FILM MAKING SECRETS (Micro-Budget Film Tricks… #10 Is My Favorite)

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.


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


(With $5-10K keep your feature film script to 1-location and no more than 90-pages)

(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)


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)

(Got a Script. 90-Pages. Offer Starrung Roles & You’ll be Inundated with Free Actors)

ACTORS/CAST: $400 (4 actors, SAG or Non-SAG at $100 each/weekend). Plus, an Opening Title Credit & great Demo Reel.

***ABOVE-THE-LINE: $1,200-$1,400***

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?)

***BELOW-THE-LINE: $3,580-$4,700***

(Weekend Shoot. 1 Apartment. Guerilla Style. 5-7 Crew. 30 Pages/Day. Master Shots. Burgers-n-Fries)

***ABOVE-THE-LINE: $1,200-$1,400***

***BELOW-THE-LINE: $3,580-$4,700***

*** TOTAL BUDGET: $4,780-$6,100 + Post***


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,

Dov Simens


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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6 comments on “FILM MAKING SECRETS (Micro-Budget Film Tricks… #10 Is My Favorite)”

  1. james gutierrez says:

    This is the worst piece of advice. How dare you encourage people to put their entire project and their money at risk to make their films unreleasable. You should be ashamed of yourself for publishing this. You are a fool and a sham. Worst advice I have ever read, too many reasons to explain, you are a fraud and anyone who would follow your advice is a fool. cost of this commentary $0

    I happily put my name here so people can see what a real professional thinks. Oh and surprise surprise, you have no credits.

    1. Stanley Kubrick says:

      Agreed. So much terrible advice here it is difficult to pull the worst nugget from this pile of horseshit. But I’ll venture this one is close; No close-ups. Tell me any great, even good, film that didn’t use close ups. Cinema was invented for the close-up. Simens clearly knows zilch about cinematic language. Delete this list before some unfortunate enthusiast wastes their money following its advice.

      1. Larry says:

        Ok Stanley, look up a film called “Stranger than Paradise”.

        Or another one called “Paranormal Activity”.

        You know who loves closeups? Enthusiasts.

    2. Sid says:

      Guy’s, respectfully you’re wrong. Regarding close-ups, some of the indie films do have a documentary feel where the camera (and thus the audience) observes more from a distance. Also, Simens isn’t giving advice to Lucas or Spielberg, but more the anonymous guy looking to break out. Please take in that spirit, and no I am not Dov under a pseudonym. 😀 Best wishes.

  2. Andrew Harris says:

    I took Dov’s class and it was Fantastic… Remember Spike Lee took his class…. need I say more.

  3. Henry Larry says:

    The idea of Shot For is revolutionary for indie filmmakers. These practical tips provide a clear roadmap for creating impactful films without breaking the bank. Ready to take on the challenge and bring stories to life.
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