropped from $250 to $200, then further to $100. While the budget improved slightly over the last two years ($50 and $75 were ousted between mid-August and mid-September 1989, and the removal of the Free Spin wedge on October 16, 1989 resulted in a $400 boost), it was still cheap. While the front-game and Bonus Round prizes increased in value as the series went on, the Wheel became static when Free Spin became a token.
    • Still, despite the comparatively-lower budget, the daytime bonus prizes were generally more practical/desirable game show fare as opposed to nighttime'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.
    • Subverted in Season 26: The $10,000 Wedge was replaced by the current Million-Dollar Wedge, which only awards the chance of taking it to the Bonus Round, and the contestant must avoid Bankrupt before the game ends. The only envelope that is replaced in the Bonus Round is the $100,000 envelope, with the other 23 left unchanged. Of course, if the contestant can pull it off...
    • However, with each time the $1,000,000 has been won, the budget has been noticeably tighter...despite the fact that said prize has always been insured.
      • After the first win occurred within a month of the wedge's introduction, the changes introduced in Season 27 made it more difficult to take the wedge to the Bonus Round. The second Bankrupt became permanent throughout the whole game with said space always adjacent to the top dollar amount and the Jackpot Round moved to Round 1, decreasing the value of potential wins.
      • After the second occurred near the end of Season 30, the Bonus Round got much cheaper the following season with the minimum value being landed just over 50% of the time. The $100,000/$1 Million envelope wasn't even landed on until the fourth-to-last week of the season. Also, the cash bonus for winning a car in the Bonus Round decreased from $5,000 to $3,000. Meanwhile, the Jackpot Round was retired, not helped by its high win rate the previous season.
      • Season 32 saw the show making steps to get back on its feet despite the new $32,000 Bonus Round minimum being offered on almost three out of every four shows: the minimum dollar value on the Wheel increased to $500 (but vowels still cost $250), and the cash bonus for winning a car in the Bonus Round also increased back to $5,000. However, all that went out the window with the $1,000,000 being won again just three shows into the season.
    • For Season 33, Wheel chose not to tape any road shows, citing high production costs (though the Sony email leaks may have also factored in their decision to do so). Also, two of the Wheel's values decreased with a third being lowered in every round except for one. Furthermore, the show stopped giving cash with cars in the Bonus Round and the 1/2 Car tags were removed for Round 1. Again, it didn't help that the 1/2 Car was won frequently in Season 32.
    • Some would argue that nighttime version has shown this even before the Million-Dollar Wedge was introduced to the show. The main-game prizes since about 2002 have almost always been trips, cash bonuses, or sponsored shopping sprees (and even then, the trips are usually within the US or Caribbean islands). Bonus Round prizes, on the other hand, are limited to cars and cash.
    • Interestingly, despite signs of budget problems, the Prize Puzzle is still a regular element on the show which currently offers a $6,000+ trip to the player who solves the puzzle. However, they stopped giving out the $50,000 cash award to Sony Rewards card holders in Season 29. In Season 30, they switched to awarding a flat $5,000 to Spin ID members.
  • According to a post by Buzzerblog's Alex Davis, the American version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? had only $10,000 left in the prize budget for the last episode of its Clock format, suggesting that the Shuffle format was introduced for budget reasons.
  • Family Feud:
    • Until 1992, families played for cash. With the introduction of the Bullseye Round, families played for points instead. Plus, the Fast Money prizes of $5,000 or $10,000 depending on the version (which were already cheap by early 90s standards) were replaced with base amounts of $2,500 or $5,000. The 1994 Bankroll version had this even worse, with the most families could play for being either $7,000 or $14,000.
    • It's more blatant on the current syndicated version, which also has families playing for points instead of cash. Its ratings have quadrupled since Steve Harvey became host, but the Fast Money prize of $20,000 remains unchanged since 2001. Fast Money losses are still $5 a point, which has been the same since 1976. note 
  • Parodied on The Cheap Show, a pseudo-game show created by Chris Bearde. The prizes were intentionally cheap (except in the bonus game), the set had a three-person celebrity panel but only two ever showed up, and host Dick Martin was introduced as "the only man we can find who'll work this cheap".
