PRODUCE, WRITE & DIRECT A MOVIE: The Independent (1-week) Feature Film

THE 1-WEEK MOVIE: The Budget ($20-30K), Script (90-pages), Shoot (7-Days), Crew (5-7 Keys) & 1 Hot Tip.

If you can come up with $20,000-30,000 (which you can…pvt placement, offer 50%, 10 units, 5% each @ $2-3K each…) then make a movie… but please (I beg you) don’t make a short… no one buys shorts (Duh).

Make a feature film but get realistic.

By realistic I mean, when Hollywood (6 studios) states that the average low-budget movie budget is $15-20M, stop naively thinking that if you say “My budget is only $3-5 mill, or $2-3 mill or $1-2 mill or even “just-under” (love that phrase “just-under”) $1 mill” that makes it impossible for anyone to say “No” to you.

Why?

$3-5 million is a lot of money… So is $2-3 million… So is $1-2 million… So is $1 million… and it will help you if you stop thinking that budgets of that amount are low-budget.

So, get real.

By real I mean take a look at your checkbook and see what you can write a check for… $200 (maybe)? $2,000 (possibly)? $20,000 (don’t think so)?

So if you can’t write a check, and cash it (Yuk), for even $20,000… stop talking as if low-budget is a number like $1,000,000. For, for you, low-budget, with a checkbook that can barely handle withdrawals of $200, or $500 but not $2,000 at the most is $20,000-$30,000.

Let’s focus on making your first feature on a budget of $20,000-30,000 and in another post I will explain how to raise $20,000-$30,000 independent of the film industry.

Six months ago I wrote posts about producing a Low-Budget (3-Week Shoot) feature film for $200-300K and a Micro-Budget (2-Week Shoot) feature film for $50-$100K.

Now, I’m posting, assuming you have $20-30K, how to Write, Produce, Direct & Shoot your first feature film and focusing on a 1-Week Shoot.

(1) REALISTIC BUDGET: $20,000-$30,000

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(“”El Mariachi”, “Clerks”, “Saw”, “Tangerine” were successful No-Budget Movies that launched careers.”)

Realistically, for your first feature film, you, not wealthy but realistic, should have a budget of $20,000-$30,000.

Why?

ANSWER: Because once you stop talking like low-budget (Yes, I’m repeating but it is important… so I will repeat) is only $1-2, $2-3 or $3-5 Million, and fantasizing that the studio system will finance you because you have an idea and realize that $20-30K is a lot of money you might actually produce your first project.

Why?

ANSWER: Because neither you, nor your parents, are wealthy and $20-30K is still very hard to achieve.

Thus $20,000 to $30,000 is what you, a first-timer, will realistically (just my opine) have access to, to demonstrate your talent, by making a movie that profits.

Now, assuming you can procure $20K to $30K (still not easy), let’s address basic No-Budget Film Making points.

(2) REALISTIC SCRIPT: 90-Pages (1-Location)

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(“For a No-Budget Film to gain recognition it is almost 100% dependent on the script.”)

Thus, with only $20-30K to make your first movie your script must be (A) between 85-95 pages with 50-60 scenes, all (B) set in one location (a Bar, a Hotel, a Campground, a Bus, etc.), with (C) unique characters defined by their dialogue, with (D) 3 subplots that all (E) come together (aka: “cut-to-the-chase”) around scene 45-55, with a (F) satisfying resolution around scene 48-58, just prior to or during the Rear Title Crawl, and an (G) Epilogue.

Another choice is to write a 85-95 page script that occurs in real-time of 85-95 minutes… What happened during 90-minutes in the courtroom judge’s chambers or what happened during 90-minutes in the women’s bathroom at the White House when Hillary discovered what Bill was doing with Monica or…

No-Budget script must be simple-to-shoot… 90-pages, 1-location!

