THE $10,000 FEATURE FILM (Make a Bloody Movie: No-Budget Producing, Writing & Directing Secrets & Tricks)
by Dov S-S Simens on March 26, 2017
GOT $10,000? THEN MAKE A MOVIE.
Launch your career. Produce & Direct.
And, please don’t tell me you don’t have access to $10,000. If you don’t then do Uber & Starbucks for 60-hours/week. Live frugal and in 8 months you’ll have $10,000.
And please, please, please I beg you “Do not, I repeat, Do-Not-Make-A-Short”.
Why? Simple…Shorts, made by adults, only demonstrate that you know how to go broke.
Can you name me a single short last year, of the 400,000+ made, that sold and made a profit?
Hopefully I have you thinking and pushing your creative mind to think “out-of-the-box”… Let’s make a movie, a feature film, a 90-minute narrative that launches your career.
(Got an idea? 90-pages, 1-location, a real-time story. A courtroom drama, a family reunion, a dinner-from-hell… Got $10K. Then make it.)
Do a “Blair Witch”, a “Paranormal Activity”, a “Saw”, a “pi” (aka: No-Budget Filmmaking)… and launch your career.
The Producers and Directors, of these 4 Micro-Budget Features did…and they are now producing or directing Medium-Budget and Big-Budget Studio Features.
Start small… Now it’s your turn and again… please stop those shorts and facebook teasers and kickstarter trailers… Make a feature and demonstrate your talent over 90-minutes that captivates an audience with a Primary A-Story, 3 Interconnected B-Stories, with Unique Characters at a Festival Premiere.
Stop talking like an adult and acting like a child, when it comes to the Film Business. Please, Please. Please.
Stop, when you are not a marketable name or a bankable commodity (A) sending me shorts, (B) shooting trailers, (C) pitching ideas, (D) designing posters, etc. and…I beg you, stop asking me to play Farmville and never mind what my birthday date is and, no, I really don’t desire to read your script (I apologize but it takes 3-4 hours to read & digest) if you are not part of my family or a college or army buddy… I hope you respect honesty and Yes, I’m a curmudgeon who’s making good ole “60-Minutes” Andy Rooney sound like a happy camper.
Filmmaking is simple… Life is difficult.
And, there is really only one way (that is if your parents aren’t billionaires) for anyone to break into the film business as either a Producer, Writer or Director… and that is to make a feature film; not a short; not a trailer; not a poster; not a pitch…a “feature film”… a “90-Minute narrative”, that gets to a major Film Festival, with a sold out premiere with a Standing Ovation at the End Credit Crawl and screams of “Bravo. Bravo. Bravo”.
Now you are marketable.
So lets chat about a 10,000 bucks for a Feature Film… which is realistic money for you.
The $10,000 FEATURE FILM: PRODUCE, WRITE and DIRECT.
Anyone, yes anyone, who has $10,000, $5,000, $4,000, $3,000 even $2,000 can make a feature film.
And, once again, if you don’t have $2,000 then stop f*ckin’ with F-Book, get away from Farmville and get a bloody job.
Let’s take $10,000 and make a feature.
STEP-1: LETS GET A SCRIPT @ $1,255.
SCRIPT: 90-pages, typed properly, 1-location (restaurant, bordello, courtroom, bookstore, re-union, etc) written in “real time” (aka: What happened in the last 90-minutes) like “Rope” or “2LDK”.
(Your first feature film, that you make, will not have stunts, crowd scenes, sfx, action scenes and EXT-NIGHT setups.)
To write a script… go to Staples or Office Depot and buy 500 pieces of paper. It’s called a “ream”.
Actually buy 2 “Reams”.
Cost $10. Put it in your budget. 10 Bucks!
You now have $9,990 left.
Now, get the proper software program, probably Final Draft9.0. Cost $185. Don’t use that tacky open source crap that is loaded with cookies and ads. However, Celtx is pretty good. Check it out at www.Celtx.com but remember “nothing is written, it’s re-written” and Final Draft is better to use for re-writes than Celtx.
You now have $9,805 in your budget left after you spend $20 registering the Treatment with the WGA and another $20 registering the Screenplay.
You now have $9,765 left.
But you say your dialogue isn’t great… it lacks something…
OK. Take $1,000 and hire writer for $1,000, for 1-week, to punch up your dialogue, but make sure he/she is a Writer-For-Hire and the contrcat says you own 100%.
Now go to the WGA (Writers Guild), spend $20 and register your script a third time.
You now have $8,745 left.
