You have $10-20K. You have a choice. Want into the film industry. Then either make-a-Short or make-a-Feature Film.

And remember, last year there were over 300,000 shorts made in America for $10,000 or more and “correct made if I am wrong” not one of them has sold.

Which choice are you going to make? Duh.

So the bottom-line, not NYU or USC film school theory, is that all you show Hollywood when you, as an adult, make-a-short is that you know how to go broke.

The answer is so simple… “Feature Film”.

You have $10,000-20,000. Make-a-Feature Film! Let’s get a movie shot for $10-20K.

The question now becomes “How does one make-a-feature film (aka: get it shot for) when, at the most, one only has $20,000”?

First is you just can’t make any script into a feature film… it must be one that is doable for micro-budget. So what is that? Simple. It is a 90-page script (doesn’t have to be exactly 90-pages) that basically takes place in one-location, one set (a house, a theater, a bus, an elevator, a bar, a bordello, a courtroom, etc.), with no moves, no stunts and no Exterior Night scenes.

“Okay” you say. You got hat script, a talking head stage play that is in Hollywood vernacular “character driven”. Let’s proceed.

The $10,000-20,000 FEATURE FILM BUDGET

  • PRODUCER: $0 (You get Opening Title Credit and 50% Ownership
  • SCRIPT: $0 (Opening Title Credit, write it, Deferral WGA minimum)
  • DIRECTOR: $1K (If you are Directing, put in $0, double Opening Title Credit)
  • STARS: $1.5K (1-week shoot, 3 needed for 1-week @ $500/week)
  • SUPPORT: $1K (3-5 actors needed 1-3 days at $100/day)


  • CAMERA: $1-2K (2 Black Magic or DSLR 4K Cameras)
  • LIGHT/GRIP: $1.5K (Small Grip/Gaffer Truck 1-week)
  • AUDIO: $1.5K (Soundman, with Boom & Mikes & assistant)
  • CREW:
  • (DP) $1.5K (1-Day Prep, 1-week Shoot)
  • (PM) $1K (1-Week Prep, 1-week Shoot)
  • (PD) $1.5K (2-Week Prep, 1-week Shoot)
  • (5 PAs) $1.5K ($300/week)
  • LOCATION: $0 (Friend’s house, barn, office or…)
  • FOOD: $2.1K ($300/day x 7 days)
  • PROPS: $1K
  • WARDROBE $0 (Actors design their own)
  • MISCLNS: $1K (Photocopy, Gas, Batteries, Parking Ticket, etc)

BELOW-THE-LINE: $11,600-14,600

IN-THE-CAN: $15,100-18,100

  • EDIT Pix:
  • EDIT Sound:
  • MUSIC:
  • LAB/DCP:

Oh, I’m sure you are picking apart what I have just outlined. You’re saying “I can’t hire anyone for that”, “How about this”, “How about that”, “Doesn’t even include Post”, “this guy doesn’t know what he…”… Yak-Yak-Yak.

This NO-BULL BLOG is about getting you real. Getting you away from thinking low-budget is $1-2 Million, or $2-3 Million but $10-20K. I now have you thinking cheap and opening the door for a thought of “I can do this”.

“Blair Witch Project”, “El Mariachi”, “Saw”, “Paranormal Activity”, “Clerks” they were all marketed as “Shot for $20,000-30,000”. They all launched very successful Filmmaking-Directing careers… and, did you just see and read the phrase “SHOT FOR”.

Another thing you can offer when making your “No-Budget” ($10-20K) Feature Film is (A) Opening Title Credits on a feature film and (B) Points (percentage ownership in the project’s profits).

Give the DP $1,000 and 5 Points (5% of Profits).

Give the 3 Leading Actors each 5 Points (5% of Profits).

Give the PM $1,000 and 3 Points (3% of Profits).


Give the Editor an Opening Title Credit and 5-7 Points (5-7% of Profits)

Give the Sound Editor an Opening Title Credit and 3 Points (3% of Profits)


Remember, you started your project owning 100% or 100 Points of nothing. Now you are enticing actors, crew and some vendors the opportunity to get an Opening Title Credit, an itsy-bitsy salary for a week or two of work, and a profit participation.

Now, let’s get back to “Shot For”.

You will probably spend about $40,000-$60,000 to finish your first feature with Title, Credits, Music, ADR along with a correctly timed (color corrected) DCP reday for projection.

However, when someone ask you your budget and you say “$55,000” that is a non-marketable number. It seems like enough money to make something. But if you play Hollywood and kick-in hype and say rather than your budget was $55,000” and instead state you “Shot It For $10,000… with nothing but raw talent and support from a cast & crew who were totally in love with the story”…

Voilla. Welcome to Hollywood.

Bottom-line the “Shot For” $10,000-20,000 Feature is a one-week shoot, of a 90-page script, with two 4K digital cameras, owned by your DP, and a minimal 6-8 person crew working almost for food, rent and an opening title credit.

Kevin Smith did it. Neil LaBute did it. Robert Rodriguez did it. And now it’s time for you to do it.

5 comments on “FILMMAKING: THE $10-20K FEATURE FILM”

  1. Great article! Inspiring and realistic.
    Our feature film, ‘Selective Listening’, cost just under 20k from development to post-production. Then, if you take away the money we managed to get back through several tax breaks, the film actually cost around 8k altogether. It was a lot of work but that is just the real price you have to pay. Still, and most importantly, all my cast and crew are happy with the result! Here is a link to the trailer:
    Now we ‘just’ need to let the audience know that it exists… but that’s a different story!

  2. Jack Leach says:

    The 10k to 20k Feature Film is a book by Steven Soderbergh and Peter A. Sims, first published in 2001. It serves as the basis for the Sundance Channel series of the same name. I have read an essay here and knew the purpose of this guidebook is to help filmmakers shoot a feature film on a budget of $10,000 to $20,000 per day using non-union actors and crew members.The authors share their experience about how to raise money for your film project.

  3. x trench run says:

    From development through post-production, “Selective Listening,” our feature film, cost just under $20,000. The movie actually cost roughly $8,000 when you subtract the money we were able to recover through various tax advantages. Even if it took a lot of work, it is the true cost that must be paid. However, and most importantly, everyone in my cast and crew is pleased with the outcome!

  4. You began your endeavor with 100% or 100 Points of nothing.

  5. Henry Larry says:

    Love the practical approach here. It is inspiring to see how creativity can flourish within constraints. Can not wait to embark on my own $10 20K Feature Film journey.
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