  • The 1981-82 Canadian import Pitfall originally offered a $5,000 prize package in the bonus game with $100 cash awarded for every "zone" crossed. Later in the run, the prize package was halved and the cash replaced by a small prize for crossing the fourth zone.
    • Later contestants were stiffed of their prizes, and host Alex Trebek's salary check bounced (he has it framed on a wall in his office), all because Catalena Productions, makers of the show, went belly-up.
  • Quicksilver was an Irish quiz show that ran from The '60s to The '80s. Players competed for laughably small cash prizes, ranging from 2 pence to the dizzying heights of £10.
  • Inquizition, airing from 1998-2001, was by design stripped clean of anything that might imply any sort of a budget. The contestants stood behind podiums that performed the bare minimum of functions—locking in an answer and showing a score—and looked it. They competed in an empty sound stage green-screened to look like an abandoned airplane hangar that gave its own implications of cheapness. The prize for winning was a whopping $250, though later on they got really crazy and upped the prize to $500.
  • Letters and Numbers, the Australian version of Countdown, doesn't feature any celebrity guests and the prize for everyone is a Macquarie dictionary whether they lose the first round or win eight in a row.

  • Cops, which is "filmed on-location with the men and women of law enforcement," as it says at the beginning of every show. The show is completely unscripted, mostly because it follows real police officers making routine arrests and talking to people. What little budget there is goes into the cameras and editing.
  • 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 1960s-80s. As the Doctor Who YMMV page puts it: "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." Tom Baker, who played the Fourth Doctor, claimed that nobody liked the bad effects the show had during this period and you just bore with them. Anyone who says otherwise is looking through the nostalgia-glasses.
    Stephen Fry: [holding bubble wrap] Look, erm, Vince, either the BBC believes in Doctor Who or it doesn't, but how am I going to make seventeen monsters out of this?
    • While not quite as bad as it was in the seventies, budget constraints occasionally hold the show back even today.
    • 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.
    • Fans of many BBC shows have a common saying that goes similar to "BBC: 15 ACTORS, 8 PROPS, 3 SHOOTING AREAS, AND ONE STORYLINE".
    • This persisted well into the eighties where children's programming was concerned. The Excited Kids' Show Host and their Non-Human Sidekick (usually The Voiceless, probably also to keep costs down) would actually have to do their thing in the booth where the Continuity Announcements were made, even having to personally press the button to cue up the next cartoon. This booth was nicknamed "The Broom Cupboard", and with good reason (most people old enough to remember this might have been surprised to learn that it wasn't an actual cupboard), which is probably why CBBC's presenters tended not to be quite as loud and hammy back then; there wasn't space.
  • 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.
  • Space Cases was a sci-fi show 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 CDs on the sides of chairs and handheld video games for control panels, they had the one advantage of being on Nickelodeon: recycling 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).
  • The two Power Rangers Super Samurai holiday specials "Trickster Treat" and "Stuck on Christmas" were done last-minute, allegedly due to a previously overlooked contractual obligation with Nickelodeon. With production of the series having already wrapped and the production of Power Rangers Megaforce set to begin soon, those two episodes were made on a very low budget, with Stock Footage running rampant. "Stuck on Christmas" mostly averts this by being a mixture of a Bottle Episode and a clip show; however, "Trickster Treat" was almost entirely made up of stock footage, mostly from the Samurai Sentai Shinkenger Direct-to-Video movie, unmorphed footage from previous episodes and some from an upcoming episode. Whatever little budget was available was spent on dubbing over the stock footage and editing the episodes.
  • Blake's 7 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 started with a tiny budget on its first (KTMA) season, which is what spawned its very homemade-looking props. Subsequent seasons actually had a decent budget, but they had to spend most of it on film rights, so the host segments continued to look very homemade.
    • Mind you, the "homemade" look was entirely intentional, to pay homage to the low-budget films they riff on.
  • 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 Katie's 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 (2003). 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.
  • 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 (although this resulted in charming scenes of him and Kristen Bell wondering around Paris landmarks interviewing guests on the move). It got a little bit better when Ferguson's new contract with the accompanying new larger studio kicked in, though new no budget items such as the 'fireplace' with a still of a fire keep the show's cheap charm strong.
  • 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 Effect Failure and Howard quips "we spent the budget on your hair".
