Let's blow things up
When you're working with a minimal budget and self financing a project it can be very difficult to make something that appears to have a high production value. Especially when you're planning a WW2 battle sequence. I wanted to break down different elements, from my own experience, in the hope that it might help other fimmakers produce quality sequences with minimal budgets.
LOCATION. In my experience it's always best to be honest with the local council office about what your shooting and what your budget is. We shot the WW2 scene in Watford and the council were great. Every council will have a film location department. Even if that department is just one person. I was honest when I called up. I said I was working with a small crew. I said that it was self financed. Ultimately, I was given permission to film for two day free of charge. It's not like it was the BBC coming in with hundreds of crew. I just promised to leave it in the same condition as I found it.
COSTUME/PROPS. There are loads of groups online that reinact famous battles. It's always good to get in contact and see what they have available. They may rent things out to you. In my case, my 1st AD knew one of those people and we managed to swing a period military uniform. The most expensive part of the shoot was a replica WW2 Lee Enfield Mark 3 rifel. This rifle cost in excess of £400. It is a huge amount of money to spend but it won't lose value (unless your actors breaks it), so it can be sold after the shoot and it won't have cost you a penny.
PRACTICAL FX vs VFX. A good compromise is both practical onset FX and VFX added in post production. Nowadays with software like AfterFX and Nuke there is a lot that can be achieved in post production but you'll want to get your VFX Supervisor onboard in preproduction and ideally have him/her onset. Although we did the lions share in post, everything we did on set was carefully planned, knowing exactly how the FXs were going to be achieved later. So for example we still had flying debris that would hit the actor knowing that an explosion would be added in post.
I have included two videos below. The first is a 'behind the scenes' of the WW2 shoot. This shows some of the elements I have discussed in the blog. The second video is the trailer for the film where you'll be able to see glimpes of the WW2 element in it's final form.