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No Budget

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

Leafy: I was wondering, how are we in space yet able to talk, paddle, breathe, and not explode?
Announcer: Budget cuts.
Battle for Dream Island, "Gardening Hero"

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: an indie production with no backing, 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, and we'll deal with them in the morning. Maybe then the appeal for more cash will have gone through...



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  • Most of the public service announcements aired on American Forces Network tend to be this. The most infamous example is this recycling PSA. The creator of this PSA said that it was filmed on their own time and done with their own money.
  • Some companies would just buy ad space for a TV commercial which merely consist of a static image and a voiceover extolling the virtues of whatever it is they're selling. Such as in the case of a toothpaste brand in the Philippines during the 80s, though they did eventually go for a more conventional approach with licenced characters used for their children's line as well.
  • New Zealand supermarket chain Pak'n'Save lampshades this in its TV adverts with the tagline, "Everything we do, to save you money". The adverts make use of simple stick-figure animation.
  • The infamous ASPCA PSA's are guilty of this trope. The same footage of sad looking animals set to royalty-free sad piano music with the spot in the ad for the ASPCA Magazine having the cheapest looking-CGI imaginable.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Anime in general is actually made on half or less of a western cartoon's budget. note  However, 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 why some anime titles are 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 people's perception towards animenote  unless if you are talking about Cash Cow Franchises such as Naruto, Bleach, and Dragon Ball. If a title needs around 3,000 units to break even (and this is without an English dub), then it gives you the idea of 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.
  • Joseph Lai's Space Thunder Kids is entirely made up of stock animation from other low-budget anime titles that were made at the time, resulting in an incredibly bizarre and incoherent end result of a film.
  • Popee the Performer clearly had little in the way of a budget considering the bare-basic backgrounds and character designs along with its robotic animation and low quality sound mixing. The entire desert setting is simply because it would be easier to make. Take a look for yourself.
  • Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show was solely developed by Hiroshi Harada over the course of 5 years after numerous anime studios turned down the project due to the extremely graphic and disturbing nature of the manga it's based on. The final cut that made it to theaters was unpolished and very limited in terms of animation, along with characters' mouths either being obscured or failing to move at all when they talked. Regardless, the film became highly popular in the underground market with copies of the unedited cut being the most sought after. note 
  • The music video for the Tamagotchi song "Every Lovely" consists of Lovelin dancing in front of the same background for the entire duration of the video, with the occasional recycled background from Let's Go! Tamagotchi.
  • Parodied in Carnival Phantasm, where one of the end-of-episode Tiger Dojo segments has Taiga decide to take advantage of being animated by performing all kinds of crazy actions with a noticeably higher framerate. In the next segment, she's rendered as colored-pencil line art, and her partner Illya loses her in-between frames and any movement beyond lip flaps, because Taiga blew almost 600,000 yen in under 40 seconds the last time. When Taiga responds by having a freakout and jumping all over the place, her animation quality gets worse and worse until she's nothing but rough pencil sketches and stick figures.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Brave Little Toaster was made on a budget of $2.3M, which was modest even for animated films at the time.
  • Bolívar, el Héroe: Produced in 2003, this Colombian animated feature remained lost for over 13 years until it was eventually uploaded onto YouTube. A quick look at the movie makes it clear why the filmmakers may have tried to hide it in the first place since the animation would give Dingo Pictures a run for their money.
  • DreamWorks Animation's film adaptation of the Captain Underpants book series quickly made headlines in the industry for its $38 million budget, making it the studio's cheapest CG film to date note .
  • The Christmas Tree is exactly this with its horrendous voice acting, writing, and overly sloppy animation. It was a no-brainer for video retailers and the USA channel to quickly brush it under the rug after its first airing and video release.
  • Basically, every movie by Dingo Pictures. Same goes to their contemporary counterparts, Vídeo Brinquedo and Sparkplug Entertainment.
  • Felix the Cat: The Movie didn't fare too well with its ugly-looking animation and early CG effects, along with its terrible sound mixing and voice acting. It should come as no surprise that the film barely had any exposure when it finally came over to the states.
  • Norm of the North was produced on an $18 million budget and was slated for a straight-to-video release before Lionsgate decided to screen it in theaters at the last minute. Of course, even if you didn't know that, the film's overall quality would make it incredibly obvious.
  • Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss cost around $2 million, which is extremely meager for a full-length animated film. The film was directed, written, and animated entirely by former Disney animator Phil Nibbelink, with the voice acting provided by friends and family members. The results were mixed, though many did commend Nibbelink on such an ambitious project. Unfortunately, it still flopped at the box office.
  • Subverted with The Thief and the Cobbler, which started with a shoestring budget before director Richard Williams ballooned it to $28 million during the film's thirty year production cycle.
  • The Rugrats Movie proved to be a financial hit for both Nickelodeon and Klasky-Csupo as the film made over $140 million at the box office against a $24 million budget, kick-starting the wave of TV to big screen animated features throughout the early 2000s.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie was made in 2004 for a budget of $30 million and managed to bring in over $140 million, which paved the way for a stand-alone sequel eleven years later.
  • 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.
  • After The Rugrats Movie managed to out do their animated features at the box office, Disney decided to try and beat Nickelodeon at their own game with Doug's 1st Movie note , which they produced for $5 million with the original intention of being a straight-to-video feature.
  • Teen Titans Go! To the Movies reportedly came in on a $10 million budget, around half to a third of the cost of other film expansions of TV cartoons.
  • Disneytoon Studios was formed sometime after Disney entered the TV animation industry during the 90's with the intention of producing low budget animated features for TV, video, and occasionally theaters; hence the above mentioned Doug's 1st Movie along with their infamous Direct to Video lineup during the mid-90s and 2000s.
  • The Secret of NIMH was reportedly produced on a budget of $7 million, which was said to have been around half the budget to any of Disney's animated features at the time. Regardless, the film was heavily well-received by critics with much of the praise being directed towards the animation, which was noted for surpassing the quality of Disney's at the time.
    • Speaking of which: most of Disney's animated titles following Sleeping Beauty are usually considered the black sheep in the company's filmography as the animation is a noticeably sharp down-grade from their previous (and later) works. Robin Hood in particular had a budget so low that the animators were forced to reuse animation from other Disney films, which is especially noticeable during the "Phony King of England" musical number.
  • Sita Sings the Blues was made for $290K; $50,000 was spent paying for the music copyrights.
  • While nowhere near the quality of certain other studios, Vanguard Animation's filmography still paled in comparison to the works of more major studios of the time, resulting in the company becoming infamous in the animation industry up until their closing in 2010.note 
  • 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.
    • Cool World subverts this with its $30 million budget, but even then Ralph still had to cut corners when it came to mixing live-action with animation, resulting in the infamously cardboard cut-out set pieces and the poorly choreographed interactions between the actors and animated characters.
  • Down and Dirty Duck's shoestring budget of $110,000 note  meant there was little in the way for an animation team, leaving director Charles Swenson having to animate most of the film himself along with co-stars Flo & Eddie also having to function as the film's co-writers and co-composers respectively. Did we mention that Roger Corman was the producer?
  • Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith produced Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie on a $69,000 budget, which was even smaller than Dirty Duck's. Much like that movie, it was only enough to hire one animator to make the film, and boy does it show.
  • An American Tail was produced in 1986 for $9 million, and went on to become the highest grossing non-Disney animated feature of the time with a $84 million return at box office. Compare that to Disney's competing animated feature, The Great Mouse Detective, which was produced on a $14 million budget with a box office return of $38.7 million.
    • The film's TV spin-off, Fievel's American Tails, had it worst as it frequently suffered from Off-Model character designs and stilted animation which was often riddled with errors. Because of this, and the numerous continuity errors from the sequel it's based on, the show was quickly cancelled after 13 episodes.
  • The 2007 adaption of the novel Flatland note  was directed by Ladd Ehlinger Jr who solely edited and animated the film while also serving as the lead voice actor.
  • Twice Upon a Time only had a mere $4,000,000 budgetnote  which forced co-director John Korty to have a majority of the film animated from his home in order to save money on production space. This was also the reason why the movie had a limited run in theaters, as The Ladd Company was going through financial troubles at the time and chose to spend what little money they had left to give The Right Stuff a wide release instead.
  • The Exigency was produced for 12 years by Cody Vibbart, who single handedly animated the film using cheap CG programs like Poser on a $50,000 budget he raised out of pocket.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Due to being made without any major studio input, many independent films have budgets that are very small by Hollywood standards.
  • Robert Rodriguez' El Mariachi was made with a budget of $207,225. However, only $7,225 actually went into the making of the film, as it was originally going to be direct-to-video. The rest was later provided by Columbia Pictures to help get the film a theatrical release. In The Robert Rodriguez 10 Minute Film School and his book Rebel Without a Crew, the director lists the at times crazy techniques used to make the film on such a low budget:
    • The camera was a borrowed 16mm that came with no manual, so he needed to call a store in Texas to help identify the camera and teach him how to work it. To avoid spending too much money on film, everything was shot in only one or two takes (though he admits to spending more than expected because he only bought as much as he needed, keeping him from using bulk discounts). To give the illusion of multiple cameras, he would freeze the action after a few seconds and move to another spot to keep going.
    • The film was transferred to 3/4" video, saving tens of thousands of dollars that would have instead been spent on making a film negative, and edited entirely on video. The resulting video copy is what got shopped around, and Columbia ponied up the money to make a 35mm film print for theatrical release.
    • Incorporating bloopers into the plot in order to avoid retakes and simply cutting to another angle to disguise mistakes.
