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Guerrilla Filmmaking : Things You Must Know Before Starts Shooting

Film Production

Guerrilla Filmmaking : Things You Must Know Before Starts Shooting

The Russian film maker Andrei Tarkovsky once said “filmmaking is a sad art, because it takes a huge amount of money to transform your imagination to image“. Driven by oppression and  passion once the Spanish people rose against the huge Napoleonic troops in the Peninsular War, so did the independent film makers with whatever means at hand in the battle against fund.

Behind The Scenes…

Guerilla film making is a rebel without a proper crew, budget or props using whatever is available. The advent of digital cameras and computer editing software were like blessings to these filmmakers. ‘El Mariachi’ – the award winning film of Sundance film festival by ‘Robert Rodriguez’ was shot for only around $7,000 through this guerilla film making tactics. ‘Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Pi’ too belong to this category which was shot for only $68,000, even in ‘Black Swan’, they shot all the subway scenes without permits on a Canon 7D. Recent movies like ‘Escape from Tomorrow’ by director Randy Moore, which was premiered at Sundance in 2013 was also shot entirely at Disneyland and Disney World without prior permission, with DSLRs and a skeleton crew entirely undetected by park staffs. But in India this strategy of film making with no permission and no bribes is pretty new.  

Usual Filming Location Permission Clearance – Facts

On the basis of scrutiny of entire script and other details of the proposal, approval regarding shooting a film is given by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. The whole process takes up a lot of time that approximately of minimum 10-12 weeks. It also requires good amount of money for the official filming permissions in urban locations (especially), additionally the film-unit have to arrange their own security people to manage crowds. Over and above, the recent rises of service tax in India from 12.36 % to 14% left most of the new age film makers with shoestring budget but a strong desire is to share their contents to believe that the only way to shoot in the city is guerilla style with minimum crews. Besides, the setting of the location too remains natural, unhampered when shooting guerilla style.

Some Examples……..

Nikhil Dwivedi’s both ‘Shor in The City’ and ‘Tamanchey’ are shooted in this technique. ‘Hola Venky’ a film by Sandeep Mohan was shooted at a budget of only 10 lacks by a minimal crew of three members.

Robin Das’s  award winning Feature Film Ek Paye Royecho Dariye’ (And Lost Soul) was shot in guerilla style. the film was released in 2012 and it premièred in film festivals including De Cine De Bogota (FIAPF), Cyprus International Film Festival and Cairo Film Festival.

60% of  Leena Manimekalai’s film ‘Sengadal’ (‘The Dead Sea’) too was illegally shot as they had no other way to finish the movie except guerilla style of film making. Maruti Dasari director of small budget film ‘Ee Rojullo’ too chose to shot in guerilla way with digital camera Canon5D.

Green Oscar Winner Ajay & Vijay Bedi was captured the colorful vista of man-monkey relationship in India through low budget guerilla style film making in their film – The Policing Langur.

Much celebrated Mira Nair’s film ‘Salaam Bombay’ was shooted in guerilla-style, on real locations of Mumbai’s Kamathipura area- the city’s oldest red-light district. Kiran Rao’s ‘Dhobi ghat’ with location set in some of the busiest and high traffic areas of Mumbai in order to capture the deep and realistic elements of everyday city life.

Filmmaker Anurag Basu is also planned to shoot parts of ‘Barfi’ guerilla style, as he had his prior experience of how a messy crowd can kill a shoot in India especially when shooting with top stars like Ranbir Kapoor or Priyanka Chopra.


Filmmaker Manjeet Singh arrested while shooting ‘Mumbai Cha Raja’ in guerilla style in the slums of Mumbai. Amit Masurkar of famous slacker bro-mantic comedy movie ‘Suleimani Keeda’, Vasan Bala’s ‘Peddlers’, Rohan Kanawade’s short film ‘Sundar’ also faces some on-location filming troubles.

Although, these directors choose to shoot guerilla style; they agree at a point that this film making tactics can be inherently risky at times- if not aware about the tricks, which lead to serious legal problems.

To make guerilla film making practicable and to avoid legal proceedings experts suggests –

  • As small crew as possibleAs big crew draws unwanted attention very easily, it is desirable to have a skeleton crew of 2-3 people maximum consisting of actor, DP and the director while shooting guerilla style.
  • Use of small palm fitting digital cameras- The smaller the camera it is, the less likely that the crew will get caught, so, use of palm fitting digital camera (DSLR) instead of bulky movie camera is one of  the key to successfully accomplish guerilla film making without attracting mass attention.
  • Avoid using boom mics and go wireless- Boom mics are the biggest giveaways of guerilla shoot, as nothing attracts more attention than this in a shoot, using lavalier microphones, wireless receivers and recorders can avoid such problems.
  • No gears in plain sight- It’s better not to use even a tripod and go handheld in this type of shoots, and if stable look is absolutely essential for the shots then a monopod, stabilized lens or cameras like Sony A7 II with built in stabilizer can serve as alternatives.
  • Pre-planning and quick action- The best way to properly execute a guerilla shoot is to plan as diligently as possible and rehearse in some other locations as this makes the process much swift and easy.

So, the greatest possession of these guerilla film makers are their indomitable passion and creativity, the combination of which brings out all the essential gears like cranes, dollies, even jibs from around us with practically no money  and they continue their fight against the  deadness of conformity and blind consumerism breaking the law of conventional wisdom. Thus the guerilla film making is practically the art of film making with no or low budget by a group of rebels who are short on money but not on passion or vision.

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Adrija is passionate about cinema and she loves to explore the world of cinematic techniques. She appreciates works of arts and believes in the only thing that shatters dream is compromise. Adrija is a post graduate student from Presidency University, Kolkata, specialized in Biological Sciences.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. billy

    June 16, 2015 at 6:27 am

    When someone writes an piece of writing he/she keeps the thought of a user
    in his/her mind that how a user can understand it.
    So that’s why this paragraph is perfect. Excellent article about guerilla filmmaking


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