INDY FILMMAKING SUCCESS (Part 1): THE NO-BUDGET $1K-$10K FEATURE (Got $1,000? Make-A-Movie Not-A-Short.)
by Dov S-S Simens on November 13, 2015
YOUR 1st MOVIE (Part 1): The $1,000-$10,000 Feature Film
Thanks to digital technology (4K cameras for $500) and the internet (marketing, distributing P2P, streaming, on-demand & micro-charging) the making of feature films, on budgets of $1K-$10K, selling them for $0.25 to $1.95, and profiting (I repeat “and profiting”) is now quite realistic.
Remember, I said “quite realistic” but not “guaranteed” but, an added bonus, if you produce a feature film for under $10,000, is you are figuratively flying under-the-radar and no one can criticize you… and for your 2nd feature Film you can say to investors “look what I did for No-Money”.
Let’s start a 21st Century Film Career.
UNDER-THE-RADAR: No-Budget Filmmaking!
(Yes, this is a 4K camera.. but make sure you don’t skimp on sound)
Everyone must start somewhere and it is my belief that starting with a short, as an adult, is a likely dead end and not a correct-move for anyone wanting into an industry that focuses on profits.
Truthfully… of the 600,000+ shorts made last year can you name me one that actually sold and made a profit?
Therefore, in ruthless honesty, all an adult demonstrates by making a short is that he/she knows how to “go broke. And if you make something that can not be sold, you quickly discover that no one, except friends & family and possibly cast & crew, want to see this thing. And as Kurt Vonnegut wrote “And so it goes”… but there might be a better way to allocate small money and 4-6 months of your time
Let’s assume you have $1K-10K (who doesn’t). Fair assumption? And if you don’t please get a 2nd job and save up… Hollywood will wiat for you.
Back to…you have $1K-$10K (specifically $3,800-$8,800, see below): Now think out-of-the-box and make a feature film….but one you can handle. And, the bottom-line, with this minimal amount of money, is you are “Under-The-Radar” and no one, absolutely no one, can or will criticize you….
However, the key to success is not that you can do it (you can) but storytelling, telling a great story in 90-minutes, and that is up to you.
Your film will not be perfect but being “Under-The-Radar” (aka: low expectations) and as long as the narrative you make is (A) in Focus, (B) Composed properly with a clear (C) Audio Track and you can captivate an audience with a “90-minute story”… then you are a genius!
Now let’s make a movie and market it as either a “$1K Feature Film”, or a “Just Under $1K Feature Film”, or a movie made with “Raw Talent”, or even a “No-Budget Feature” and go concept-by-concept and then checque-by-checque, showing you exactly what to do.
The No-Budget Feature Film (The Concept: Step-by-Step)
CONCEPT: A Real-Time movie… You will shoot a movie in real-time (aka: non-scripted) with an ad-libbed story, with 2-4 actors, in a dramatic situation (90-minutes before apocalypse, 90-minutes waiting for a jury’s rendering, 90-minutes stuck in a funeral home, etc.), with 2 iPhones (Apple or Samsung…Blackberry?) and a liberated music score
SCRIPT: 90-page, 11 plot point outline, 3 sub-plots and adlibbed
CAMERAS (A): 2 iPhones (6 or 6s), shot Wide-Screen (2:35 Aspect Ratio), plus a $9 App (FilmicPro) that allows you to control (A) Focus, (B) Aperture and (C) Color. Plus, (D) Moondog Lensees L33 Anamorphic) for better picture (always remember, “it’s not the camera, it’s the glass”) and a (E) Steadi-Cam for smoothness.
CAMERAS (B): Hint, Samsung is competing with iPhone. Fair chance you can obtain either a loan of 2 Samsungs to shoot or even some Product Placement dollars ($1K-$100K) if you present yourself and your script to the head of Marketing for Samsung (“just a thought”)
(iPhone has 4K cameras in their new smart phones. How about Samsung?)
SHOOT: 1-weekend. Friday (11a-5p rehearse). Saturday (1a-6p, rehearse in costume & makeup at location). Sunday (Noon-5p, Shoot). Sunday (6p, Wrap)
CREW: 4-6 People (DP, PM/AD, Camera Operator #2, Sound, Prop/Wardrobe/Production Design, 2 Production Assistants)
LOCATION: 1-House, 1-Street, 1-Car, 1-Beach, etc (2-days)
CAST: 2-4 Actors, 2 Days, $50/rehearsal and $100/shoot
WARDROBE: Bring Your Own
PROPS: Limited availability, Beg-Borrow-Steal if needed.
FOOD/CRAFTSERVICE: 2-Days (Sat-Sun) Continental Breakfast & Coffee. 6-10 Lunches (Fri, Sat & Sun) 3-days.