    • All of the firing guns were real guns because he couldn't afford blank-converted ones from a rental armory (the submachine guns were borrowed from the local Mexican police!). Because the automatics would jam on the first round with blanks due to lacking a bullet to provide force working the action, he would copy the firing frames or cut away from the shooting while playing a canned machine gun sound effect and having actors drop handfuls of casings on the ground to provide the illusion of automatic gunfire. The guns that weren't real were water guns.
    • The only non-natural light was a pair of 250-watt desk lamps with some improvised filters and reflectors.
    • As the title of his book suggests, there was no crew. Rodriguez did everything himself from the writing and filming to the sound recording and editing. Because actors would otherwise be standing around doing nothing, he had them act as extra hands when needed.
    • The camera couldn't sync to a sound recorder and was too loud to record sound while filming anyway, so he shot the film silently and recorded dialogue and foley on set a few minutes later. When the dialogue didn't perfectly match the lip movements during post-production, he used cuts to other angles to take the mouth off-screen.
    • They had two guitar cases: a black one for the mariachi's guitar and a brown one with the guns (modified with straps on the inside for the weapons). Unfortunately, the cases are both supposed to be black. Rodriguez would simply film the black case being opened and then cut to the already open brown case.
  • Steps Trodden Black takes this trope Up to Eleven, having been made with basically no crew entirely on a budget of less than a thousand dollars, using volunteer actors and borrowed equipment, getting by on the strength of its dialogue and some surprisingly good amateur actors. The complete lack of a budget makes the relatively high production values and competently produced visual and makeup effects even more impressive.
  • 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.
  • Other than financial grants from the French government and producers who took interest in the film's premise, the 2016 Filipino romantic comedy Saving Sally was made in ten years on a ₱10,000 budget. That's around $200! It did pay off as the film earned ₱27 million or roughly $600,000 to positive reviews, which while definitely not to the same level of fiancial success as a mainstream Metro Manila Film Festival feature, is still commendable for an independent production.
  • Auteur Shane Carruth made Primer with 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.
  • 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.
  • The films made by Ed Wood had very low budgets. It shows. Here are the known budgets for his films note :
  • The British zombie film Colin made some headlines due its reported £45 budget.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • His later The Lord of the Rings obviously doesn't count, but at least one scene in the extended edition of The Two Towers does: after Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas meet up with the resurrected Gandalf, Aragorn and Gandalf have a conversation at night. Apart from the opening establishing shot, the whole conversation is tight close-ups and the background is absolutely pitch-black. Apparently they shot that scene in a shed.
  • Continuing the Lord of the Rings subject, the 1991 Soviet adaptation dug up in 2021 is this trope incarnate. It's effectively a stage show broadcast as a movie (Russian has a special name for that type of work; telespectacl' - literally a TV stage play), with things like Gandalf's fireworks represented by him opening his cloak and some brief colored flash shown. That and other things is why some people call it an adaptation of the situation before The Great Politics Mess-Up as much as one of Tolkien.
  • 12 Angry Men partly counts as they could only afford enough film to record once, so no mistakes were allowed.
  • 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.
  • 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, the first cinematographic industry in volume, are like this, and a lot of times it shows. This has led to a backlash called the New Nollywood movement, aiming to uplift the status of Nigerian cinema from a quantity-over-quality factory of lowbrow Direct to Video fodder to a respectable industry able to keep up with those from industrialised nations. Some of these films, such as The Figurine and The Wedding Party avert this with more than decent production values, receiving critical acclaim overseas.
  • 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.
  • MonSturd, another for $3,000.
  • Anything made by the Polonia brothers, like Feeders.
  • A Talking Cat!?! was made for only $1 million and it shows. The film has amateurish camera work, sound and special effects (especially the poor lopping and mouth movements of Eric Roberts' cat).
  • 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.
  • The Last House on Dead End Street was made for $800. The budget was originally $3,000 but the creator spent most of that on drugs.
  • Manborg had a budget of $1000, and is all the more awesome because of it.
  • 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.
  • 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, being made on a budget of roughly $200. For context, the film company that made the film lived in a 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.
  • All three of Coleman Francis' directorial works play this trope in the most literal ways yet. The same actors, same locations note , non-existent makeup or effects, little to no props, terrible cinematography, and stock material that never fits with the rest of the film. The Beast of Yucca Flats takes it to an even bigger extreme by having next to no sound at all, that is unless an actor's face is obscured so that the dialogue wouldn't have to sync up with the mouth movements. note  It's quite an accomplishment when you manage to make Ed Wood of all people look like a professional filmmaker in comparison.
  • 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.
  • The Mission (1999) costs 2.5 million HK dollars, or 320K USD. Most of the money probably goes to the slick black suits worn by the six main characters throughout the movie.
  • 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.
    • Upstream Color was made for about $50,000 and manages to both look and sound fantastic.
  • Ink was made for $250K.
  • 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 Captain Kirk mask white.
  • Mad Max was made for $400K. The director donated his own car to get smashed up in a chase scene.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Darren Aronofsky's first feature π had a budget of $60,000. He didn't pay to secure outdoor locations and had one member of the crew stand by to look out for cops.
  • 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.
  • 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 was an unscripted accident, 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.
  • 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.
  • Adam Sandler's first film, Going Overboard, lampshades this trope in the opening shot. "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 realize 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.
  • The Kentucky Fried Movie cost only $650,000 to make and made $20 million at the box office.
  • 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.
  • 20th Century Fox initially only gave $8 million to do Star Wars, and the Troubled Production made it climb up to a still meager $11 million (for comparison, the other big sci-fi movie of that year cost $20 million), which amounts to $45.5 million today. And yet it became the highest grossing movie ever upon release, and made George Lucas enough money to finance the following movies out of his own pocket (the very next started at much more comfortable $18 million, though once things went awry again, Lucas had to ask the studio for some extra cash).
  • Pretty much the entire filmography for Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer qualifies under this. Due to the duo's habit of writing their "parody scripts" around trailers for unreleased movies, and shooting their films within short deadlines, the end results are unsurprisingly less than you'd expect. There's a reason why these two are credited with killing the parody genre in theaters for a while. note  Their filmography following Vampires Suck takes this further as the duo has now resorted to producing their movies on even tighter budgets than their Hollywood titles, and don't even release them theatrically.
  • Donald G. Jackson isn't called The Ed Wood of the Video Age for nothing.
    • Don initially planned to produce his first movie, The Demon Lover, for $6,000 which was raised by co-director Jerry Younkins cutting his own finger off at the auto factory they worked at. But by the time pre-production was finished Jerry had already spent the money, leaving the film in Development Hell for four years until its completion in 1977, by which point they had both lost their jobs and declared bankruptcy. Thankfully the movie managed to turn in a profit in the drive-in market... none of which they ever saw from the distributors of course.
    • For the wrestling documentary I Like to Hurt People, Donald initially wanted to follow Hulk Hogan during his rise to fame in the industry, but later settled for The Iron Sheik since he was willing to be documented for free. Even then the movie still had to be shelved since Donald couldn't cover the post-production costs, and it remained as such until 1985 when Roger Corman paid for the process along with the film's distribution rights.
  • Open Water was produced for $500,000, with an additional 2.5 million spent by Lions Gate Entertainment to acquire the rights and another $8 million to promote and distribute it. It made $55 million worldwide.
  • The 1991 indie comedy High Strung was mostly filmed on an apartment set-piece for only 13 days with a budget of $300,000.
  • Kung Pow! Enter the Fist (2002) was made on a budget of $10 million by writer, producer, director and star Steve Oedekerk who made the film using re dubbed Stock Footage from the 1976 Hong Kong martial arts feature, Tiger and Crane Fist.
  • Murder Party, the first film by the director of Blue Ruin and Green Room, takes this trope literally. Yes, as in "this movie was made for absolutely no money whatsoever". The cast and crew worked for free, most of the film's special effects were scrapped partway into production, and the creators even saved money by injecting themselves with actual needles filled with saline for a truth serum-centric sequence.
  • Coherence is a sci-fi drama about overlapping parallel universes. The budget is undisclosed, but it was filmed over five nights at the director's own house, and the producer says that the cast outnumbered the crew.
  • Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie was produced for about $325,000, which certainly isn't pocket change for a crowd-funded indie movie. However, the film itself is massively ambitious given that budget, featuring a huge cast, many different locations, several major VFX sequences including a full-blown Kaiju rampage through downtown Las Vegas, and a major character portrayed entirely by Jim Henson-style puppetry. Many of the props and sets have a homemade, Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque quality to them because after paying the cast and crew, transportation fees, catering and other "normal" costs, there simply wasn't money left to do the "weird" stuff Hollywood-style.
  • Silent Night, Bloody Night was made on a $295,000 budget; a portion of which was provided by Lloyd Kaufman two years before he went on to form Troma Entertainment.
  • Infamous Exploitation Film Megan is Missing was shot on a incredibly low budget of $35,000 (most viewers theorize half the budget was spent on the torture photos and the rape scenes) with a small crew of only 5 people and using little-to-no professional equipment. Hell, numerous production mistakes were left in (for example several scenes have a Visible Boom Mic and director Michael Goi can be heard yelling "Action!" during one scene). Plus, most of the cast were complete unknowns.
  • Gorilla, Interrupted: The movie was shot over the course of seven days by amateur filmmakers just doing it for fun. The purchase of a shop light and some Halloween-style costumes represented as much money as they invested.
  • Tales of an Ancient Empire definitely suffers from this, just watch the movie:
    • There are no crowd scenes because they couldn't hire too many extras.
    • A cavern serves as an ancient tomb, adding rugs on the walls turns it into a palace.
    • Has pretty awful and notoriously cheap special effects, especially in the shipwreck scene.
  • Wanda was made for $100,000 with a crew of 4 including director and lead actor Barbara Loden (the DP also edited the film). Apart from Loden and co-lead Michael Higgins (whose costumes were borrowed from Loden's husband's personal wardrobe) all the actors were amateurs.