  • The early 1970s science-fiction series The Starlost didn't have much of a budget to begin with, and most of it was blown trying to get a fancy special-effects camera to work. Most of the sets and special effects are terrible as a result.
  • 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 Show Within a Show on Garth Marenghis Darkplace suffers from this, being funded mostly out-of-pocket by Marenghi and Dean Learner. This leads to some epic Special Effect 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.
  • Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad: Low budget might as well be an excuse for reusing battle scenes with as much regularity as that show did. Also, there were a grand total of five sets (School cafeteria, school hallway, Sam's room, Malcolm's room, newsdesk.) Pretty much anything not in those locations is Gridman footage, right down to the overwhelmingly-black-haired factory workers and such, if the monster affects the outside world before it impacts anyone we know.
  • New Zealand-produced TV show Back Of The Y made up for its ultra-low budget by taking pure Refuge in Audacity.
  • USA Network tried to rescue Airwolf without accounting for the price tag. They had to use painfully obvious stock footage to cover up the fact that they didn't actually have the helicopter. They couldn't afford the actors, either.
  • Animorphs had no budget whatsoever, and it shows, particularly when they're showing any sort of Andalite (not that they did this very often). It's just one of the many reasons most fans of the books hated it.
  • The novel I, Claudius, and its sequel, were big sprawling epics, with a few large battles, lots and lots of circuses and gladiatorial games, and the occasional riot. The TV adaptation manages to stage the whole thing without ever having a crowd larger than a meeting of the Roman Senate. (The battles all occur off-camera, with perhaps an aftermath scene in the general's tent; the gladiatorial games consist of a close-up camera on the Emperor's box.) Hey, the BBC ain't made of money.
  • The Eric Andre Show is a parody of low-rent, DIY public access shows. To help make it look authentic, Adult Swim gave the creators $60 for the first season.
  • Parodied in one episode of the Israeli sitcom HaPijamot featuring the same basic premise in various What If? scenarios. The last two were ‘The Story that Would Have Happened if We Had No Budget’, featuring the eponymous band replaced by work immigrants from China, and ‘The Story that Would Have Happened if We Had No Budget at All’, in which the apartment they live in was empty.
  • The pilot episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia was reportedly shot for $85.
  • Belgian television is notorious for being very low-budget, which is why it turns a lot of people off. The highest viewer rating ever seen on Belgian TV however was 1,9 million, so it's not really unexpected. The biggest budget ever put in a Belgian television show was De Kavijaks with 3,35 million dollars. Even so, there are a few cases that stand out.
    • Maurice De Wilde spent all of the budget he got for his documentaries on research. He still produces spectacular television though if you consider Talking Heads to be spectacular. This was intentional however as he did not want to rely on special effects to tell what really happened, which makes all of his documentaries all the more informative.
    • 2013 is perhaps the only show in television history to be deliberately filmed with amateur cameras. In this case to give the impression that it is all really happening. It works though.
  • The long-extinct DuMont network's programs were produced on low budgets due to their constant troubles as the perennial fourth place network. This resulted in shows with wobbly sets, improvised props (such as the "communicator" in Captain Video made out of a regular telephone handset) and a soundtrack provided by just an electric organ. To be fair, they often made up for these deficiencies with good writing and excellent actors.
  • Top Gear has episodes where presenters have to buy cars for a very low price, e.g. Porsches below £1500 or vans below £1000.

  • All tracks except "Avatar" on Grottomatic's first album, On No Budget, were made on Tim's personal computer. He composed the album art with Microsoft Paint. He was living in poverty at the time.
  • Nirvana recorded their debut album Bleach for barely over $606 ($1200 in 2015).
  • The debut self-titled album by My Friend The Chocolate Cake was made on a minuscule budget of $800.
  • Craig Minowa's (and by extension, Cloud Cults) debut album "The Shade Project" was made on a budget so small that he had to cut corners wherever possible and use any and all manner of substitutes for instruments.

    Msc Vids 
  • Many early music videos during the New Wave Music era were shot in a White Void Room, in order to keep costs to a minimum, as well as in keeping with the stripped-back sensibilities of the music.