STEP-2: LET’S GET ACTORS/CAST @ $700.
Assuming you’re realistic and have a script (90-pages, 1-location, real time, 3-6 actors) that you can handle for minimal dollars and time.
Now let’s cast.
(“Just post on any site “Feature Film Being Shot. Actors Needed. Opening Title Credits Available.”)
You need 3-6 actors for 90-minutes. Duh?! Cast On Wednesday, rehearse on Thursday, rehearse on Friday, rehearse at the location on Saturday, rehearse, at-location again on Sunday morning.
You have just had 3.5 Days of rehearsal with your actors. Ask any actor in SAG how much rehearsal time they get on the set. You will probably hear, “maybe 4-6 minutes”.
Okay, let’s assume that you gave each actor $100 bucks each (approx. $400 for 4 actors total for a Sunday shoot) to star in your feature film and get their very first “Opening Title Credit” with most of the money going for either gas or Uber to get to and from the set and Starbucks.
You now, have about $8,045 left.
Oh you heard it’s important to get a name. OK. You know someone who’s actor #4 or #5 on a successful half-hour sitcom or one-hour drama and he/she would love to be the star of a feature film… then offer him/her $2,000 Bucks for one-day (Sunday) of work.
You now have a cast, and a tv name with about $6,045 Left.
STEP 3A: LET’S GET A CAMERA(s) @ $350.
Rent a camera, an electric digital/HD/DSLR package, on Friday and haggle a No-Insurance-Needed deal.
Keep it over the weekend and return it on Monday for a 1-Day Rental. Cost is $250-$350.
Possibly you even hire a cinematographer (film school grad who bought a 4K camera) for the $250-$350 who comes with the camera… but only hire him/her if you have comfort in he/she truly knows what he/she is doing with respect to a weekend-shoot.
You now have about $5,345 left.
STEP 3B: CAMERA (Which one):
This really gets me mad, for there is such an obsession by all first-timers, who never become a first-timer, obsessing on gossip about the “new camera”.
It’s a frickin’ camera! Red, Canon 5D, BlackMagic, Alexa…iPhone, Samsung…I don’t care… They’re pretty much all 4K format and they all work.
(Yes, iPhones are now 4K cameras. Who is the first person to shoot a feature film with the new Samsung? Bet Samsung, will even pay you to use their smartphones. Interesting thought.)
Just rent one for a day, keep it over a weekend, hit the “on button” for 90-minutes and return it on Monday.
Bottom-line: 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 whether you are renting by the format be it 4K, 2K, 1080i, 720P, DSLR… I don’t care.
Just rent a 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.
You still have $5,345 left.
STEP 4: LETS GET A LOCATION/SET @ $200-$400.
Rent the location (Garage, House, Bar, Bookstore, etc) for the weekend. Cost, at most, $200… Oh, OK budget $400.
Fair chance you use your own house, your own property or a friends house or apartment for the location to shoot the movie and budget $0.
I’m warning you that $0 for location, even when friends/relatives say “It’s free” never works.
Why? Answer. It’s the neighbors. I guarantee after 1-2 days of you and your minimal crew getting to the location at 6:00am and leaving at 10:00pm, the novelty, within the local community has worn off and the neighbors think of you and your crew and this “bloody movie thing” as an inconvenience and if you don’t leave they “calling the cops”.
Voilla. Go in your back pocket and whip out a couple of $100 bucks and the annoyed neighbors always leave you alone for a day.
Again, even when you think it’s Free. I guarantee you will still spend $200 for the inconveniences you’ve caused.
For comfort sake budget $400.
You now have $4,945 left.
STEP 5: LET’S REHEARSE @ $300.
Rehearse Friday night…at your home. Rehearse Saturday… at the location. Rehearse again Sunday morning with all actors coming in costume/wardrobe, that they supply,… at the location.
(“Our DVD FILM SCHOOL is 30 Lessons, 4 Workbooks, 200 Scripts of true, honest, practical know-how and it’s only $249”)
You have just had over 2 days of rehearsal… which according to Hollywood standards, not 4-year film school theory, is enough time to permit the actors to (A) learn their part, (B) discover their characters arc, and (C) develop a bond and relationship amongst the other performing actors.
Cost $300 for snacks & food.
You now have $4,645 left.
STEP 6: LET’S GET A CREW & SHOOT @ $2,150.
Sunday, after 2.5 days of rehearsal, you hire a Production Manager $500/week, Soundman $400/weekend, a Hair/Makeup person $300/weekend, a Cinematographer $750/weekend, and a $200 Shooter (someone to operate the 2nd camera) for the day.