    Game Shows 
  • 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 would win it.
    • 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 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. Justified as according to host Rossi Morreale in a 2012 interview, MyNetworkTV put no money at all into advertising the show.
  • 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. This situation first occurred on March 1, 2018.
  • Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! orginally offered scorekeeper Carl Kasell's voice on the winner's answering machine because the show couldn't afford anything else. The plan was to start offering proper prizes once the show gained a large enough budget but Carl's voice became so coveted that plan was dropped.
  • 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 the 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. Also, the Bonus Round answers since the Turn of the Millennium have often been Nintendo Hard answers that are either random pairings of words or contrived phrases that no one would say (although this has been countered somewhat in Season 35 by now allowing the contestant to pick one of three categories).
    • Interestingly, despite signs of budget problems, the Prize Puzzle is still a regular element on the show, currently offering a $7,000+ 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.
    • As of Season 35, SPIN IDs are only put into play when the $10,000 Mystery Wedge is won.
    • The 1/2 Car was retired in Season 37.
  • 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.
    • The 2018-19 season of the show introduced a new logo and graphics package. However, said graphics are extremely cheap; the question graphics have cheap bevel effects and fonts, the money ladder graphics use a completely different font and are just as ugly, the money graphics after correct answers are a completely different style, and the "Millionaire" text on the logo isn't even centered!
  • 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.
  • Lampshaded and Played for Laughs with The $1.98 Beauty Show. Contestant competed in a mock beauty pageant and the winner received a plastic crown, a bouquet of rotten vegetables and the titular $1.98 which was dispensed from a change machine on host Rip Taylor's belt.
  • The Hollywood Squares:
    • The budget was slashed big time for the final season of the Bergeron version. The change from self-contained to straddling wouldn't have been so bad if the amount for winning wasn't $2,000 tops without any bonus money for each captured square. In contrast, previous games rewarded $500 for each square win or lose and as much as $4,000 for a tic-tac-toe. Also, the Secret Square prizes were no longer rolled over if lost. Every package changed on each show and was roughly the same value.
    • The Bonus Round got even cheaper.
      • For the first three of the five levels, contestants originally played for a car, $25,000 and a trip around the world in that order. In the final season, they became the last three prizes with the first two being a sub-$10,000 trip and $10,000. This became even more glaring in light of the original version offering $50,000 for making it to the fourth tier and $100,000 for the champion's fifth and final attempt.
      • To win the Bonus Round prize, a contestant chose from nine keys with only one opening its contents. At first, bad keys were removed for each failed attempt and for each correct answer in a round where Bergeron quizzed contestants on the featured celebrities. The final season did neither, putting all nine keys in play regardless of the result and offering only consolation cash of $500 (originally $1,000) for each correct answer if lost.
    • Its spinoff Hip Hop Squares in its first season offered a top prize of $2,500 in 2012. Could be justified, as it was produced for MTV2, a cable network (plus most of the budget likely went towards getting the celebrities). The VH1 version is quite a bit higher-budget.
  • Pyramid:
    • The budget for the main game bonuses got slashed for the John Davidson-hosted revival in 1991. In place of 7-11 (convey seven words or phrases for $1,100), the Tuesday and Thursday shows had two Double Trouble categories (convey seven two-word phrases in 45 seconds, $500 per box). The Mystery 7 (get all seven without the aid of a specific category for a nice prize) was replaced by Gamble for a Trip (decide whether to give up five seconds for the chance to win a cheap trip). Late in the first season, Gamble for a Grand (same as Gamble for a Trip, except $1,000 was at stake) permanently replaced 7-11. Also, this run scrapped the $5,000 bonus for breaking a 21-21 tie.
    • The Donny Osmond version was even worse.
      • You had to beat the Winner's Circle twice to win $25,000. Previously, if you made it to the Winner's Circle both times, you played for $25,000 regardless of whether or not you won the first time.
      • Winner's Circle categories often consisted of Moon Logic Puzzles and impossibly strict judging. The boxes had to be guessed verbatim instead of just "the essence" being said.
      • Hiring celebrities who clearly had no idea how to play the game—or worse, did not speak English as a first language (such as Russian-born Lenny Krayzelburg). This screwed good contestants out of qualifying for the tournament.
      • In the tournament, you also had to beat the Winner's Circle twice in one show to win. If no one succeeded, the contestant whose score was the highest merely had their score augumented to $100,000.
    • The GSN revival from 2012 had no main game bonuses.
  • 25 Words or Less: Runner-up contestants receive a $200 debit card for playing. Complete the Bonus Round, and you win $10,000. Otherwise, you win a vacation.