    • The Trope Codifier is believed to be ''Pop Muzik'' by M. The director, Brian Grant, was on record saying that he was given a budget limit of £2000, so he had little choice but to produce the video on a 'white cyc' background and edit the video on the fly. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • OK Go videos, at least at their beginning in YouTube. "A Million Ways" is a good example. A lot of them feature props bought at the Dollar Store and Ikea.
  • Beyoncé 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.
  • The video for Hizaki Grace Project's "Philosopher" is a good example of a Visual Kei music video where it's painfully obvious that they spent the entire budget on the band members' costumes. The result is a video, apparently shot with a 10-year-old camera (the video was made in 2006), which consists almost entirely of the band members performing alternately in front of a wrinkled curtain and on a staircase, interspersed with shots of them posing pensively in various places around the mansion they rented. But at least they all look gorgeous!
  • David Lee Roth once bragged that the music video for Van Halen's "Jump" cost around $600—at a time when other bands were spending upwards of six figures on their videos. Both the song and video helped make an already popular band HUGE.
  • Voivod's "Ravenous Medicine" is probably one of the cheapest, lamest, and Narmiest metal video you will ever see, but let's just say it makes up for it big time.
  • "Big Bang Baby" by Stone Temple Pilots is a homage to the bare-bones music videos of the late '70s and early '80s, which already followed this trope. It was made in 1996. You can probably guess how much it must have cost at that point.
  • Lampshaded in the video for "Hey Man Now You're Really Living" by Eels. It starts with the singer apologizing for having no money, and then the rest of it is just him and his dog singing along to the song.
  • Anthony Kiedis revealed in his autobiography that the music video for "Jungle Man" was shot on a $200 budget of their own money, comprised solely of footage of the Red Hot Chili Peppers singing the song in clubs, because EMI refused to give them any money for music videos.
  • David Bowie's 2013 video for "Love Is Lost" cost only $12.99 according to the official press release! Those life-sized puppets? They were created for an unreleased 1999 video, and he just took them out of mothballs. The three-person crew included himself!

  • Invoked by Time Fantasy, which was made to provide a low-budget item for Williams' marketing and distribution departments.
  • Asteroid Annie and the Aliens was made in order to use up some outdated leftover components,

    Pr Wrg 
  • Big Japan Pro Wrestling's early years were basically propped up by two wrestlers who departed from All Japan(Shinya Kojika and Kendo Nagasaki), and it showed. Their solution was to turn to Garbage Wrestling, but even in that field they couldn't match the explosives of FMW or production of IWA Japan, inspiring some of their more "distinct" hazards such as "heat stones"(space heaters wrapped in barbed wire) and piranha tanks, which remained even after they could afford better due to Grand Father Clause.
  • Ohio Valley Wrestling's "Shoestring Budget" has been affectionately mocked by everyone from Jim Cornette to Randy Orton, both of whom expressed disdain with the much more expensive facilities ran by the revived FCW, believing OVW gets more done with so much less.
  • When CZW isn't being rundown for Garbage Wrestling or for being a Wretched Hive, other promotions are mocking its non existent budget, the joke usually being after some spectacular mess, often their own, someone will decry that even budget less CZW did better.
  • Ring of Honor was in this situation after losing their distributor, RF Video. While the company was eventually saved by Sinclair Broadcast Group, SBG basically let them run for over a year without a production budget, despite being, well, a broadcast group. ROH in fact threatened to overtake CZW as the punchline, though while production progress was slow, SBG did come to learn the value of talent and venue slightly quicker.
  • TNA's budget went into a nosedive after they got cancelled from Spike and Panda Energy (the billion dollar company Dixie Carter's parents own) cut them off. By 2016 they were basically broke. They kept on paying their wrestlers and production team late, they were kicked out of their original headquarters and had to move into their merchandise warehouse, and they barely had enough money to do tapings. The annual Slammiversary PPV almost got canceled because they were so short on cash — it's effectively the reason why Billy Corgan became minority shareholder.

  • On Rick Dees Top 40, "No budget" was a Catch Phrase, the source of a Running Gag (example: Dees explained about a problem with receiving mail, as because there was "no budget", the show could not afford a letter opener), and the name of a fictional record label.
  • NPR's news/quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! had such a low budget during its first few years that the only "prize" they could afford to give out was a voice mail greeting done by game's announcer Carl Kasell. The prize became such a famous part of the show that it was kept even after the show was given a higher budget.