(3) REALISTIC SHOOT: 1-Week (7-9 Days)

With $20-30K you have enough money ($1,500-$2,000) to hire a DP with a 4K camera package (likely a Red) or rent a 4K camera package (likely a Red), along with paying for an experienced sound man, with his/her own equipment, for 1-week…

FYI: Yes, you can shoot with BlackMagic, GoPro, or DSL cameras or even use to iPhones or Samsungs that are now 4K but there is just something about having a Red on the set which makes your cast & crew think “It’s a real movie” rather than a “nice student film”.

 

“If they shoot a 60-minute tv show in 60-minutes you can make a 90-minute movie in 1-week.”

1-Week. 1-Week. 1-Week.

Thus, the production is a 1-Week (7-day) Shoot and, if over 2 weekends, it becomes a 9-Day Shoot, with a 90-Page Script and a Shooting Schedule of 10 Pages/Day.

Assuming 24 hours in a day, with 12 hours of daylight, your minimal crew & actors arrive at set (aka: Call Time) and commence shooting at about 1-hour after daylight. Then allowing 1-hour for a lunch break, this leaves only 10-hours of Daylight for directing the 10 pages each day.

Thus your daily shoot schedule is 1-Page/hour and with this minimal time, you light with one Key and two Backs, with the coverage (the shots directed) being 80% Masters, 10% Mediums, 5% Closeups and 5% Establishing Shots.

Your work days (05:00a-11:30p?), as the producer-director in charge will be at least 18 hours/day with a typical day being…

(1st) Wake-up DAY-1 at 05:00a.

(2nd) Set 1st Call (Sunrise) & Coffee at 06:ooa.

(3rd) 1st Shot at 07:00a.

(4th) Lunch at 01:00p.

(5th) Last shot (Sunset) at 07:00p.

(6th) Wrap at 08:00p.

(7th) M&D (Missing & Damaged) at 08:30p.

(8th) Organize for tomorrow at 09:00p.

(9th) Home at 10:30p.

(10th) Sleep at 11:30p.

Repeat (DAY-2): Wake-Up (5:00am)… Sleep (11.30pm)

Repeat (DAY-3): Wake-Up (5:00am)… Sleep (11:30pm)

Repeat (DAY-4): Wake-Up (5:00am)… Sleep (11:30pm)

“Got it… 15-18 hour work days… And people call this art”.

(4) REALISTIC CREW: 8-12 (5-7 Keys & 3-5 Assistants)

You’ll have an 8-12 person crew consisting of 5-7 keys (they’re paid) and another 3-5 (20-25 year old film school grads, each with pickup truck or van..you pay for gas) at the shoot everyday.

Of the 5-7 paid crew be sure to have a qualified Cinematographer/DP (Director of Photography), who might even own two 4K camera packages (Red is heaven), with an assistant to operate the 2nd camera who is called a “Shooter”. Also, be sure to hire a qualified Sound man (The DP knows many), with his/her own equipment, who comes with an assistant called a Boom Man or Mike Man along with a Production Designer.

For DP, with Camera package, allocate $1,700 for 1 week. (If DP has no credits on a feature film as DP but numerous credits as Camera Operator he/she will take the gig to literally acquire his/her 1st Feature Film DP Credit)

(“When hiring crew for a No-Budget shoot never forget how important the soundman is.“)

For Sound man, with equipment, allocate $1,250 for 1 week. (The Soundman will do the shoot at minimal wage only if he/she knows the DP, who gets him/her jobs, and has no work next week… as a favor for the DP.) 

FYI: Soundmen don’t care about the script but care about location, parking and food.

(5) THE HOT TIP:

Sound. Sound. Sound.

Yes I am harping on sound for you truly have no idea how important sound is…

Here’s why: (1st) No matter how great the script is. (2nd) No matter how great the acting is. (3rd) No matter how great the set is. (4th) No matter how great the directing is. (5th) No matter how great the editing is… If the sound is just mediocre… the entire project sucks…

Please spend as much time with the sound man as you do with actors, writers, investors and cinematographer…. P-l-e-a-s-e.

Enjoy your 2020 Film Career

Dov Simens

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