  • In-universe in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down, where middle school students Greg and Rowley try to make an indie horror film. Their low-end equipment is "borrowed" from their parents, the only actor is Rowley, and their "special effects" are gummy worms and ketchup.
  • In the Realms of the Unreal author Henry Darger made the illustrations for his story by combining his original art with tracing over photos, coloring book pictures and comic-strip illustrations (he loved Little Annie Rooney) of human figures and landscapes. He would find a lot of those, along with much of his art supplies, while dumpster diving, and also in newspapers — he read all five Chicago papers every day. He also had a collection of children's books with line drawingsnote  and used those. His original nature settings (especially his amazing skies and flowers) were fine, but he couldn't draw human figures as well as he wanted, and he couldn't afford proper art training. What little spending money he did have, he used for editing the photos to his needs, including having enlarged photocopies made at the local drugstore.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A common trend with pilot episodes. They tend to be made on extremely limited budgets, with literally no one being paid in the most extreme cases. This often results in a noticeable increase in quality from the second episode on.
  • 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.
  • New Zealand-produced TV show Back Of The Y made up for its ultra-low budget by taking pure Refuge in Audacity.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • The most austere eras for Doctor Who were:
      • The very first season, where the BBC's unwillingness to risk too much on such an experimental show had caused it to be consigned to a tiny sound stage with minimal props;
      • the parts of the Tom Baker era produced during the 70s' "stagflation" recession and especially the parts produced during the "Winter of Discontent";
      • the period towards the mid-to-late 80s where the BBC's Controller Michael Grade cut the show's budget to purposefully unsustainable levels in an intent to kill it;
      • the first series of the 2005 revival, due to an initially tiny budget compounded by Russell T Davies not having ever budgeted a science fiction show before and blowing all of the money on the second episode.
    • 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. The "Mr Neutron Is Missing" episode ends with an announcer saying that the studio ran out of money, so instead of filming the ending, he's just going to tell everyone what would have happened in the final scenes. And then the episode ends before he could finish.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Public-access television is entirely this, seeing how the shows that broadcast here are produced and aired locally for free. With the rise of the internet during the mid 2000's public-access shows have begun to post their episodes on sites like YouTube following their TV airings.
    • Sprinkler's Clubhouse, which airs on Chandler Educational TV on channel 99 note , is mostly set against a flat 2D backdrop with low-quality puppets and stock audio; and that's not even getting to the green screen effects.
    • Then there's New York-based talent show Stairway to Stardom, which The A.V. Club once called "one of the greatest shows ever to be on television."
  • Blake's 7 was allocated the same budget by the BBC as the much cheaper cop 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 A New Hope 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.
  • 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.
  • The first season of Double the Fist (8 episodes) was made for $250k, which is pretty impressive considering the amount of CGI effects used.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 pilot episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia was reportedly shot for $200, but Charlie Day has said they he has no idea where the number came from as there was no actual working budget at all.
    • In a way the entire first season (and to a lesser extent the second season) were this for the series. The first season had a budget of roughly $400,000 an episode, when Danny Devito joined in season two the budget roughly doubled, and later seasons are closer to $1.5 million an episode.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 of 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.
  • 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.
    • The original pilot version of the first episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, "Day of the Dumpster", was obviously produced on a low budget, with cheaper-looking sets and primitive special effects. In addition, the U.S. footage was shot on videotape rather than on film as with the series, making for a huge contrast between the U.S.-shot footage and the Super Sentai footage.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Nearly every show by Sid & Marty Krofft Productions was produced on a budget far lower than what the duo would asked from the networks. However these setbacks only added to the bizarre and drug-induced charm of their shows, seeing as how they went on to dominate note  the Saturday morning TV market during the late 60s and early 70s.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Sadly, that is nothing compared to it's sister series Cake. Despite the advantages of airing on an actual network (CBS) rather than syndication and being a entirely US-produced series which did not require purchasing/dubbing stock footage, the show somehow ended up with less than half of even Syber-Squad's budget resulting in only four actorsnote  and three setsnote  being used for all 13 episodes (compared to 53 for Syber-Squad).
  • Like most shows of the 1930s, The Television Ghost was filmed extremely cheaply, with one actor monologuing at a camera for fifteen minutes.
  • Top Gear has episodes where presenters have to buy cars for a very low price, e.g. Porsches below £1500 or vans below £1000.
  • M.A.N.T.I.S. didn't have much of a budget and it showed, featuring frequent use of old footage, including footage from the original TV movie and ended with the hero and his Love Interest killed while trying to stop an invisible dinosaur.