  • Happens all the time, mainly because many shows don't really have a budget to begin with. This doesn't apply to, say, Broadway, (most of the time,) but there are far more theaters out there than what's on Broadway, as well as many colleges that produce productions, and many of them (both college productions and actual theatrical productions,) are run on a shoe-string budget. This can get to the point where all you might have are cheap costumes, a bare-bones set, and minimal lighting. And some productions don't even have that. But in a field where, on average, only 2% of the US go to see shows, it can only be expected, unfortunately.
  • The Fantasticks spent around $1,000 for set and costuming. This helps keep its production costs low, enabling it to become a record-breaking Long Runner.
  • An ancient example of the trope - Aristophanes, in his Frogs, has the chorus come on dressed in the filthy torn rags of Bacchic celebrants, and has them joke openly about how this choice of costume helps to keep down the expenses. Athenian theatre was funded by the liturgy system - the compulsory largesse of the wealthiest men in the city - but the Frogs was put on at the height of the Peloponnesian War, when everyone was feeling the financial strain and liturgy money was desperately needed to pay for mercenaries and triremes instead. Which makes this Older Than Feudalism.
  • This trope is actually the reason The Scottish Play has such a superstitions reputation, for two connected reasons:
    • It's one of the cheapest plays you can put together if you can't afford safety equipment — heck, the fact that most of the scenes are at night means you don't even need many light bulbs — except it's one of the plays that most needs safety equipment.
    • Because it's so cheap to put on yet such a famous crowd-pleaser, it's a tempting play for a troupe down on their luck to use as their swansong; the play gets blamed for being cursed and putting the troupe out of business, when the troupe was probably already bankrupt by the time the curtains even opened.
  • Finale was produced by two high school students. The budget almost entirely came out of pocket and from a (mostly unsuccessful) gofundme page.

    Vid Gms 
  • Katawa Shoujo had about 20 international developers and no budget - they all volunteered in their spare time to make a free game. They didn'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, although doing it well is another matter, and doesn't require fancy hardware or software.
  • Touhou, Cave Story, and various other one-person efforts.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire is a non-indie PC game with a budget of $1M. For comparison, average PC game cost is $18-28M.
  • Katamari Damacy was made by a group of 10 in less than 18 months on a budget of under $1M, 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).
  • Hyperdimension Neptunia had an extremely limited budget, yet garnered the highest amount of sales of any game by Compile Heart, which led it to become a larger series (with a proper budget, obviously).
  • The original Super Smash Bros. had a very limited budget and little promotion, as the project was initially a simple side project by Masahiro Sakurai that Satoru Iwata let him do on weekends. After Sakurai presented the partial product to Iwata, he asked if he could use several Nintendo characters in an effort to make it more original. The game's surprise success led to the sequels having a much more lavish budget, as seen in the much bigger cast, stage selection, and more complex moves.
  • Almost all Game Mods rely on a almost non-existent budget and typically are not allowed to sell their finished game/mod for money (Flight simulators are one notable exception). Even total conversion mods like MechWarrior Living Legends and Black Mesa - mods which are essentially their own triple-A games - are developed on a budget that that only covers the cost for server upkeep and tool licensing, such as 3DS Max.
  • Depending how you look at it, Dwarf Fortress is either a straight example or a notable aversion. The studio's annual operating budget is about US$35,000; for a game that's coded by one guy and which started out as a pure hobby project, that's pretty high. For a game that's won a large stack of awards, spawned at least three or four imitators from much larger and better-resourced studios, been the subject of a feature article in the New York Times, and been on display in the Museum of Modern Art, it's astonishingly low. Also worth mentioning is that the budget is entirely donations. The game is entirely free.
  • The Fool's Errand and its sequel The Fool and His Money were both coded, illustrated, written, and produced entirely by one man named Cliff Johnson. The Fool and His Money in particular was funded entirely by money out of Johnson's own pocket and donations from "True Believers", which goes a long way towards explaining why it took nine years for the game to be completed.
