FILM MAKING SECRETS (Micro-Budget Film Tricks… #10 Is My Favorite)
by Dov S-S Simens on April 22, 2019
Anyone can write, produce or direct a feature film, especially with micro-budgets of under $100K, if they approach their first project knowing these time tested and proven film tips.
14 MICRO-BUDGET FILM MAKING TRICKS
Below are 14 Filmmaking Secrets or Tricks, not taught at USC, UCLA or NYU, to maximize production value for your first feature film especially when you have little-to-no money and a smartphone.
Secret #14 is the most revealing on how Hollywood works but don’t skip the first 13 film making tricks.
(ONE) SCREENPLAY: KISS (Keep-It-Simple-Stupid), 90-pages, 1-location, character driven, dialogue story.
(TWO) SHOOT: 1-Weekend, 2-Day Shoot, 90-minutes, real time (“Rope”, “12 Angry Men”, “Birdman”, “Tangerine”)
(THREE) LOCATION/SET: 1-house, 1-bar, 1-elevator, 1-courtroom, 1-classroom (think you get the point)
(FOUR) GUILDS & UNIONS: You are Independent. Thus, 100% non-union but can hire actors/crew who are in union
(FIVE) ACTORS: Offer Opening Title Credits, Non-Union (You are independent. Again can hire Union or Non-Union Actors)
(SIX) CAMERAS: Not Film, Electronic/Digital, 4K, use 2 GoPros, BlackMagics or iPhones.
(SEVEN) SOUND: 1 Soundman. 1-weekend. Lighting can be adequate but Sound must be perfect.
(EIGHT) CREW: 7-8 People, 4-5 Keys (Cinematographer/Shooter, Director, Soundman, Production Designer, Production Manager) & 3 PAs
(NINE) VANS/TRUCKS: Don’t hire 4-year film school grads. Only hire PAs who have a van or pickup. (PAs are called “Gofers” & Need a Van to Go For…)
(TEN) DIRECT: 90-pages, 2-days, real-time script. Mostly Master Shots (“Birdman”). No 2nd Takes. Few Mediums. No Close-ups.
(ELEVEN) DAY/NIGHT: No Exterior-Night scenes. All scenes Ext-Day, Int-Day & Int-Night.
(TWELVE) CATERING: 12-15 people. 3-4 Actors. 7-8 Crew. 2-3 Relatives. Morning (Coffee & Muffins) Lunch (Burgers-n-Fries, Pizza & Souvlaki)
(THIRTEEN) POST/EDIT: Edit 3-weeks, Sound Edit 1-week, ADR & Foley 1-day, Music (original)
4 NO-BUDGET FEATURE FILM SECRETS
Let’s assume, and this is probably a solid assumption, that after spending 3-4 years talking about a low-budget, $203 Million feature film project that you are sure you have 50% of the financing firmly committed you eventually can come up with $5k… Now, here’s how to spend it to make your first movie.
PRODUCER: $0 (same as you’d pay yourself to produce a short)
WRITER/SCRIPT: $300-$500 (Cost for Software & 1,000 sheets of paper)
DIRECTOR: $500 (It’s a weekend shoot, who doesn’t want to be paid $500 to direct a feature in 1-weekend)
ACTORS/CAST: $400 (4 actors, SAG or Non-SAG at $100 each/weekend). Plus, an Opening Title Credit & great Demo Reel.
LOCATION/SET: $200-$400 (1-house or 1-room) for 1-weekend
PROPS/WARDROBE: $300-$500 BBS (Beg-Borrow-Steal) shoot. Wardrobe: Actor’s closet
CAMERAS: $400 (two 4Ks) for 1-weekend (Likely come with the DP/Shooter you hire.
LIGHTS: $200-$300 (3-Light, Key-Back-Fill) rental for 1-weekend (just think about Key Light, no time for Back or Fill)
SOUND: $500 (Hire Soundman with own equipment). Your Boom/Mike man will be a PA happy with Burgers-n-Fries
CREW: $1,500-$2,000 DP ($500), Director ($500), PD ($400), UPM ($400), 3 PAs ($300)
FOOD: $480-$600 $25-$30/day (Breakfast: Coffee, Muffins & Fruit Lunch: Burgers-n-Fries & Pizza)
PERMITS: $0 Yeah, sure (Guerilla Filmmaking)
INSURANCE: $0 Yeah, sure (Be careful, lenses & microphones disappear)
MISCELLANEOUS: $0 Yeah, sure (10% of $0 is $0. PAs are always glad to help)
LEGAL/ACCOUNTING: $0 (Yuk Yuk Yuk. You think “Blair Witch” or “Paranormal Activity” had any?)
*** TOTAL BUDGET: $4,780-$6,100 + Post***
SECRET #14: “SHOT-FOR”
Yes, I said $5,000 and now adding up a weekend shoot, with two 4k cameras, a skeleton crew, fast food, and 4 actors getting Opening Title Credits, with a script that is shot in real-time for $4,780-$6,100.
Well you are right. There are at least 5-6 line items that I totally left out and 10-12 line items that I’m sure you can nit-pick, say “how about” or “you forgot” and add some bucks too but the bottom-line is you are no longer thinking $1-2 Million or $2-3 Million or $3-5 Million is the budget for your first feature film.
You are now thinking $5-10 Thousand or $20-30 Thousand or $50-70 Thousand… which is a doable budget and are ready to accomplish a 1-week to 2-week shoot to launch your career.
And now welcome to Hollywood and the phrase “Shot-For”.
SECRET #14: Have you ever heard that “El Mariachi” was shot-for $20-30 Thousand or “Clerks” or “Blair Witch” was shot-for $20-30 Thousand.
The key phrase is “Shot-For”.
For in the Micro-Budget / No-Budget world when a distributor distributes a super low-budget movie they actually like to deflate (aka: make smaller) the budget even more and create a marketable darling concept and state the movie was “shot-for”.
Happy Filmmaking & Welcome to Hollywood,
Want theory? Go to a traditional 4-year film school and spend $100-300K.
Want facts? Then enjoy any of my 2-day film programs for the price of lunch
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