  • 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.
  • All of Daniel Johnston's albums prior to 1990 were recorded from his home without any professional equipment whatsoever. Other than music, Daniel also drew each individual album cover by hand before self-releasing them in his hometown of Austin, Texas. He eventually started signing to professional record labels in the 90s but continues to produce his music and album covers in similar conditions as to his early works.
  • Nickelback's first EP, Hesher, was recorded in a two month period between January and March of 1993 for $4,000 and was self-released by the group in their hometown. Only a thousand copies of it were made before the band ran out of money and decided the album wasn't worth keeping around, making physical copies heavily sought after by fans.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded his first song, "My Bologna", in the bathroom across the hall from his college's radio station because it wouldn't have costed him anything.
  • Nine Inch Nails' first album, Pretty Hate Machine, was solely recorded by front man Trent Reznor who initially began developing the album during down times as an over-night janitor for Right Track Studio.
  • An interesting incident of this befell Neu!!, who ran out of money before they could record what would become side two of their second album, NEU! 2. Their record label refused to give them a dime, so they decided to add the songs from the previously-released standalone single, "Neuschnee/Super," and proceeded to repeat the two tracks at various playback speeds, including one repeat that sounds like a cassette being mangled. Critics dismissed the repetitions and manipulations as a cheap rip-off at the time, but nowadays some look to the result as a forerunner to the remix.
  • Sloan's debut album Smeared was recorded with only $1200 in 1992 (which now would only be a little more than $1900).
  • Steve Lacy, no not the Jazz Musician, became famous for this. He recorded and produced his first couple of songs on his phone in a Garageband App! Though, soon after gaining fame and money he kept choosing to make all his music on his phone making it more a Stylistic Suck than no budget.
  • During *NSYNC's early European days in the late 90s, they had to share hotel rooms and occasionally had to wear their own clothes (or switch the clothes around) for performances. Their early music videos also had quite a low-budget look to them.