  • Segagaga: According to developer Tez Okano, the game cost "100th of Shenmue"note  and was developed mostly in secret over two years. When its sale was approved, Sega gave him a $200 marketing budget, of which half was used by Okano to buy himself a wrestling mask. Appearing at games stores in disguise, he was able to get enough buzz going to spur online orders and eventually a retail release.
  • The majority of crowd-funded video games (whose title isn't "Star Citizen") are produced on budgets drastically humbler than what traditional publishers invest into projects of comparable complexity. Since this money is usually spent on programming and assets, crowd-funded projects usually skimp on marketing (compensated by word of mouth) and quality assurance (compensated by a rapid post-release feedback and patch cycle).
  • Age of Conan. Very apparent when the game first launched in 2008. Most of the world segments were beautifully designed and the storyline and quests were masterful up until level 40, at which point it became obvious to players that the money to develop the game had simply run out. There were practically no quests or playable content between level 40 and level 70 with a smattering of endgame quests filled out. This problem was alleviated by "Rise of the Godslayer" and further expansions that filled out the sorely needed mid level content.
  • Many of Taro Yoko's games fall victim to having to be made with a shoestring budget as well as often having an inexperienced crew under him often leads to lackluster graphics and gameplay. His games often use atmosphere and story in center in order to get by instead.
  • All of the games made by Mediagenic. The reason why is because back then Activision had very few money left is because they wanted to break in the software applications industry under the name Mediagenic, but they ended up lacking in success there. That was compounded by an 1988 court decision that found Activision guilty in a multi-million dollar patent infringement suit by Philips regarding its previous cartridge games. They were however still an old and respected name in the video game industry and so were given confident launch titles to last by both Sega and Nintendo for their respective 16-bit consoles. Eventually they crashed, were taken over by an investment group led by Bobby Kotick and filed for chapter 11 reorganisation in 1992 and changed their name back to activision, which allowed them to do high-budget games once again.

    W. Anim. 
  • The first Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy, was an independent short made after Walt Disney had lost the rights to his character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The short was made on a shoestring budget of roughly 1,700+$ ($23,655 in 2015 money), and was singlehandedly animated by Ub Iwerks in just two weeks—he had to crank out 700 drawings per day just to get the film done. The entire film was animated in Walt's garage, and their camera wasn't even capable of doing a trucking shot, so they had to stack books below the background to give the illusion of it.
  • The b&w Looney Tunes directed by Tex Avery and Bob Clampett had very small budgets of 3,000$ (around 50,000$ in 2016 money) and strict deadlines of four weeks to slam together each cartoon.
  • Much like how an episode of an Anime costs less than an episode of a cartoon, the latter is made with a considerably smaller amount of money than an animated film.
  • The Brave Little Toaster was made on a budget of $2.3M, which was modest even for animated films at the time.
  • Tom Terrific is probably as low-budget as a presentable TV cartoon can get; Terry Toons had very little money for it, so as a cost-cutting measure the animation consist of black line-art only, with no cel paint were used (at least in the first season; in the second season they started painting the characters solid white).
  • Joe Oriolo's made-for-TV Felix the Cat cartoons (the 1959-1961 Trans-Lux series) were made on very tight, shoestring budgets. The entire series only had a budget of 1,750,000$ (which, despite what one would think, is not big money for a 260 episode series of animation) or basically 6,700$ per episode, hence why Limited Animation is in full effect (with rare instances of fully animated walk cycles), why there are so many shots just showing off the backgrounds and stock music cues, and even parts where they just slide cels across a background with no animation at all! To further limit the need for more elaborate animation and save money on the already meager budget, Jack Mercer (the sole voice actor for the series) was asked to enunciate his dialogue very slowly so that the animation would require less labor intensive artwork. Mercer also had to continually alter the pitch of the voice during takes, because he preformed his audio recordings straight through instead of recording each character separately and editing their dialogue together later on to save on money. To make matters worse, they had extremely tight deadlines—they had to turn out three completed episodes per week (one animator was cranking out 150 feet—or close to two minutes worth of animation each week just to get the episodes done) and were given mere hours to write the scripts for each episode. John Canemaker's Felix book summed up just how frugal Joe Oriolo was forced to be on the show;
    “One of his dictums became well known within the industry: scenes that could not fit under his office door, said Oriolo, held too many drawings.”