(“90-minute movie, shot in your friend’s apartment, with 2 Cameras, 3-6 actors & a 6 person crew”)
You now have $2,495 left.
STEP 7: LET’S DIRECT @ $0.
This is your movie. This is your credit. You are now a Director.
The shoot of a 90-minute movie, with the storyline in real time (aka: what happens over 90-minutes) can be planned over one week and shot or directed over one weekend.
The 90-minute real-time movie that is directed over one-weekend means you must get 5-10 pages in the can every hour. Thus, there you’re directing with mostly Master Shots with little-to-no Medium Shots and Closeups, with no time for 2nd takes.
Improv! Get it the best you can on the 1st Take.
Thus, when you cast your actors make sure that they are comfortable with improv and when doing a 3-minute scene and they flub the line they don’t look to you the director, or the camera, for a 2nd Take but adlib, stay in character, and finish the scene.
Now, back to money: Honestly what were you budgeting to pay yourself to Direct a short prior to reading this post.
(What did Kevin Smith pay himself to direct “CLERKS”? Answer. $0.)
So what are you budgeting to pay yourself to direct a feature film?
Sunday, now tell the cameraman to load the camera, point at the actors, keep a wide angle lens, make sure sound is great; say “Quiet on The Set”, wait 2-minutes; say “Action”, wait 90-minutes and say “Cut”.
You still have $2,495 left.
STEP 8: LET’S GET PROPS, WARDROBE & FOOD @ $500
There will be a couple of miscellaneous props (gun, lawnmower, chair, etc.) that the script calls for… OK put in $150.
There will always be something special about wardrobe (purchase or rent), dry-cleaning, seamstress that is needed… OK put in $150.
Food is always important. Think of it as a “Perk” or, when everyone is tired as “Fuel” to motivate. Remember, you only have a 5-7 person crew with 3-5 actors and you’re feeding for only 2 Days (Saturday & Sunday)… You have a PA (Production Assistant) working for free and a Credit that says he/she is a 2nd Assistant Director, who has a girl friend or boy friend with a kitchen that cooks and gets a Rear Title Crawl Credit of “Craft Service”… OK put in $200.
(“Our STREAMING FILM SCHOOL is the DVD FILM SCHOOL in an On-Demand format that you can view, at-home, at your leisure for 20-Days for $89 and 60-Days for only $149.”)
You still have $1,995 left.
STEP 8: LET’S DO POST-PRODUCTION @ $500.
You’ve shot on a 2:1 – 3:1 Shooting Ratio with mostly Master Shots.
There is little to edit. You will cut 180-240 minutes down to 90-minutes in 1-week..
It would be nice if you knew how to edit but likely you will hire someone out of those $40-$80K 1-year Trade Schools who has a computer, monitor and editing software that he/she has learned to use, on the 4-5 shorts made in film school, and desires his/her first feature film credit.
(“Quentin’s “RESERVOIR DOGS” was not a No-Budget Feature but it was a relatively simple project to edit… Master Shots & mostly 1-Location… The Garage.”)
Offer this editor-to-be an Opening Title Credit of “EDITOR” and a second Opening Title Credit of “ASSOCIATE PRODUCER” along with $50/day for 10 days and you’ll have a solid cut with Titles & Credits.
The Editors job, besides editing, will be to call-in a couple of favors and get a Sound Editor for 5-days and a Colorist-Timer for 3-days.
These 2 individuals could also be offered (A) Opening Title Credits, (B) Deferrals or Deferments and (C) and “points” (you have 100 points or 100% ownership to divvy up) to participate in, if any, profit participation.
You now have $1,495 left.
STEP 9: LET’S GET MUSIC-SCORE @ $300
Musicians are everywhere. Go to SoundCloud. Go on any film commission’s website. Post on Craigslist.
You will quickly discover that there are 100s even 1,000s of talented musicians who would like to score a feature film and get their first Opening Title Credit “Music By”, “Composed By”, etc.
You got $300 bucks and likely a deferment agreement conditional upon distribution, revenues and profits.
You now have $1,195 left.
STEP 10: LET’S DO SOME MARKETING @ $1,195.
You have a movie. And you have $1,195 left for your URL domain, Wix website, Facebook page and Social Media marketing (not expensive) that goes viral and you become the next “Blair Witch” or “Paranormal” or “pi” or “Clerks” or “Saw” or “Tangerine”.
