YOUR 1st MOVIE (Part 2): The $30,000-$50,000 FEATURE FILM.

Last week’s post I outlined step-by-step how to make a movie “shot for $1,000-$10,000” which is usually a non-scripted project (improve actors), shot in real-time (90-minutes), with 2 iPhones or HDSLR cameras over 1-weekend.

Of the 186 comments and e-mails received there were 4 (2 USC, 1 NYU & 1 AFI grad), slightly condescending, that said “no way” and proceeded to tell me, according to their professors, that what is needed, at a minimum, is $500,000 to make a “quality Low-Budget” feature film and these instructors further state that you have only one shot at success and it better be “prefect”.

My response, which I did not make for you cannot create enemies over the internet, was going-to-be… “Duh? So how are you getting $500,000… that’s a lot of money”…

$500,000 & Perfection! Nice theory but impractical and unrealistic…. and this info costs over $200,000 at USC & NYU or only $120,000 at AFI to obtain.

A long time ago my father taught me that “if you ever want to do anything perfect… you will never do anything”.

Thanks Dad. Now, let’s get real:

I didn’t respond to those 4 traditionally taught film school graduates directly… but will respond indirectly with 3 more blogs ($30K-$50K below) adding to your budget, and show you how to make a feature film for $30K-$50K (1-week shoot), then how to make a feature film for $20K-$30K (Shot & In-the-Can) and finally, the concept of making a feature film for $10K-$20K (Multiple Weekend shoot) with 2 credit cards….

Then, with 4 more posts over the next month, I’ll even go up in budget and show you exactly how to make a movie assuming you have either $70K-$100K, or $100K-$200K or $200K-$300K.

So USC, NYU & AFI grads, anyone can make a quality movie when you have Half-A-Million-Dollars but how about when you have $10-20K, $20-30K, $30-50K, $70-100K, $100-200K or $200-300K… and instead of writing checks to accomplish a task you must use raw talent.

And if you demonstrate your “raw talent”, with a work-ethic, with these nominal budgeted features films, the industry executives will know and help you get the $500,000 to make your “quality low-budget” feature…. but it will be your 2nd Feature Film.

Now “No-Bull”, let’s “Get Real” and permit me to dispense some Common Sense filmmaking info on making your 1st Feature Film.

InCompanyMen    Clerks2

The $30K-$50K Feature: The 90-Page, 1-Location Script, 1-Week Shoot.

THE BASICS: 90-Pages, 7 Shoot Days… Working 15-18 hours/day executing a Shooting Schedule of 12-13 Pages/Day.

THE INFO: If 1-Page of Script, formatted properly, becomes approximately 1-minute of Running Time… Then you must get shot (aka: covered, at least 1-Page In-The-Can every 45-50 Minutes with 4-6 setups.

Phew…. But doable.


My prior blog (last week, INDY SUCCESS: Part 1) showed how to make a $1,000-$10,000 No-Budget Feature like “TANGERINE…now permit me to show you how to spend $30,000-$50,000 and not only make a better movie but even finish it.

Key phrase is “Finish-It” not “Shot-For” (will do a post on the feature film that was “shot-for” $20-30K)

Now back to $30-50K & Micro-Budget Filmmaking:

$30,000-$50,000 is more than enough money to execute a (A) 1-week shoot with (B) qualified but minimal  crew, (C) professional actors, (D) practical locations and (E) state-of-the-art 4K cameras…and (F) finish it.

And when you actually finish a movie, rather than one that was “shot-for” (aka: unfinished rough cut), and go to a film festival (assuming the audience loves it), you are in a much-much-much better position to negotiate with distributors than if you had a “Shot For” feature film and you are literally begging for finishing funds.

Key word is “begging”… for when you haven’t 100% totally finished your movie… distributors, who are not your friends or relatives, know that you are broke (please read this again: “you are broke”) and they become vultures, for they know that you are broke.

I repeat B-R-O-K-E… And when you are B-R-O-K-E and negotiating with someone who knows that you are B-R-O-K-E you are not negotiating from strength.

So allow me to show you how to get into a much better negotiating position, with a theatrical distributor, when you are premiering at a film festival and your film is F-I-N-I-S-H-E-D as in D-O-N-E.

 Hollywood Shuffle

(Although produced for $30-$50K. “Hollywood Shuffle” was not a 1-week shoot but a multi-weekend production over 5 months. The Producer-Director, Robert Townsend, started out by making a short and realized “lets make-a-movie”.)

Micro-Budget Filmmaking A-Z

For $30,000-$50,000 you have enough money to make & finish your movie and…

(1) Budget $3,000-$5,000 for SCRIPT WRITING

(2) Budget $5,000-$6,000 for 2-Week PRE-PRODUCTION & 2-Day REHEARSAL

(3) Budget $10,000-$17,000 for 1-Week PRODUCTION & SHOOT

(4) Budget $3,000-$4,000 for 3-Day PICK-UP

(5) Budget $7,000-10,000 for 6-Week POST-PRODUCTION

(6) Budget $2,000-$8,000 for PUBLICITY, SOCIAL MEDIA & FESTIVALS

 The Top 10 Micro-Budget Filmmaking Tips

FIRST: SCRIPT (KISS): 90-Pages, 1-Location, No Moves

SECOND: STORY (Drama): Dialogue Oriented, Character Driven No Stunts, No VFX

THIRD: CREW (Minimal) 8-10 with two 4K/Red Cameras

FOURTH: (Costumes): Contemporary, No Period Piece

FIFTH (Slug Lines): Do not have any EXT-NIGHT sequences

SIXTH (Schedule): Plan a 1-week, 10-12 Page/Day Shooting Schedule

SEVENTH (Directing): Always get a Master Shot first

EIGHTH (Actors & Get It Done): Remember, no shot saves a film. Get a Master & Move

NINTH (Camera & Crew): Get a DP who’s been a big budget DP’s’ CO

TENTH (Audio): Make sure the Sound is sharp & clear

TheBlairWitchProject     CLERKS

(“Blair Witch” and “Clerks” were both feature films. 1-week shoots, that were under $50K and launched careers)

I promise you that with $30,000-$50,000 you can execute a quality 1-week shoot… with a professional Camera Operator (procuring his/her first DP credit)… with a great script and… with superb actors being paid  ($100/day)… and with enough money for a 6-week Post Production process for a finished movie that still has $2,000-$8,000 left over for Social Media, Film Festival(s) and securing a distributor.

Happy Filmmaking,

Dov Simens


If you desire filmmaking/writing/directing info, based on common sense, then I look forward to seeing you at my affordable “2-Day Film School” (LOS ANGELES, December 5-6, 2015 or April 23-24, 2016) and if you can’t-wait or can’t-attend then either my “DVD Film School” or “Streaming Film School” programs are perfect.

Keep Up to date… Join my e-mail list.

 ***** NO-BULL *****


3 comments on “INDY FILMMAKING SUCCESS (Part 2): THE MICRO-BUDGET $30K-$50K FEATURE (The 1-Week Movie)”

  1. Andy Rodriguez

    Sure it can be done. I’ve done this since 1998 34 times and made money 31 times.

    Distribution in 44 countries on 5 continents.

    No big. Yes, it absolutely can be done.

  2. Marg

    You’re wright Dov, sounds really reasonable and great!

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