GOT $3,000? PRODUCE A FEATURE FILM (Learn the Tricks)
by Dov S-S Simens on November 8, 2018
THE $3,000 FEATURE FILM:
Producing and directing a feature film today is so affordable I always ask myself “Why aren’t more doing it?”
50, 40, 30 even 20 years ago the only format available to make a film was to buy, shoot and expose film stock, 35mm or 16mm, from Kodak, Fuji or Agva and rent a Panavision or Arriflex film camera package and the minimum cost for film stock and lab alone was $50-100K for a low-budget film.
(“20 years ago buying 50,000′ of 35mm Film Stock, once exposed and developed, cost at least $50,000”)
Today, if shooting on a 6:1 shooting ratio (6 minutes of raw film eventually become 1 minute in the final print), for a 90-minute narrative you no longer need to budget $50,000-$100,000 to purchase and print 50,000′ (9-hours) of 35mm film stock and can now shoot in the 4K digital format and have the same 9-hours of cost only $50-100 bucks.
Thus, I beseech all first-timers to stop thinking low-budget is in the millions of dollars ($1-2M, $2-3M, $3-5M, etc) and bring the budgets realistically down to the thousands of dollars ($2-5K, $5-10K, $10-20K, etc.), shoot digital and start making movies.
Yes, today, anyone, yes anyone, with as little as $3,000, along with a large chunk of talent, a work-ethic and a location can make a feature film.
So let’s launch your career… And, if you don’t have $3,000 then stop f*ckin’ with your F-Book timeline, get away from Candycrush or Farmville, get a bloody job….Starbucks is hiring…and don’t buy any Frontline skins; save $3K, get a stage play script (1-location) you can handle and make a 90-minute movie… not a short… while displaying your talent and work ethic.
You say “$3K? Not possible.”
OK. Permit me to show you how.
GOT $3K? MAKE A MOVIE.
(“With 90 pages, 1 apartment, minimal equipment, 4 actors, 1-week, with 3-4 days rehearsing, and a 6 person crew you’ll get a movie”.)
STEP 1: SCRIPT: 90-pages, typed properly, 1-location (restaurant, bordello, courtroom, bookstore, re-union, apartment, etc) written in “real time” (aka: What happened over 90-minutes) like “ROPE” or “2LDK” or “BURIED” even “DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED”.
To write the script go to Staples or Office Depot and buy 500 pieces of paper.
Hear that 500 pieces of 8.5 x 11 paper. Cost $5. Put it in your budget. 5 Bucks!
You now have $2,995 left!
Now, get the proper software program, probably Final Draft 11.0.
Budget $20 to register (only$10 if you’re a member) your script with the WGA.
You now have $2,790 left!
STEP 2: CAST: You need 3-6 actors for 90-minutes. Duh?! Cast On Monday-Tuesday, rehearse on Wednesday-Thursday, rehearse at the location on Friday, and shoot over the weekend.
(“There are 1,000s of actors searching & preying for their first Opening Title Credit opportunity… get the word out”)
You’ve just had 3-4 Days of rehearsal with your actors.
Ask any SAG (Screen Actors Guild) actor how much rehearsal time they get on some big-budget studio set and you will probably hear, “maybe 4-6 minutes, 10-12 minutes if we’re lucky”.
Well guess what you have just had, 3-4 amazing days of rehearsal.
Cost Lunch & Snacks for 3-4 days $300.
You now have $2,490 left!
IMPORTANT POINT: Don’t ask me what to pay actors? Stupid question.
What do they get paid when doing a short?
What you’re offering to up-and-coming actors, is an Opening Title Credit in a feature film, an opportunity to launch their career… This is way more valuable than a token $100 per day.
No Joke “They should actually pay you”. They’re happy with (A) Food & (B) Credit. And if they ask for money tell them “Go do a short”.
Okay, you’re a good guy and want to pay the actors. So pay them $50/day for rehearsal and $100/day for the shoot… Remember, it’s a 1-day shoot executed in close to real-time.
Budget $500 for the actors
You now, have about $1,990 left!
