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Creating an Award-Nominated Charity Film on a Low Budget

As our film for national charity Citizens Advice garners recognition as a finalist for the EVCOM Industry Award in the 'Best Use of Lower Budget' category, we pull back the curtain and reveal the process that brought this project to life.

Let's start at the beginning...

Citizens Advice aimed to raise awareness about volunteering for their Witness Service, a challenging area in need of support. We crafted an emotive film focused on court witness Luke, capturing a poignant introspective moment to showcase the impact of volunteer Gloria. The film emphasises the emotional journey, highlighting the vital role volunteers play.

OK, let's talk turkey

With a modest £5,000 budget and a tight deadline, we embarked on crafting an authentic, scripted film aligned with the client's request.

To optimise resources, we condensed the narrative to a singular emotional moment: a court witness reflecting in his car. This choice allowed us to shoot outside a court, avoiding indoor location expenses.

In close collaboration with the Witness Service department, we gathered real case studies and testimonials and fined-tuned the script together on Zoom call for streamlined sign-off.

We managed the project in-house with a skeleton crew, multitasking roles. Everyone pitched in, including the managing director who oversaw quality control, sound design and colour.

Shh! (The tricks of the trade)

We filmed around 70% of the film in the one car location, with the car lent by a client. We filmed the protagonist in shallow focus, with a fractured introspective narrative giving us creative permission for jump cuts and an eclectic montage of the character’s eyes and hands.

Negotiating car parking permission outside of the court was a challenge, but we obtained this free of charge by close coordination with Birmingham Council.

The remaining 30% of the film was filmed using Citizens Advice offices fabricating a domestic kitchen. We stuck to mid-shots and close-ups, and avoided lingering too long on wider mise-en-scene when cutting to flashbacks.

The ‘letter through door’ shot was captured at our camera operator’s home. Wardrobe was sourced from amongst family and friends. We used all-natural lighting on-set and recorded voiceover narration with the actors on-set, using a makeshift ‘studio’, to avoid additional costs.

Sound design was used heavily to elevate the production quality of the final piece and imply a larger world beyond the frame and achieving the effect of transporting the audience from present to past. The sound design was crafted in-house through foley, enhancing the production's depth without added expense.

So what?

After one month of launching the film online, Citizens Advice had 5,427 video views on social media, 21,625 impressions of the content and 3.12% average engagement rate of posts with the video. Citizens Advice comment that engagement rate is quite high for them, as they normally sit around 2%.

Witness Service wrote:

“We have had really positive feedback from staff and volunteers commenting that it is very emotive and true to life, a few have commented that it 'gave them goosebumps when they watched it. Volunteer applicants have commented on the film that it really piqued their interest and brought the role to life for them. We have just updated our 'how heard' section on the application form to include the film so we can better monitor success.”

You can do it too...

Some tactics we used for Depaul UK's Winter Appeal and our in-house 'Lads Lets Talk' film include: using actors on one location, tight close-ups in a 'jump cut' montaged style facilitated by the fractured tone of the narrative and heavy use of sound design and voiceover to paint a picture audibly instead of visually (cheaper!)

And shoutout to some other films we love that inspire us and employ similar tricks of the trade, including Sue Ryder's Grief Kind TV Ad and Solace Women's Aid lifeline film. We hope they inspire you too, and help you realise a strong concept can go a long way even without much production moolah.

If you're looking to achieve big things with a modest budget, get in touch today. For some ideas for how we can creatively work with your budget, email

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