    Music Videos 
  • 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.
  • Lil Dicky invokes this trope in "Save Dat Money", where he keeps faith to the song's lyrical content by making the most badass rap video possible while not spending anything. Believe it or not, he actually gained money by making the video through sponsorships with the firms he collaborated with.
  • 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, composed 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.
  • INXS shot their first video, "Just Keep Walking" on a budget of $1200.
  • 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!
  • Every music video by the comedy rock duo Ninja Sex Party was produced with next to no money using cheap green screens, crudely animated effects, and whatever props and locations they could find at the time.
  • Custom's video for "Hey Mister", directed by the artist himself: The initial concept stemmed from impromptu handheld camera footage revolving around him and his girlfriend going to a beach and writing the lyrics in the sand and on her body. The label liked the results and gave him money to finish the video, so scenes of the two speeding in a yellow Ferrari and shopping, gambling, and dining in Las Vegas were added; However, all of the budget was spent on renting the car and the trip to Vegas. so it was all shot on the same handheld digital camera.
  • The video for O'Hooley and Tidow's version of "Gentleman Jack" (used as the end credit theme for the TV series of the same title) is simply a cellphone video of the two of them messing around in a dressing room in Bifauxnen costumes.
  • The video for PJ Harvey's debut single "Dress" was shot in black and white 16mm by Harvey and her friend Maria Mochnasz. Since they could only afford a total of 12 minutes of film, they ended up having to repeat several sequences.
  • The Pixies were informed they had to make a video for their single "Velouria" if they wanted to get on Top Of The Pops, so they filmed one shot of the band running through a quarry for 23 seconds, then slowed it down until it was the length of the song. They didn't get on Top Of The Pops.

  • 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.
  • Bally's 1983 Grand Slam was made as an "economy" game. Among its cheapness was many of them only supporting 2 players (the later units had 4-player support), and only having 6-digit score counters (when almost every game at the time had 7 digits).

    Professional Wrestling 
  • 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 Grandfather 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.
  • Even by independent circuit standards Emi Sakura's Ice Ribbon stood out in this regard as it didn't even have a ring. Shows consisted of children straight from its "dojo" wrestling on mats. With that said, the company has grown immensely from its humble origins to become one of the more recognizable women's feds since the fall of Zenjo and GAEA, pioneering internet streaming, bringing pro wrestling to dead venues across Asia and attracting various big name talents, not just from pro wrestling and mixed martial arts but even the unexpected addition of actress Hikaru Shida, who proved to be very good in the ring once they could afford to maintain one.
  • This is the most immediately noticeable difference between Chigusa Nagayo's first promotional effort, GAEA, and her second, Marvelous. Compare the elaborate outfits of Lioness Asuka's Super Star Unit or Akira Hokuto's Las Cachorras Orientales with Infernal KAORU's W-Fix, who are identified by black t shirts. Still, a promotion run by Nagayo doesn't have much trouble getting names such as KAORU on its shows or attracting international attention when recruiting new wrestlers. The streaming service was a shakier endeavor, sometimes literally, but none the less proved to be a source of good matches.
  • 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. And even then Corgan only did so out of ignorance of just how true "no budget" really was and fled to the NWA once he realized how hard TNA's recovery would be, Anthem of the Fight Network also having an interest in the company giving him a convenient way out.
  • Buck Zumhofe's Rock n Roll Wrestling was infamous during its run for its incredibly shoestring quality. Matches were held in cheap locations (bars, schools, etc) using a wrestling ring that was barely big enough to hold two people, and were recorded using a store bought camcorder without announcers or a film crew. Their videos also lacked editing, meaning technical goofs like Zumhofe's daughter saying "action" and "cut" were often left in, while Zumhofe's commentary on his old AWA matches (which were originally used to pad out their YouTube channel in the beginning) were filmed by pointing the camera at the TV monitor as he commentated from off screen. Since Zumhofe's conviction for sexual abuse in 2014, RnR Wrestling has shut down and their YouTube channel has been deleted; with this audience recording being the only proof that the promotion ever existed.

  • On Rick Dees Top 40, "No budget" was a Catchphrase, 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.
  • Mark Steel's in Town has a budget that barely covers transportation and lodging for the small production to do its field recording. They couldn't even do any episodes on Scottish towns for the first series because they couldn't afford the train fare.

  • 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, and employed a two-piece orchestra. 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 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.