STEP 3: CAMERA: Rent a camera on Friday.
Keep it over the weekend and return it on Monday for a 1-Day Rental.
Cost is $250-$350.
Fair chance that you’re cinematographer for the 1-day 1-weekend shoot, who’s your friend from a rock-video shoot, and owns 1-2 cameras, he/she bought for $1,000 with 3 lenses, will do it for $250 (budgeted below, Step 6 “Shoot”)
You now have about $1,740-$1,640 left!
STEP 3A: CAMERA (Which one): This really gets me mad, for there is such an obsession by all first-timers, who never become a first-timer trying to discover the “new camera”. It’s a frickin’ camera! Get a 4K, or 3K or 5K Red, get a DSLR, get a HDVDSLR, get a “Black Magic”.
They all work. Just rent one for a day and hit the “on button” for 90-minutes.
Bottomline: you are not shooting in the Film format (16mm or 35mm) you are shooting in the “Electronic format” and whether you rent a Canon, Sony, JVC or Panasonic (these are manufacturers names), or a GoPro or a Flip or a Black Magic, or whether you are renting by the format be it 5K, 4K, 3K, 2K, 1080i, 720P, DSLR… I don’t care.
Just rent a frickin’ camera for 1-day (aka: student discount, pick it up on Friday, return it in Monday, pay for 1-day) for the weekend…but please make sure the Lenses are superb and the microphones, from the mike man, work.
STEP 4: LOCATION: Rent the location (Garage, House, Bar, Bookstore, Condo, Cabin, etc) for the weekend.
Cost, at most, $200-400.
(“Kevin Smith’s first feature “CLERKS” was shot in a mom-and-pop 7-11/convenience store over a weekend”)
You now have $1,540-$1,240 left!
STEP 5: REHEARSE: Rehearse on Saturday at the location with wardrobe and makeup.
Cost $200 for snacks & food.
Cost $200 for wardrobe.
Cost $150 for 1-day makeup.
You now have $990-$690 left!
STEP 6: SHOOT: Sunday, after 3-4 days of rehearsal, hire a Soundman for $200/day, a hair/makeup person for $200/day (second day with assistant) and a $250 shooter (someone to operate the frickin’ camera) for the day.
You now have $340-$40 left.
And if you wrote the script with Final Draft’s App ($30) instead of its software ($185) you saved $155 and now have $495-$195 left!
STEP 7: DIRECT: Sunday, now tell the cameraman to load the camera (8-16GB Flash Cards likely), point at the actors, use a wide angle lens, make sure sound is great; say “Quiet on The Set”, wait 1-minute; say “Action”, wait 90-minutes and say “Cut”.
STEP 8: VOILLA! You have a movie.
And you have about $200-500 for marketing with Social Media announcing that the next “Blair Witch” or “Paranormal” or “pi” or “Clerks” is here.
(“TANGERINE”, a Sundance hit, premiered in 2016 and was shot in real-time with 2 iPhones”)
Yeah, yeah, yeah… It ain’t gonna be that simple or that cheap.
You can nit-pick and go how about insurance, props, wardrobe, hard drive, music, food, SAG, etc. Bitch and moan and try to figure out how to do it perfect. And I guarantee you that if you spend your life trying to be a perfectionist you’ll never (A) be happy and (B) never get anything done.
Have fun, be smart…it’s only $3,000… And “Oh yeah, and it will cost more than $3,000”.
“CLERKS, “PARANORMAL ACTIVITY”, “BLAIR WITH”, “PI”, etc… were all shot for $20,000.
The world is for doers and you have just made your first “Micro-Budget” feature film be it a $3K, $10K, $20K or $50K budget.
Whichever budget you announce, you are, “Under the Radar”, meaning you cannot be criticized…and way above anyone who is sending me a short, a trailer, a poster with a request for an “elevator pitch” and an introduction to an agent.
Now just imagine what you will do on your second feature film when you have $100,000, a 12 person crew, 2 cameras, a grip/gaffing truck, SAG actors, craft service, a more expansive script and executing a 2-week shoot.
Welcome to Hollywood,
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