  • The Al Brodax Popeye cartoons had similar budget problems. They were farmed out to every studio across the planet, slamming together around 200 made for TV cartoons in just two years.
  • Ralph Bakshi's Wizards was made on a $1M budget—on the DVD commentary, Ralph admitted that the only way he was even able to complete the film was because he got veteran Tom and Jerry animator, Irv Spence, to animate 75% of the entire movie. It tends to show more often than not, but Bakshi's studio was quite famous for cranking out animated films for less money than many movies spend on catering alone.
    • Most of Bakshi's films were produced on very low budgets, including Fritz the Cat ($850,000), Heavy Traffic ($950,000) and American Pop ($1 million). He didn't get a multi-million dollar budget until The Lord of the Rings, which still only cost $4 million. All of the aforementioned films made back their budgets several times over.
  • Sita Sings the Blues was made for $290K; $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 due in part to their policy of never outsourcing animation jobs, which was expensive.
  • Many studios that opened up during the first 15 years of commercial TV churned out many cartoon shows with the most threadbare of budgets. Hanna-Barbera has been widely chided for this practice during its tenure (1957 to 2001), but many shows were hammered for their premise more than their cut-rate animation.
    • The Ruff & Ready Show had a budget that was tiny even by Hanna-Barbera's standards, around $3,000 per short (even in 1958 that was paltry). Compare that to the last Tom and Jerry shorts Hanna and Barbera made for MGM a couple years earlier, which had budgets of close to $60,000! Huckleberry Hound didn't fare much better with it's meager budget of 6,000$ per short.
  • The Simpsons has this happen a lot in-universe. The show itself definitely averts this, as its voice actors alone cost more than most cartoons budget for entire episodes.
    • 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 $10M fine because of this, they couldn't afford voice actors or any sound effects for Itchy and Scratchy.
    • So much was spent to have Katy Perry appear in a Christmas Episode there was only one hound to answer Mr. Burns' usual "release the hounds" command.
  • South Park's minimalist geometric art style (originally spawned from cardboard cut-outs), casting (almost all the voices are done by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and a pair of female voice actors) and use stock effects allows episodes to be done by a small team of under 20 people assuming multiple roles, all within the course of a single week.
  • Take away the licensing fees for the music video segments and Beavis and Butt-Head would definitely be this. Limited Animation, grade schooler-level backdrops that look to have been made with crayon and colored pencil, and almost everyone is voiced by creator Mike Judge. Which perfectly fits the wonderfully crude idiocy of the show.
  • Phineas and Ferb: "Tri-Stone Area" had the characters' pre-historical counterparts grunt. The episode was occasionally interrupted so Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh would explain details. Povenmire mentioned limited budgets as an explanation for the low quality of their scenes.
  • Battle for Dream Island: The series is full of this.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie was originally budgeted at $25 million. It wound up being made for $10 million and it grossed $15 million domestically. What Warner Bros. did with the rest of the budget is anyone's guess—it sure didn't go towards promoting the film.
  • Any films by Bill Plympton is this. Plympton maintains that his budget is about $1,000 per minute of animation, which is very low by the industry standards. In addition to doing most of the work himself (with only a small number of crew helping out), he animates in threes, giving his animation a choppy look that became his signature style.
  • Dragons: Riders of Berk
    • One episode revolves around rescuing the farm animals to save the vikings, which are enduring a blizzard. Said animals, yaks, chickens, and sheep, consist of less than thirty animals. Seriously, there are only three sheep, a handful of chickens, and twenty yaks would be a rough estimate, yet it is treated like the entire fate of the vikings and their dragons is on the line if these animals are not brought back. Thousands of people and dragons are expected to live on thirty or so animals and what little milk and eggs said animals can produce, or at least need them enough to bother going out into a freezing storm with no coats, risking freezing to death, to retrieve them.
    • The episode "In Dragons We Trust" has a similar problem. At one point, all the dragons are banished to a island. The vikings are supposed to have hundreds of them, but we see only the main kids' five dragons. The shots make it unlikely that they all would be all off screen, to the point of it being contrived if they are.
    • "In Dragons We Trust" has another problem. At one point, the antagonist of the episode throws a couple of items into the ocean. The ocean has ripples in it, but it's creepily motionless.
  • Basically, every movie by Dingo Pictures.