    Video Games 
  • Believe it or not, Amnesia: The Dark Descent actually only had a budget of $360,000. Frictional Games reportedly even had to go a couple months without pay to keep the game from running out of money.
  • 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).
  • Mortal Kombat I had a very small development team (all the programming was done by Ed Boon!), with the footage used for the digitized graphics being shot with the camera of artist John Tobias in a makeshift broom closet without even mats for the martial artists to do falls or flips. Only when a demo version became popular in Midway's offices the higher-ups gave more time for them to develop, even adding a female character to the six males.
  • 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 little money left, as they wanted to break in the software applications industry under the name Mediagenic, but 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.
  • Both Midas Interactive and Phoenix Games take this to the extreme as most of their titles barely qualify as games at all; rather they're poorly animated films note  with slider puzzles and coloring pages slapped on in order to pass them off as games to the mass public. That, or they would publish games from unknown or smaller developers under a very limited budget and severely constrained schedule, often resulting in games like London Cab Challenge or Shoot for the PS1 that were regarded to be some of the worst console titles ever made, if not for its obscurity compared to the likes of Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing. Their low-budget business model even apparently extended to their advertising, as there is next to no coverage about them in major gaming publications.
  • Both Hotel Mario and the Zelda games for the Philips CDI are notorious examples in the industry. The Zelda titles were both produced for around $500,000 each, with the infamous animated cut scenes for all three being handled by a small team of amateur animators who were brought into the U.S. to produce them within a five month period. As for games themselves, all three suffered from stiff controls and difficult/confusing game play which wasn't at all helped by the frequent lags and the rather poor and graphically outdated level design; And that's not even mentioning the atrocious writing and voice-overs.
  • The first installment of Five Nights at Freddy's was initially a Kickstarter project by creator Scott Cawthon to fund for its creation, but after failing to attract even a single investor for the game, Scott decided to continue Freddy's development by himself with his own money and even had his kids act as beta testers for it.
    • On the same subject, Scott's previous Christian and family games were also produced on shoestring budgets as many of them utilized pre-rendered graphics and in-program character models and props.
  • Reportedly, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite was made on a very low budget for a Modern game with estimates being at least half of the budget for Street Fighter V's DLC - you read that correctly, a budget of half not the SFV base game, but that of its DLC seasons - and, as a result, many of the character models were pulled from Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and other older titles, with only slight changes to make them work in the new artstyle.
  • First Max Payne game had a modest budget and most of what little development money Remedy had went into creating character models, most of which were based on developers, their friends or family members and people who worked in other companies in the same office complex where Remedy was located to cut down the costs. The distinct Graphic Novel cutscenes of the game were also selected due to budget issues and similarly casted with people that were easily available, most notably the games lead writer, Sam Lake, who played Max Payne.
  • Atlus was undergoing significant financial troubles during the development of Persona 4. This doesn't show too much during the actual game, but is more evident with the game's choice of platform (it's a PlayStation 2 game released in 2008) and internal data (the game is built as if it were a Game Mod for Persona 3, complete with stacks of leftover assets from that game).
  • Compared to the blockbuster-level budgets Rockstar Games spent on their recent Grand Theft Auto titles, Vice City in particular was developed on a $5 million budget. Most of it was apparently spent on the voice actors, namely Ray Liotta and a few others. Given how the game was initially conceived as an Expansion Pack for Grand Theft Auto III before it was spun off as a standalone game it isn't that much of a surprise, though ironically enough it was actually their most expensive game up to that point.

    Web Comics 
  • 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 Original 
  • 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 Claymation Compilation: You'd believe that a thirty second animation of one clayfigure walking has literally no budget(Claymation Trailer). This is lampshaded in the same short by the trailer itself.
  • 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.
  • The Ben McYellow series literally has no budget. No equipment of any kind was purchased for the production, and everything was filmed around the writer/star's house with his brother and two high school friends, which forced them to make the best, or rather, the worst of what they had.
  • 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.
  • Episodes of the original Making Fiends series were 3-5 minutes long and were solely developed by Amy Winfrey for her website in 2003. Backgrounds and characters were made using overlapping JPEG files with ugly color schemes and were crudely animated using flash. The Nickelodeon reboot differed with crew members and a bigger budget, but still kept the sloppy and cheap look of the original web series.
  • Battle for Dream Island: In-Universe, the series is full of this.
  • The Jolly Roger Telephone Company is a website that provides bots which are designed to waste the time of telemarketers or telephone scammers, with recordings of such calls sometimes being placed online. None of the voices of the bots are professional voice talent. The voice of the original Jolly Roger bot is actually company founder Roger Anderson. The Jolly Jenny bot is voiced by his wife.
  • Parodied with the Lankybox's "ZERO BUDGET!" series, which remakes music videos and scenes from movies and video games with only the both-male duo, Justin and Adam, and sometimes even props, such as their Companion Cube plushes, Foxy and Boxy, to act out the roles, the cheapest homemade props and special effects ever, and stune failures. After each Stylistic Suck reenacted scene, a Large Ham comedic skit plays out in which the duo pokes fun at the reenactment.
  • Many of the older You Tube shorts by David F. Sandberg were made in this way, including his breakout hit Lights Out. Most featured only one or two actors (himself and his wife), used off-the-shelf cameras, and were edited with easily available software. In the years since becoming a major Hollywood director, he's produced a few more, including some using homemade dollies.