PERMITS/INSURANCE: Guerilla Filmmaking
POST/EDIT: 1-week Edit, 1-Day ADR, 1-Day Foley
MUSIC: Trade for Opening Title Credit
(Last year’s Sundance had America’s 1st movie, “Tangerine”, shot with iPhones screened & distributed. HINT: Hey Samsung & Blackberry have smartphones… just a thought)
$3,800 – $8,800 Budget (The Money: Step-by-Step)
SCRIPT ($0-$1,500): $500 Treatment, $1,000 Script, both Free if self-written.
CAMERAS ($1,000): Hire your DP (Director of Photography) only is he/she has 2 inexpensive Cameras (iPhones, DSLRs, Black Magics, etc) and proper lenses. You need him/her, and cameras, for 1-weekend. $1,000 is enough. Plus, from the $1,000 he/she pays for his/her assistant/Shooter for the 2nd Camera.
AUDIO/LIGHTS/GRIP ($1,000-2,000): Budget $500-$1,000 (max) for a Soundman, with equipment (Mikes, Recorder, Mixing Box), for 1-weekend which includes $300 for his/her assistant called the Boom/Mike Man. Lights & Grip equipment (get real) are non-existent to minimal. You will find someone (ask your DP) who has a simple portable lighting kit that can handle a Key Light and 1-2 Back Lights.
CREW ($1,300-$1,500): DP & Camera Operator already budgeted for. Soundman & Assistant already budgeted for. You will need a PM (Production Manager), a PD (Production Designer) and 3-4 PAs (Production Assistants, who each come with a pickup truck or a van. “No Pickup. No Van. No Hire.” Paying the PM ($500) and an Opening Title Credit of “Line Producer”; paying the PD ($500) and an Opening Title Credit of “Production Designer”; and paying the 3-4 PAs, with trucks, $100 each and Gas money has the remainder of crew at $1,300-$1,500.
CAST ($200-$800): Actors are always working on shorts where they are paid NOTHING and happy to obtain a useless Credit and Demo for their reel. Now, your production is less time than a short and it is a Feature Film (I repeat “Feature Film”, with a starring credit)…. Thus, you should be able to get actors for close to nothing, and an Opening Title Credit on a Feature Film along with an IMDB Credit) or they (no joke) pay you (okay, invest in you) for the opportunity. Paying $50-$100/day for each actor is decadence and you should, during casting, have your choice from 40-50 actors per part and secure superb on-screen acting
PROPS/WARDROBE/ART ($0-$1,000): Here comes the phrase “Beg, Borrow & Steal”… Again, not a joke for every time I am a moderator on a Film Festival Panel for “First-Time Directors” I always here each (first-time director) tell amazing stories of their and their crews creativity with respects to Props, Wardrobe & Locations and how they had to “Beg, Borrow & Steal”
EXPENDABLES ($300-$500): One time only items. You use ’em one-time. You can’t use ’em again. (Filters, Batteries, Gels, etc). Most, if not all of these come with the individual crew members who each have “a Kit”.
PERMITS & INSURANCE ($0): Yuk-Yuk. This is called “Guerilla Filmmaking”
FOOD/CRAFTS ($0-$500): For 1-weekend, with 2-4 actors and 6-8 crew (8-12 bodies) paying $10 each for lunch (Burgers, Fries, Pizza, etc) and $30/day for Craft-Service/Coffee/Breakfast will not be more than $500. Again, if possible have one of your PAs, who wants to be your 2nd Assistant Director (real good IMDB credit) bring lunch, with a pretty assistant server, and be everyone hero for the shoot.
TOTAL BUDGET ($3,800-$8,800)… Voilla!
(Greg Araki made “Three Bewildered People” (1987) with a stationary camera for only $5k, then “Long Weekend”, with a 90-minute spontaneous script , again for $5K and jumped to a $20K mega-budget feature titled “Living End”… Kevin Smith is another No-Budget role model with”Clerks” in 1994)
Greg Araki, Kevin Smith, Darren Aronofsky, Spike Lee as “First-Timers”
Nothing is perfect and there is no “perfect way” to make a movie, especially when you only have $1,000-$10,000. However, you now have a quick outline, a roadmap, for a weekend shoot, a movie shot in “real time”, with 2 cameras, a 6-8 person “burger & fries fed” crew, and actors that were actually paid to star in a feature film and the budget is “Under $10K”.
Now, who can complain. And who is going to criticize you.
You are “Under-The-Radar”. And if you view the 1st No-Budget feature films made by “now celebrity directors” like Greg Araki, Kevin Smith, Darren Aronofsky or Spike Lee you are going to say, upon viewing, “I can do this”.
And yes you can but please make sure that all the shots are (A) in Focus, the framing (B) is Composed the (C) Audio is hearable and you (D know casting & storytelling.
Again, who can complain. You’re “Under-The-Radar” and have launched your career…
FOOTNOTE: if you enjoyed this post, with my No-Bull approach, and realized that you can actually do it, then please check out my “2-Day Film School” (Los Angeles, December 5-6, 2015 & April 23-24, 2016) and, if you can’t wait my “Streaming Film School” or “DVD Film School” are available.
Happy Filmmaking & Welcome to Hollywood,