One of the most important parts of a film is its production value, which is achieved through the film’s designs, props, locations, costumes, and picture cars. Today I’m going to focus on the last one I mentioned, picture cars.

Picture cars can be used to tell the viewer what year the film takes place, to make the background seem a lot more busy than it actually is, and show the audience something about a character that they might not have known before (their social/wealth status, how cool they are — or their lack of cool, etc). The right picture car can elevate a film to a higher level. Could you imagine Back to the Future without the DeLorean?

Picture cars can be very expensive. Especially if you need a lot of them, and even more so if they have to be from a specific time period. So, what can you do to get cheap picture cars for your independent features and shorts? First, it is key to ask around. A friend or a friend of a friend could have the exact car that you need. Hit up your email contacts and send a message on Facebook to everyone that you think would be willing to help out. If that doesn’t work, you could put an ad on Craig’s List, but in my personal opinion the people that answer those ads tend to be shady. So if you don’t know anyone personally that would help you, I’d suggest going to a local used car dealership that has nice cars that might fit what you need.  Avoid chain stores and look for what that is personally owned. In exchange for a thank you credit or for filming a short commercial for the dealership they may be willing to let you borrow a car for your shoot. A buddy of mine did this for one of his shorts and got a slick BMW for his film. You might hear the word used and think that all of the cars they have must be falling apart and old, but that is far from true.

When you are looking for picture cars, think outside the box. And if you need a specific car, go on the hunt, I’m sure you’ll find it.