  • 12 oz. Mouse. All the characters resemble MS Paint drawings, and there are few effects. The creator joked it would '' cost five dollars and will take some of the paper sitting in the copier".
  • Pickle and Peanut was definitely made on a low budget. Many of the characters and effects are stock images, and the ones that aren't, are usually drawn very simply.

  • A short arc in Ozy and Millie invoked this with a "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" parody "Who Wants To Be A Seventeen Cent-aire?" The grand prize was, as is mentioned in the title, seventeen cents.
  • Each arc of The B-Movie Comic is a B-movie made of this principle (with occasional behind-the-scenes interviews). The producer is even named Nolan Nobucks, and one of the actors is a kid actor paid little to nothing.

    Web Orig. 
  • Many internet webseries run the line from shoestring to no budget whatsoever.
    • Particularly the That Guy with the Glasses anniversary specials. Most of what little budget they had was spent on getting the key players there.
    • It's more visible with Linkara's Wham Episodes. Surprisingly, they still work.
    • The original run of Classic Game Room had a weekly budget of $50.
    • Most of RedLetterMedia's old stuff were shot in places like their old apartments with old VHS cameras. Their stuff nowadays is better funded but it's still barebones.
  • The first season of Marble Hornets was made on a budget of about $500. Since it's essentially The Blair Witch Project taken Up to Eleven and released on YouTube (there's a DVD now), this isn't too surprising, but still impressive when you consider they made twenty-six entries with that budget alone.
    • The same applies to most of the other YouTube Slenderman stories that followed in its wake. It's not uncommon for a series to go on hiatus while the creators scrounge up the resources to create the next entry.
  • Apparently most of Manwhores' costs were in film, with all the actors donating their time and various people donating the sets. It still manages to have pretty varied settings.
  • The tendency for Christian movies to do this is parodied in "A Trailer For Every Christian Movie Ever". The cast is the producer/writer/director, his high school sweetheart, and his best friend.
  • Occasionally done in-universe in Homestar Runner, especially in the case of "Dangeresque" or "Space Captainface". Strong Sad's independent film in the Strong Bad Email "independent" is stated to be "lower than no-budget":
    Strong Sad: I'm making the world's first faux-budget film! The entire thing's being financed with Monopoly money.
    Strong Bad: And best of luck to you.
  • Indy Mogul, a web show on YouTube, explains how to do Hollywood-style special effects on a low budget.
  • The Let's Play group Super Playify points this out in the games it reviews while being an example itself, as they exclusively play ten-dollar bargain-bin games they've never heard of.
  • The Autobiography of Jane Eyre: Word of God says they have zero budget and that they shoot the scenes at their home.
  • A Cracked Photoplasty considers what would have happened If 40 Famous Movies Had $50 Budgets.
  • Brad Jones' Demo Reel notes this In-Universe, which is why they can't try doing Hook.
  • Stars In Black started this way. And remained so.
  • The Veronica Exclusive has no budget whatsoever, which is mainly due to the fact that it's a fan project coordinated by a bunch of teens and twenty-somethings, most of whom live on separate ends of the globe from one another.
  • The Let's Play channel Analog Control is made using the simplistic tools possible. Lacking a traditional capture card, the show is recorded using VHS tapes and a beat up old VCR. The hosts usually reflect on this as a fun element of Stylistic Suck.
  • The Autistic World of the Autist and, basically, anything else made by Leon Davies, even his Let's Plays.

  • 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 can 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 the movie consists of you and your aunt acting in the woods behind the main campus. It's even worse for independent filmmakers: they don't even give you the camera.
  • Nowadays, good quality recording is easy, AND CHEAP. Even integrated soundcards have much better audio quality than old recording gears. You don't have to use Apple computers; regular Windows PCs are fine too. If you buy a cheap professional sound card, it's unlikely to not to get some recording software amongside it, free VSTs are mostly useable. Or they can be pirated. The only problem is to get instruments, microphone, and talent.
    • For the visual part there're many cameras able to record HD, even cheap point & shoot ones. As above, talent is the thing to find.
  • The Artega GT was a sports car that had cost a bit over $10 million to develop, while competitor ones usually cost at least 20 times more. Despite the low budget, it was designed by the famed Henrik Fisker.

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