YOUR 1st MOVIE (Part 2): The $30,000-$50,000 FEATURE FILM.

Last week’s post I outlined step-by-step how to make a movie “shot for $1,000-$10,000” which is usually a non-scripted project (improve actors), shot in real-time (90-minutes), with 2 iPhones or HDSLR cameras over 1-weekend.

Of the 186 comments and e-mails received there were 4 (2 USC, 1 NYU & 1 AFI grad), slightly condescending, that said “no way” and proceeded to tell me, according to their professors, that what is needed, at a minimum, is $500,000 to make a “quality Low-Budget” feature film and these instructors further state that you have only one shot at success and it better be “prefect”.

My response, which I did not make for you cannot create enemies over the internet, was going-to-be… “Duh? So how are you getting $500,000… that’s a lot of money”…

$500,000 & Perfection! Nice theory but impractical and unrealistic…. and this info costs over $200,000 at USC & NYU or only $120,000 at AFI to obtain.

A long time ago my father taught me that “if you ever want to do anything perfect… you will never do anything”.

Thanks Dad. Now, let’s get real:

I didn’t respond to those 4 traditionally taught film school graduates directly… but will respond indirectly with 3 more blogs ($30K-$50K below) adding to your budget, and show you how to make a feature film for $30K-$50K (1-week shoot), then how to make a feature film for $20K-$30K (Shot & In-the-Can) and finally, the concept of making a feature film for $10K-$20K (Multiple Weekend shoot) with 2 credit cards….

Then, with 4 more posts over the next month, I’ll even go up in budget and show you exactly how to make a movie assuming you have either $70K-$100K, or $100K-$200K or $200K-$300K.

So USC, NYU & AFI grads, anyone can make a quality movie when you have Half-A-Million-Dollars but how about when you have $10-20K, $20-30K, $30-50K, $70-100K, $100-200K or $200-300K… and instead of writing checks to accomplish a task you must use raw talent.

And if you demonstrate your “raw talent”, with a work-ethic, with these nominal budgeted features films, the industry executives will know and help you get the $500,000 to make your “quality low-budget” feature…. but it will be your 2nd Feature Film.

Now “No-Bull”, let’s “Get Real” and permit me to dispense some Common Sense filmmaking info on making your 1st Feature Film.

InCompanyMen    Clerks2

The $30K-$50K Feature: The 90-Page, 1-Location Script, 1-Week Shoot.

THE BASICS: 90-Pages, 7 Shoot Days… Working 15-18 hours/day executing a Shooting Schedule of 12-13 Pages/Day.

THE INFO: If 1-Page of Script, formatted properly, becomes approximately 1-minute of Running Time… Then you must get shot (aka: covered, at least 1-Page In-The-Can every 45-50 Minutes with 4-6 setups.

Phew…. But doable.


My prior blog (last week, INDY SUCCESS: Part 1) showed how to make a $1,000-$10,000 No-Budget Feature like “TANGERINE…now permit me to show you how to spend $30,000-$50,000 and not only make a better movie but even finish it.

Key phrase is “Finish-It” not “Shot-For” (will do a post on the feature film that was “shot-for” $20-30K)

Now back to $30-50K & Micro-Budget Filmmaking:

$30,000-$50,000 is more than enough money to execute a (A) 1-week shoot with (B) qualified but minimal  crew, (C) professional actors, (D) practical locations and (E) state-of-the-art 4K cameras…and (F) finish it.

And when you actually finish a movie, rather than one that was “shot-for” (aka: unfinished rough cut), and go to a film festival (assuming the audience loves it), you are in a much-much-much better position to negotiate with distributors than if you had a “Shot For” feature film and you are literally begging for finishing funds.

Key word is “begging”… for when you haven’t 100% totally finished your movie… distributors, who are not your friends or relatives, know that you are broke (please read this again: “you are broke”) and they become vultures, for they know that you are broke.

I repeat B-R-O-K-E… And when you are B-R-O-K-E and negotiating with someone who knows that you are B-R-O-K-E you are not negotiating from strength.

So allow me to show you how to get into a much better negotiating position, with a theatrical distributor, when you are premiering at a film festival and your film is F-I-N-I-S-H-E-D as in D-O-N-E.

 Hollywood Shuffle

(Although produced for $30-$50K. “Hollywood Shuffle” was not a 1-week shoot but a multi-weekend production over 5 months. The Producer-Director, Robert Townsend, started out by making a short and realized “lets make-a-movie”.)

Micro-Budget Filmmaking A-Z

For $30,000-$50,000 you have enough money to make & finish your movie and…

(1) Budget $3,000-$5,000 for SCRIPT WRITING

(2) Budget $5,000-$6,000 for 2-Week PRE-PRODUCTION & 2-Day REHEARSAL

(3) Budget $10,000-$17,000 for 1-Week PRODUCTION & SHOOT

(4) Budget $3,000-$4,000 for 3-Day PICK-UP

(5) Budget $7,000-10,000 for 6-Week POST-PRODUCTION

(6) Budget $2,000-$8,000 for PUBLICITY, SOCIAL MEDIA & FESTIVALS

 The Top 10 Micro-Budget Filmmaking Tips

FIRST: SCRIPT (KISS): 90-Pages, 1-Location, No Moves

SECOND: STORY (Drama): Dialogue Oriented, Character Driven No Stunts, No VFX

THIRD: CREW (Minimal) 8-10 with two 4K/Red Cameras

FOURTH: (Costumes): Contemporary, No Period Piece

FIFTH (Slug Lines): Do not have any EXT-NIGHT sequences

SIXTH (Schedule): Plan a 1-week, 10-12 Page/Day Shooting Schedule

SEVENTH (Directing): Always get a Master Shot first

EIGHTH (Actors & Get It Done): Remember, no shot saves a film. Get a Master & Move

NINTH (Camera & Crew): Get a DP who’s been a big budget DP’s’ CO

TENTH (Audio): Make sure the Sound is sharp & clear

TheBlairWitchProject     CLERKS

(“Blair Witch” and “Clerks” were both feature films. 1-week shoots, that were under $50K and launched careers)

I promise you that with $30,000-$50,000 you can execute a quality 1-week shoot… with a professional Camera Operator (procuring his/her first DP credit)… with a great script and… with superb actors being paid  ($100/day)… and with enough money for a 6-week Post Production process for a finished movie that still has $2,000-$8,000 left over for Social Media, Film Festival(s) and securing a distributor.

Happy Filmmaking,

Dov Simens


If you desire filmmaking/writing/directing info, based on common sense, then I look forward to seeing you at my affordable “2-Day Film School” (LOS ANGELES, December 5-6, 2015 or April 23-24, 2016) and if you can’t-wait or can’t-attend then either my “DVD Film School” or “Streaming Film School” programs are perfect.

Keep Up to date… Join my e-mail list.

 ***** NO-BULL *****


4 comments on “INDY FILMMAKING SUCCESS (Part 2): THE MICRO-BUDGET $30K-$50K FEATURE (The 1-Week Movie)”

  1. Andy Rodriguez says:

    Sure it can be done. I’ve done this since 1998 34 times and made money 31 times.

    Distribution in 44 countries on 5 continents.

    No big. Yes, it absolutely can be done.

  2. Marg says:

    You’re wright Dov, sounds really reasonable and great!

  3. Henry Larry says:

    Appreciate the insight into micro budget filmmaking. Your practical approach and emphasis on finishing the film are refreshing amidst traditional industry norms.
    Property Management in Bradenton FL

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *