Anyone can make a movie in 90-minutes for only $1,000 to $10,000 with todays superb 4K portable cameras…. But make-sure you improve the lens that comes with that camera and double make-sure your audio track is perfect.

I love seeing creative juices flowing into tangible products when artistes have no money and my 3 favorite real-time, no-budget, feature film movies are… “Run Lola Run” (Germany), “2LDK” (Japanese) and “UNFRIENDED” (USA).

Which are yours?

Now, do you have any ideas for a No-Budget Real-Time movies… and if you love pushing-the-envelope and/or thinking out-of-the-box you should shoot it in Virtual Reality (I repeat be the first to make a narrative Virtual Reality Feature)… and fame and fortune is awaiting you.

Now (1) lets get some ideas and (2) lets get to some facts.

$1-10K Feature Film

Producing the $1,000-$10,000 No-Budget Feature Film!

Everyone must start somewhere and it is my strong belief that, as an adult, starting with a short is not a correct-move for anyone who wants into an industry that focuses on profits.

Truthfully… of the 100,000+ shorts made last year can you name me one(just one) that actually sold and made a profit?

Therefore, in ruthless honesty, the biggest learning experience that an adult obtains by making a short is how to “go broke”, how to be ignored and how not to repeat the process a second time… and do you believe an industry (Hollywood) that focuses so strongly on the bottom-line is going to respect a filmmaker trying to enter their world with a product that cannot be sold.

Plus, shorts are not free. They will definitely cost $1,000 plus likely after nickel-and-diming with this gas money, this could-you-help-me money, this didn’t-know-I-needed-it money could easily reach $10,000.

QUESTION: So, is there a better way to spend $1,000-$10,000 to achieve entrance into the film industry?

ANSWER: Yes, now think out-of-the-box and make a feature film….but one you can handle.

And, remember, the bottom-line, with this minimal amount of money, is you are called “Under the Radar” and no one, absolutely no one, can or will criticize you about production value…. However, storytelling is up to you.

Your feature film, the $1,000-$10,000 Feature Film, also called the “No-Budget Feature”, will not be perfect but being “Under the Radar” (aka: low expectations) and as long as the 90-minute, narrative you make is (A) in Focus, (B) Composed properly with a clear (C) synchronized Audio Track and you can captivate an audience with “an amazing story”… then you are a genius!

Now let’s use $1-10K and see how much talent you truly have.


Hitchcock’s “ROPE” is a prime, textbook, example of a “No-Budget” Feature Film that was shot in real-time (90-minutes) which, with proper planning could be a weekend shoot.

The No-Budget Feature Film

The Weekend Feature Film!

CONCEPT: A Real-Time movie… You will shoot a movie in real-time (90-minutes) with an ad-libbed script, with 2-4 actors, in a dramatic situation (90-minutes before apocalypse, 90-minutes waiting for a jury’s rendering, 90-minutes stuck in a funeral home, etc.), with 2 iPhones (Apple or Samsung) and a liberated music score

SCRIPT: 90-page, 11 plot point outline, 3 sub-plots and adlibbed

CAMERAS: 2 iPhones (5 or 6), shot Wide-Screen (2:35 Aspect Ratio), plus a $9 App (FilmicPro) that allows you to control (A) Focus, (B) Aperture and (C) Color. Plus, (D) Moondog Lensees L33 Anamorphic) for better picture (always remember, “it’s not the camera, it’s the glass”) and a (E) Steadi-Cam for smoothness.

SHOOT: 1-weekend. Friday (11a-5p rehearse). Saturday (1a-6p, rehearse in costume & makeup at location). Sunday (Noon-5p, Shoot). Sunday (6p, Wrap)

CREW: 4-6 People (DP, PM/AD, Camera Operator #2, Sound, Prop/Wardrobe/Production Design, 2 Production Assistants)

LOCATION: 1-House, 1-Street, 1-Car, 1-Beach, etc (2-days)

CAST: 2-4 Actors, 2 Days, $50/rehearsal and $100/shoot

WARDROBE: Bring Your Own

PROPS: Limited availability, Beg-Borrow-Steal if needed.

FOOD/CRAFTSERVICE: 2-Days (Sat-Sun) Continental Breakfast & Coffee. 6-10 Lunches (Fri, Sat & Sun) 3-days.

PERMITS/INSURANCE: Guerilla Filmmaking

POST/EDIT: 1-week Edit, 1-Day ADR, 1-Day Foley

MUSIC: Trade for Opening Title Credit


$1,000 – $10,000 Budget (How to spend the money)

SCRIPT ($0-$1,500): $500 Treatment, $1,000 Script, both Free if self-written

CAMERAS ($1,000): Hire your DP (Director of Photography) only is he/she has 2 inexpensive Cameras (iPhones, DSLRs, Black Magics, etc) and proper lenses. You need him/her, and cameras, for 1-weekend. $1,000 is enough. Plus, from the $1,000 he/she pays for his/her assistant/Shooter for the 2nd Camera.


AUDIO/LIGHTS/GRIP ($1,000-2,000): Budget $500-$1,000 (max) for a Soundman, with equipment (Mikes, Recorder, Mixing Box), for 1-weekend which includes $300 for his/her assistant called the Boom/Mike Man. Lights & Grip equipment (get real) are non-existent to minimal. You will find someone (ask your DP) who has a simple portable lighting kit that can handle a Key Light and 1-2 Back Lights.

CREW ($1,300-$1,500): DP & Camera Operator already budgeted for. Soundman & Assistant already budgeted for. You will need a PM (Production Manager), a PD (Production Designer) and 3-4 PAs (Production Assistants, who each come with a pickup truck or a van. “No Pickup. No Van. No Hire.” Paying the PM ($500) and an Opening Title Credit of “Line Producer”; paying the PD ($500) and an Opening Title Credit of “Production Designer”; and paying the 3-4 PAs, with trucks, $100 each and Gas money has the remainder of crew at $1,300-$1,500.

CAST ($200-$800): Actors are always working on shorts where they are paid NOTHING and happy to obtain a useless Credit and Demo for their reel. Now, your production is less time than a short and it is a Feature Film (I repeat “Feature Film”, with a starring credit)…. Thus, you should be able to get actors for close to nothing, and an Opening Title Credit on a Feature Film along with an IMDB Credit) or they (no joke) pay you (okay, invest in you) for the opportunity. Paying $50-$100/day for each actor is decadence and you should, during casting, have your choice from 40-50 actors per part and secure superb on-screen acting

PROPS/WARDROBE/ART ($0-$1,000): Here comes the phrase “Beg, Borrow & Steal”… Again, not a joke for every time I am a moderator on a Film Festival Panel for “First-Time Directors” I always here each (first-time director) tell amazing stories of their and their crews creativity with respects to Props, Wardrobe & Locations and how they had to “Beg, Borrow & Steal”

EXPENDABLES ($300-$500): One time only items. You use ’em one-time. You can’t use ’em again. (Filters, Batteries, Gels, etc). Most, if not all of these come with the individual crew members who each have “a Kit”.

PERMITS & INSURANCE ($0): Yuk-Yuk. This is called “Guerilla Filmmaking”

FOOD/CRAFTS ($0-$500): For 1-weekend, with 2-4 actors and 6-8 crew (8-12 bodies) paying $10 each for lunch (Burgers, Fries, Pizza, etc) and $30/day for Craft-Service/Coffee/Breakfast will not be more than $500. Again, if possible have one of your PAs, who wants to be your 2nd Assistant Director (real good IMDB credit) bring lunch, with a pretty assistant server, and be everyone hero for the shoot.

TOTAL BUDGET ($3,800-$8,800)


“ROPE” (1948)

“HIGH NOON” (1952)… (not truly shot in real-time but presented as a real-time story)

“12 ANGRY MEN” (1957)

“MY DINNER WITH ANDRE” (1981)… (This is as No-Budget as you can get)

“RUN LOLA RUN” (1998)… (personally, this is my favorite but not a No-Budget flick)

“TIME CODE” (2000)… (also, not a No-Budget flick)

“2LDK” (2003)… (personally, another one of my favorites)


“TANGERINE” (2014)… (True No-Budget, shot with a couple of iPhones in real-time)

“UNFRIENDED” (2014)… (the most recent and highly creative No-Budget movie from genius Jason Blum)



Spike Lee, Kevin Smith, Darren Aronofsky, Greg Araki as “First-Timers”

Nothing is perfect and there is no “perfect way” to make a movie, especially when you only have $1,000-$10,000.

However, you now have a roadmap for a weekend shoot, a movie shot in “real time”, with 2 cameras, a 6-8 person “well-fed” crew, and ecstatic actors that were actually paid to star in a feature film with a budget of  “just-under $10K”.

And remember Spike, Kevin, Darren & Greg who now have amazing careers started with $20,000-$60,000… just think about the cudos you will get if you launch your feature film career with only $1,000-$10,000

Now, who can complain. And who is going to criticize you.

You are “under the radar”.

Just make sure that all the shots are (A) in Focus, the (B) framing is Composed properly and the (C) Audio is hearable and you (D know casting & storytelling.


You’ve launched your career…

FOOTNOTE: if you enjoyed this post, and realized a thing or two, then please check out my “Streaming Film School” or “Online Film School”


Please post & share your favorite Real-Time Movie.

And, do you have any ideas for a Real-Time Movie that you would like to share with everyone?

Happy Filmmaking

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7 comments on “NO-BUDGET FILMMAKING: The REAL-TIME (1-Day) MOVIE… Learn How”

  1. Raphael says:

    Thank you for this little piece of wisdom.

    I was actually thinking of trying my luck at making a feature film after listening to you on Alex Ferrari’s Podcast but now I’m really convinced!

    Am going to japan for 3 months, so I’m going to try to do one there.

    Thank you Mr. Simens for inspiring me to take action!

  2. Bill Williams says:

    Did you see Mark Pirro’s movie “Rage of Innocence”? He shot it for about $2000 I’m told. I found the trailer for it online.

    He’s been making movies for under a few thousand dollars since the early 80s.

  3. Oscar Warren says:

    Hey gret info. I shot a movie last year with one camera I bought from Best Buy and after reading your info I would have killed it had I Known what I just learned from you. Great stuff thanks. Here is a link to check out my pilot from my movie. What you think? Hope you enjoy it.

  4. Oscar Warren says:

    I can’t say enough how great it is that someone like yourself reaching back really feels. You have been where we are and no what is needed. I have wrote several stories for film and will vet them shot and sold to the public. Thank you for making that more tangible going forward. Much love. Checkout the pilot”Turn up The Lajoya story”

  5. Henry Larry says:

    Love the emphasis on practicality and creativity in filmmaking. The proposed no budget real time feature film concept is both challenging and liberating. The list of 10 great real time movies adds valuable reference for those looking to explore this unique approach.
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