    Western Animation 
  • Most animated TV pilots fall into this trope; the reason being that their sole intent is to get the creator's idea across to executives in hope that they invest into the show's production. This is why most pilots are never released to the public outside of test screenings note , as they were never produced for general audiences to begin with.
  • Much like how an episode of an Japanese production costs less than an episode of a western one, the latter is made with a considerably smaller amount of money than an animated film.
  • 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 from 1957 to 2001.
    • The Ruff & Reddy Show had a budget that was tiny even by their standards, around $3,000 per short (even in 1958 that was paltry). Compare that to the last Tom and Jerry shorts Bill and Joe made for MGM a couple years earlier, which had budgets close to $60,000! In this case, Ruff and Reddy (1957-1960) was the very first television series produced by the new company, and it is quite likely they did not have the funding for anything more ambitious. Huckleberry Hound (1958-1961) didn't fare much better with its meager budget of $6,000 per short.
  • Sam Singer, who's often referred to as "The Ed Wood of Animation", produced what many consider some of the cheapest cartoons ever made from the 50's and 70's through his studio Trans-Artist Productions.
    • The Adventures of Paddy the Pelican resorted to looping uncolored cut-outs and rough animation which were frequently out-of-sync in each episode. Not to mention that sound effects are largely absent with the exception of some atrociously improvised voice acting and music, all of which were provided by Singer himself!
    • His final cartoon, Tubby the Tuba (1975), was produced and developed in-house by The New York Institute of Technology under the direction of founder Alexander Schure, who had no experience in animation prior to this film. Singer was hired as the animation director for the movie but was fired a year into production due to Schure's frequent intrusions. After negative feedback from test audiences, Singer chose to have his name removed from the final cut.
  • 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. In fact, when the studio first started the co-founders had to use a mannequin to pass off as a secretary!
  • Take away the licensing fees for the music video segments and Beavis and Butt-Head is left with 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.
  • Any films by Bill Plympton, who 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.
  • Bands on the Run was produced under a year with a small crew of college students, one of which had to solely design and storyboard the film within two months. Due to the poor animation brought back from China they spent the final four months redoing the film by teaching themselves CG animation using homemade render farms. One member said the final product was the result of executives being more concerned about the film's completion during the silly band craze rather than the overall quality.
  • Every cartoon Don Hertzfelt created, especially considering that he animates stick figures. However he makes up for this with his humorous and note  existential writing along with the bizarre nature of his works. It also helps that he began using computers in his later shorts.
  • 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 note  with $6,700 per episode, hence why there were rare instances of fully animated walk cycles and why many shots are background pans with stock music cues; there were even parts where they would slide the cels across the screen without any animation at all! To further limit costs, Jack Mercer had to voice every character in one take while enunciating his lines slowly to put less strain on the animators. Worse, they had to turn out three completed episodes per week with mere hours to write the scripts for each one. note  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 black-and-white 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.
    • The later cartoons from 1964-69 after the original studio shut down, specifically the Speedy Gonzales shorts where he's fighting Daffy Duck, Rudy Larriva's Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner shorts, and the Seven Arts cartoons, had an extremely low budget and some were even outsourced to Format Films. Due to this, Looney Tunes fans consider this the series' Dork Age.
  • Mighty Magiswords creator Kyle Carrozza admits the character designs for Nohyas and the Mysterious Hooded Woman were chosen based on how cheap it was to animate them and that the budget restraints also led him and two other voice actors to voice half of the show's cast.
  • One of the theories behind why My Life Me has such poor animation, as Carpediem Film and Television, the company that originally made the show, declared insolvency in the middle of its production.
  • 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.
  • The Nutshack only had enough money to afford a five-man crew made up of amateurs who took nearly every position in the show's production in order to get it off the ground. The limited budget also affected casting as the crew also had to voice almost every character in the show save for three additional voice actors; one of whom was hired because she was willing to do it for free.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Averted with Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa, which had a budget of over $500,000. However, most of the money clearly went to the special's cast members.
  • John and Faith Hubley's filmography suffered from this after they were blacklisted from Hollywood when John refused to testify in front of The House Committee on Un-American Activities, leaving them to solely produce, animate, and distribute their cartoons and to hire their children and friends as voice actors. However these limitations only contributed to the duo's already Deranged Animation as some of their most notable works like Moonbird, The Cosmic Eye, and Everybody Rides the Carousel were made during this period.
  • 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.
    • Speaking of The Simpsons, the country of Georgia produced their own CG animated rendition called The Samsonadzes. A quick glance at the intro alone should be a clear indicator of the overall budget.
  • 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 two women), and use of 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.
  • Almost anything produced for Spike and Mike's Animation Festival.
  • MTV's first animated series, Stevie and Zoya, was noted for its extremely crude animation and soundtrack made up of old movie and television scores. The title characters had next to no dialogue throughout its run and when they did speak it was usually a flub left in the final cut, giving the show an improvised feel. Despite this, the show quickly achieved a cult status among viewers due to its fast pace and short running time. note 
  • 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 consisted of black line-art only, with no cel paint used (at least in the first season; in the second season they started painting the characters solid white).
  • Nearly every cartoon ever produced by William Street falls under this.
  • The voice cast for Blue's Clues was mostly made up of the show's crew and co-creator because of the limited casting budget they had to work with.
  • Clutch Cargo barely qualifies as a cartoon since Cambria Studios had to produce each episode with one-fifth of what it would cost Hanna-Barbera to make. To get around this, animators had to superimpose the lips of the actors onto their characters and substitute actual animation with real time movement.
  • 2009's Dixie Dynamite clearly had no budget considering the stiff animation and poorly-rendered CG backdrops. Did we mention that one of the film's animators also worked on Rapsittie Street Kids?
  • Domestically-produced cartoons inverts this rule, as it's much cheaper to outsource animation to another country than to produce it locally because of the difference in dollar values. As a result, domestically-animated projects tend to have lower production values than outsourced ones despite having the same budget, since producers have to pay more for local animators than for animators in Japan or South Korea.
  • Spoofed In-Universe in the Garfield and Friends episode "The Discount of Monte Cristo", where Aloysius keeps on making random budget cuts to the story so that it's done as cheaply as possible, going from cutting a musical number, firing actors, reusing the same sets and eventually turning the background black and white and having Roy and Wade double as actors, making Orson annoyed.
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog was pretty obviously made on a low budget, as if the heavy usage of Talking to Himself for the voice actors, with some exceptions such as John Ritter as the titular character, and the music score, which is composed solely of synthesizers and an emulated clavinet, wasn't a big enough hint.
  • One of the Gravity Falls webshorts included a montage of local television programming. One spoofed this trope with Sheriff Durland and Deputy Blubb’s PSA on peer pressure. Highlights: a Totally Radical vibe, the set is the high school gym, and both cops playing all roles. Badly.
    • A Real Life example is the original pilot/pitch to Disney. It was done by a recently graduated Alex Hirsch with a screenplay made from Post-It Notes and Flash Animation. It’s still pretty solid, but the quality is significantly lower than the finished series.

  • Most Mockbusters.
  • 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 audio recording is easy and cheap. Even integrated sound cards have much better audio quality than old recording equipment. You don't have to use Apple computers; regular Windows and Linux PCs are fine too. If you buy a cheap professional sound card, it's unlikely to not include some recording software (and even if it does not, there's always Audacity and other free alternatives). VSTs can be obtained for free (either as freeware or pirated) and several alternatives exist for GarageBand on Windows and Linux. The only problem is to get instruments, microphones and talent, and even the first two can be done cheap or skipped entirely depending on what you aim for musically and where you look.
  • As for video recording, any standalone camera on the market can record in HD; even your cellphone can likely do 16x9 HD in landscape mode. As above, talent is the thing to find, as well as ingenuity to compensate for the lack of budget.
  • 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.
  • Many TV-based animated features owe their success on the fact that they're produced on relatively smaller, modest budgets as opposed to the high price tags any major Hollywood animated film is made for.
  • ASMR Video can have this - the use of household items or just narration over Stock Footage as a trigger.
  • Thanks to the advent of drones, shots that would have required renting a crane or even a helicopter can be had for the cost of buying said drone (which you can then keep using indefinitely on future projects) and hiring someone who's good at using it. They can also be used in place of rigs and dollies for ground-level tracking shots, particularly over rough outdoor terrain.

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Alternative Title(s): No Bo


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