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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.

"What few actual sets they use are barely serviceable blank walls. There's barely even any furniture! Most of Sheridan's half of the episode is filmed in the middle of a completely black room occupied only with a pair of small chairs, because the Minbari are "minimalists." Uh huh."
Noah Antwiler on Babylon 5: The Lost Tales

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 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: 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...

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    AN 
  • Anime in general, despite its modern reputation for being high-quality, 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. The resulting Gainax Ending propelled Evangelion to become one of the most popular and successful Anime Cash Cow Franchises of the decade.
    • The said same goes for anime titles being licensed in North America. If you are curious why voice actors don't get paid much in working anime 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 (mainly because anime in general is a very niche nerd interest when compared to Marvel and DC comics unless if you are talking about Cash Cow Franchises such as Naruto, Bleach, and Dragon Ball 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 utilized it to add to its mind-warping appeal, making it a successful series.
  • Unintentionally happened with Lost Universe because of several factors. Foremost, it 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.
  • Chargeman Ken

    FI 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Paranormal Activity cost $15,000 to make (and that's after Spielberg gave money for the director to shoot another ending!) and grossed $193M worldwide. This success allowed the filmmakers to do a sequel with the high budget of $3M.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 and winning three Academy Awards (including Best Picture).
  • In 1962, Dr. No was made for just $1M. 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, but Hollywood Accounting inflates it to a million-dollar figure.
  • Birdemic. The birds are 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 $950K, mainly to avoid Executive Meddling. 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.
  • Insidious cost $1.5M and grossed $92M 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 π had a budget of $60,000.
  • 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 $15M. 90% of the film was shot on a single floor of a recently vacated trading firm.
  • The Evil Dead 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 still is 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 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 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.
  • The 2010 monster film 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 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.
    "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.

    GS 
  • 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 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 onward have 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.
    • 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.
      • 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 is only allowed 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.
  • 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 late 1984 and the Winner's Big Money Game in 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.
    • When it was revived as Temptation: The New Sale Of The Century, the budget shrank even further. Prizes were in the $500-$1000 range, less than 1/4th the typical value of the prizes in the 1980's version if you adjust for inflation. The grand prize was just a mid-range car, worth less than 1/8th the 1980's jackpot (again, adjusted for inflation). If the shoestring budget had been any tighter, the prizes would've had to be literal shoe strings.
  • 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 CBS-era 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 late August and mid-September 1989, and the removal of the Free Spin wedge on October 16 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.
    • Some would argue that nighttime is continuing to show this, as the main-game and Bonus Round prizes since about 2002 have almost always been trips or cash bonuses. And even then, the trips are usually within the US or the Caribbean islands.
    • 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…
  • 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.
  • 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 panel but only two ever showed up, and host Dick Martin was referred 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 Sixties to The Eighties. Players competed for laughably small cash prizes, ranging from 2 pence to the dizzying heights of ten pounds.
  • 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.

    LATV 
  • 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 on Doctor Who, claimed that nobody liked the bad effects Doctor Who had during this period and you just bore with them. Anyone who says otherwise is looking through the nostalgia-glasses.
    • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 (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.
  • 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 resultingly terrible.
  • 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 Marenghi's 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.

    MV 
  • OK Go videos, at least at their beginning in YouTube. "A Million Ways" is a good example.
  • 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!

    RA 

    TH 
  • 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.

    VG 
  • Katawa Shoujo has about 20 international developers and no budget - they're all volunteering 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.
  • Se Ga Ga Ga According to developer Tez Okano, the game cost "100th of Shenmue" 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.

    WA 
  • 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.
  • Ralph Bakshi's Wizards was made on a $1M budget. 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.
  • 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 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.

    WC 
  • 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.

    WO 
  • 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 Red Letter Media'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.
  • 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.
    • The same applies to most of the other YouTube Slender Man 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 is stated to be "faux-budget", which is apparently "lower than no-budget" (it's financed with Monopoly money).
  • 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.

    OT 
  • 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.


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