$1,000-$10,000 FEATURE FILM (aka: No-Budget Filmmaking)
by Dov S-S Simens on June 5, 2015
$1-10K Feature Film
Producing the $1,000-$10,000 No-Budget Feature Film!
Everyone must start somewhere and it is my strong belief that, as an adult, starting with a short is not a correct-move for anyone who wants into an industry that focuses on profits.
Truthfully, of the 100,000+ shorts made last year can you name me one that actually sold and made a profit? Therefore, in ruthless honesty, the biggest learning experience that an adult obtains by making a short is how to “go broke”, how to be ignored and how not to repeat the process a second time.
Now…Let’s assume you have between $1-10K (who doesn’t). Fair assumption? 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 called “Under the Radar” and no one, absolutely no one, can or will criticize you about production value…. However, storytelling is up to you.
Your film will not be perfect but being “Under the Radar” (aka: low expectations) and as long as the 90-minute, narrative you make is (A) in Focus, (B) Composed properly with a clear (C) synchronized Audio Track and you can captivate an audience with “story”… then you are a genius!
Now let’s use $1-10K and see how much talent you truly have.
The No-Budget Feature Film
CONCEPT: A Real-Time movie… You will shoot a movie in real-time (90-minutes) with an ad-libbed script, 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) and a liberated music score
SCRIPT: 90-page, 11 plot point outline, 3 sub-plots and adlibbed
CAMERAS: 2 iPhones (5 or 6), 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.
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
$1,000 – $10,000 Budget (How to spend the money)
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)
Spike Lee, Kevin Smith, Darren Aronofsky, Greg Araki 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 given you a quick outline, a roadmap, for a weekend shoot, a movie shot in “real time”, with 2 cameras, a 6-8 person “fed” crew, and ecstatic 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”.
Just make sure that 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’ve launched your career…
FOOTNOTE: if you enjoyed this post, and realized a thing or two, then please check out my “Streaming Film School”.
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5 comments on “$1,000-$10,000 FEATURE FILM (aka: No-Budget Filmmaking)”
Lots of great info in this post! Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I’ve been looking for info on No Budget Filmmaking.
Hi Dov! I attended your class in LA (summer of 2012). Brilliant in every way! Question: I am producing my first feature between $1-10K. One location, linear 90 min. If you say that it should only be a 2-3 day shoot, that seems like a tremendous amount of pages per day. Is it possible to shoot 40 pages a day? I thought 10 was pushing it.
Hi Dov! In 2016, I wrote, produced and directed my first feature (microbudget, approx 15 thou with post). Your wise instruction at Raleigh Studios (LA) in July, 2012 was key in helping me realize what seemed unfathomable for close to two decades. One location. Cast of 2. Dialogue heavy, character driven. Crew of 7 (including me). DP, boom op/sound mixer (one person), make-up, AD, 2 PAs. Post added composer(s). My DP edited. 4 days pre, 5-day shoot (wide, mids, OTS, CUs, experimental shots galore, shoulder-rig moving shots, tremendous cinematography and performances), 5 weeks post. Running time 55 min (off of what was originally a 63-page script), considered feature at all major film fests. Currently submitted to Sundance, Slamdance and soon to be in Tribeca, SXSW, Santa Barbara and Hollywood Film Fests. Very proud of the work we did. 6 months ago, this seemed impossible. Thank you, Dov, for planting seeds that would eventually bear good fruit. I recommend your class to anyone who is serious about making a movie (and doing it right).
We did exactly what you had described here and finished a beautiful feature film that was shot on a $650 out-of-pocket budget. It wasn’t shot in real-time though – it was shot-by-shot and took about 2 years just to finish the production phase itself. We were able to accomplish this by breaking the story up into 40 individual segments/scenes which took place at different times (within the timeline of the story) and shot at highly accessible locations. This allowed us to shoot one segment a day/evening without having to worry about continuity. It was definitely the most challenging film we’ve ever done, and I don’t think people will believe it when they see the numbers, but I bet you they will still criticize every mistake. The biggest lesson we learned was that the success of a no-budget indie film will depend highly on the feasibility of the script and the ability of the cast/crew to each work towards seeing it to completion. We do believe every film-maker has the toolkit to do something crazy like this and I’m glad to see that someone has mapped it out to perfectly fit with the tech that’s available to almost everyone. I wish we had this kind of information 5 years ago when we started the project. Good luck to everyone and I hope our film can also be an inspiration for what can be done with a bit of ingenuity and creativity and a lot of willpower.
Where can your work be seen?