$10,000-$20,000 FEATURE FILM (AKA: Credit Card Filmmaking)

 $10,000-$20,000 FEATURE FILM

$10-$20K! Last week’s post was Producing the $1-$10K “No-Budget” Feature Film…. Now, let’s Produce a $10-20K Credit-Card Feature assuming you have a Card (Visa/MC/Amex not Costco or Target) and desire to go into debt (I totally advise against this, but would be remiss not to explain it, if my job is to be an excellent teacher void of rah-rah speeches and teach Independent filmmaking A-Z).

With a credit card (Caveat: that you must pay off) you can add $5,000-$10,00, even $20,000,0 to your $1,000-$10,000 and make a $10,000-$20,000 or $20,000-$30,000 Feature Film which you will market/promote as a feature film made with nothing but raw talent and a credit card or two…. (remember, I advise “Do not do this”)

What can you do for $20,000-$30,000 and a credit card or two?

QUICK ANSWER: “Hollywood Shuffle”, “Brothers McMullen” to name a couple.

Hollywood Shuffle2

SLOW ANSWER: This is more than enough to do a limited-crew, non-permitted, 1-week, guerilla feature film, without signing with any guilds or unions but using actors that are in SAG (Screen Actors Guild) along with “Mix-n-Match” (using union actors with non-union actors) and demonstrating that you are capable of telling a story.

$10,000-$20,000, for whatever reason, usually has first-timers not attempting a 1-week shoot but making their movies over 3-4 weekends, during a 6-8 month period and marketing that the feature film was made using “Credit Cards” and the flick became branded as “Credit Card Filmmaking”.

IMPORTANT POINT (again): I strongly-strongly-strongly advise to never-never-never use a Credit Card (Visa/MC/Amex) to finance your movie, even though it appears to be a cool marketable “Hook” or promotable “Gimmick”.


Simple… credit cards charge 22%-29% interest (thank you Chris Dodd) and banks, the Mafia of the 21st century, have absolutely no heart (thank you Chris Dodd) and will gladly place you into bankruptcy (thank you Chris Dodd).

Always remember, your first feature film is your “calling card” and very-very-very-very likely will show no profits or return-on-investment and if you used a credit card, the 22%-29% interest has accrued (thank you Chris Dodd) and you owe them (thank you Chris Dodd) more money than you have.

However, if I am to be an “excellent film teacher” then it would be remiss on my part to, without teaching, not talk about “Credit Card Filmmaking:

Has Credit-Card Filmmaking Succeeded?

Yes, but always remember “you only hear about the successes” and some of them are….

Robert Townsend’s “HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE” where he allegedly used 15 cards and maxed out $40,000.

Spike Lee’s “SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT” with the support (aka: use) of family credit cards.

Kevin Smith’s “CLERKS” which created $27,000 in credit card debt.

“BLAIR WITCH PROJECT” supposedly charged $35,000, with credit cards, to make but grossed over $250 Million.

And by far the best example of “Credit Card Filmmaking” is Ed Burns flick “BROTHERS McMULLEN”, made at his parents house on Long Island, utilizing his and his brother’s credit cards, over 6 months.


What is Credit-Card Filmmaking?

Basically, you have no bank account, no money. You actually don’t even have a job. Plus, you are living at your cousin’s house who for whatever reason believes in you. But for some unknown reason a bulk mailing from a bank in Virginia and another one in South Dakota offers you a $5,000 Line of Credit.

Plus you have a dream, a passion and a now a credit card (no Target, Costco, Macys & GAP don’t count) or two or three or four from Visa/MC/Amex with a $5,000 limit.


Basically, you use your credit card ($5,000 limit) to rent a camera (Red) for a weekend, rent a location (bar, bowling alley, vacation cottage, etc) for a weekend, buy food for 15-20 people for a weekend, hire a soundman and rent some lights and grip equipment for a weekend.

You write your own 90-page script, then cast your 5-8 actors, rehearse, then power through 36-48 hours and shoot 25-30 pages on Friday, Saturday & Sunday.

Need to pay for anything… “Whip out that card”.

On Monday, you say goodbye to everyone, return the equipment pay for damages at the location… and now, after everyone has gone, you have to pay off your $5,000 credit card balance (remember 22%-29% adds up).

This will take a month or two or three (Thank you Uber & Starbucks & Fivver).

Now, your credit card(s) has, once again, a $5,000 Balance.

You call the actors back (it is 2-3 months later and hopefully none have moved, gotten pregnant or changed their hair styles; you secure the same location (this assumes they let you back); you whip out your credit card and rent the equipment again (NOTE: Keep excellent Camera Notes, so you can match the lens, filters & gels to maintain a constant look). Likely hire a new 4-8 person crew and shoot another 25-30 pages while powering through 48-72 hours on Friday, Saturday & Sunday.

Over the next 2-3 months repeat the above process 1-2 more times and… Voilla! You have shot (aka: covered your 90 page script)

Phew! Are you sure you want to do this?

FS-$89 (2) DSC_8143

$10,000-$20,000 Credit Card Feature Film Budget

CREDIT CARD #1 ($5,000):

SHOOT 25-30 Pages; Rent Camera (1-Day rate), Hire DP, Secure Location (1-weekend), Secure Audio, Feed 6-8 Crew and 2-4 Actors

2 Months Later!

CREDIT CARD #1 ($3,000)

SHOOT 25-30 Pages, Rent Camera (1-Day Rate), Hire new DP & new Audio, Secure Location (1-weekend), Find & Feed 6-8 Crew, Beg your 2-4 Actors to return ($100/day)

CREDIT CARD #1 ($2,000)

SHOOT 30-40 Pages, Rent Camera (1-Day Rate), Hire new DP & new Audio, Secure Location (1-weekend), Find & Feed a new 6-8 person Crew, Beg your 2-4 actors to return ($250/day)

CREDIT CARD #1 ($1,000)

Do Pick-Ups (MOS) or Re-Shoots (MOS) assuming (1) Actors will return, (2) Location is available, (3) you found a Camera and Operator

Bottom-line is over 8-10 months you have basically shot 3-4 shorts (3-4 weekends) that somehow edit together and you have a 90-minute feature film.


Once again, I beg you to not-not-not do Credit Card Filmmaking.

Yes, it sounds glamorous but it is to long, to hard, with to many inherent problems (loss of location, actors that move, crew that aren’t available, etc.), not even to mention bankruptcy (thank you Chris Dodd) and I truly believe that you will get more productivity and creativity if you be a little more patient… save up money ($20,000-30,000) over the next year, rather than going into credit card debt, and Produce-Direct a 1-week shoot with a nominally paid but qualified crew that is fed properly and actors that are likewise paid $100-$200/day and only need to show up once.

Thus, my next post will be how to execute, not a $10,000-$20,000 feature with a credit card or two but how to actually spend $20,000-$30,000 and make a quality, 1-week feature film that you will eventually sneak in the phrase “SHOT FOR”

Happy Filmmaking.


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One comment on “$10,000-$20,000 FEATURE FILM (AKA: Credit Card Filmmaking)”

  1. harry says:

    hmmm, Clerks, SHe’s Gotta Have It, Blair Witch. Are there any actual success stories less than 20 years old?

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