STEP 11: DISTRIBUTOR or SELF-DISTRIBUTION?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It ain’t gonna be that simple or that cheap.
You are absolutely correct… It will cost more than $10,000 even if it was shot in real-time with 2 iPhones (Hello “Tangerine”).
You can sharp-shoot, nit-pick and go how about insurance, props, wardrobe, permits, filters, gels, hard drive, music, food, parking, SAG, more crew, better salaries, etc..
$10,000? OK, how about if you had $20,000 or $30,000?
This enables you to do a 1-week shoot, and a 6-8 person crew, instead of a weekend 1-day shoot.
Now think $50,000 or $100,00…a 2-week, 2-camera shoot, with 3-4 locations, a 10-12 person crew and a SAG Ultra-Low-Budget Agreement.
Here’s Bottom-Line: Be too smart and budget everything perfectly, as taught in 4-year Film Schools, and watch how you never get anything done.
The world is for doers and when you make your first “Micro-Budget” feature film for under $30,000 (Yes, the post’s title is $10,000… so I lied…In Hollywood that’s called marketing)…You are, what is called, “Under the Radar”, which means, you cannot be criticized (you are “under the radar”)…and are way above anyone who is sending me a short, a trailer, a poster or a pitch and asking me if I could get them an agent.
Congratulations, you are a doer with 90-minute story, with a minimal crew, that has a beginning, middle & end, that is in focus, with good audio, excellent acting and resolves itself properly with a satisfying ending… You are quite amazing. And, if you can get this Micro-Budget Feature in a major festival for a midnight screening…
Welcome to Hollywood.
The world is for doers… and Hollywood is for doers-with-talent.
PS: By-the-By. You might not get theatrical distribution at a festival premiere but thanks to the internet and super cheap broadband with On-Demand & Streaming sites like Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, Vimeo, Distribber… you can cut out the middle-man (aka: distributor) and do it yourself.
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9 comments on “THE $10,000 FEATURE FILM (Make a Bloody Movie: No-Budget Producing, Writing & Directing Secrets & Tricks)”
One of my friends is a director who was signed to one of the major management companies in LA after they saw his short, and is now in talks to doing his first studio film – so I m sorry but frankly you’re wrong. Equally I was surprised, but shorts can be a great way to get noticed
Agreed. Shorts are mangeable and can prove you know how to tell a story. I have made both and wish I focused on shorts.
I made a 7k feature. 3 actors. 4 crew. 2 locations. No extras. No fx. Shot at my aunts house while she was away. Neighbors were cool luckily. Went heavy on the food. Put the teenage actress and mom at hotel. Never underestimate how much smoother things go when you treat your team well. I also preplanned the heck out of it and had an in depth schedule. I would have lost my mind elsewise.
Main downfall was that my dp was a good friend and he made all his learning mistakes on my film. Definitely folded me in. I had great sound and good talent. But it looked like a bad student film. Next time I’d want at least 14k, 12 shoot days, and not have to shoot 10 pages everyday.
As for shorts, I made a 7k short on super16 that looks great. I had all the toys: an experienced DP, dolly, grips, steadicam, etc. Although it’s not a feature, I’d show it a hundred times over my feature. It looks pro. But I am glad I did both.
In the final analysis, make whatever inspires you. Feel free to disregard me. But never wait around for the money and do not cast the first person you can find. There is a reason good actors get paid so much. I saved all my budget $$$ from moving home and working 40 hours a week. I traveled to NYC multiple times to audition people and flew in a dude from LA for my feature. Crappy acting or a bad screen presence will ruin your script while a real actor with the right look can make your a bad script watchable. So get a job, save some bank and take action. Good luck. Ted.
PS: my film did not go to Sundance.
How do i know if the actor can act, let’s say i’d cast a beautiful lead. Any life hacks?
Poor Dov, i’m so impressed that people send your their shorts …a dream role of Farmville???????? thank you for this post, i’m so grateful for your writing skills. Your book is too short
Dov, your a legend, I’ll do exactly what you say…
screw the shorts!
Love all of this. Smart. Shorts however are not entirely meaningless. There is a serious learning curve here. And to have a few solid shorts under one’s belt will make a real difference.
I shot 2 films last year, big films, for about £4000 the pair. haha.
I liked it when you said don’t make a short. people keep telling me to make a short, and when I ask them to name a famous short, they go quiet. (does The Snowman count? that’s good…)
in post at the moment. edited and written the score for the first. will be interesting to see how it goes. In the meantime, im still addicted and i want to make another film! ahhah!H!H1h!11
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