YOUR 1st FEATURE will be either a $10,000 (NO-BUDGET) or $100,000 (MICRO-BUDGET) or $1,000,000 (LOW-BUDGET) shoot… (Read & Pick the one best for you)
by Dov S-S Simens on October 9, 2015
YOUR 1st FEATURE FILM
Hollywood is waiting and with 4K cameras and only $3,000-$300,000 launching a film career, with a profitable independent feature, although not easy, is nowhere as difficult as it is made out to be…when you are realistic.
However, just having talent and a great idea is not enough… for you must be not only talented but be “talented…and realistic“.
And being realistic means starting at the bottom… but not with a short. As an adult all one demonstrates to Hollywood (an industry that likes profits) when making a short is that you know how to go broke.
Can you name me 1 of the 500,000 shorts made last year that sold and made a profit? Truly, can you?
You are an adult… you must make something that can make money…make a feature film.
Now be “realistic” and make an Independent Feature with either a “No-Budget”, “Micro-Budget” or “Low-Budget” budget.
Thus, make sure, with a minimal budget, that as a first-timer, you produce or direct a feature film that you can handle.
Therefore, your first feature film will be either (A) a 1-week shoot in real-time (No-Budget Feature) for under $10K; or (B) a 2-week shoot (Micro-Budget Feature) with a 90-page 1-location script for less than $100K; or (C) a 3-week (Low-Budget Feature) shoot, with 2 Red 4K cameras, a 15 person crew and a shooting schedule of 5 pages/day that will be marketed as a million dollar feature film.
I repeat… Please be “realistic”…. Your ideas I am sure are great and they’re studio features and studios do not finance first-timers with just an “idea”.
But you are sure your idea is great and are determined to make it happen.
OK. Then, permit me to cut-to-the-chase and explain how to get a major studio to finance your amazing idea that needs $200,000,000 to be made.
And then I shall detail the specifics (Cameras, Schedule, Script, Crew, Food, Setups, etc.) of shooting your first feature film…that will eventually allow you to get that amazing studio idea made.
COMMON SENSE FILMMAKING:
First: How do you get Paramount or Disney to finance your $200 Million Feature? Simple…Make a $20 Million Feature…that makes a profit!
Then: How do you get Lionsgate or Relativity (if still around) to finance your $20 Million Feature? Simple…Make a $2 Million Feature…that makes a profit!
Oh, OK: How do you get the Weinsteins or Sony Classics to finance your $2 Million Feature? Simple…Make a $200,000 Low-Budget Feature…that makes a profit.
Getting the idea: How do you get Amazon or Hulu to Finance your $200,000 Feature? Simple…Make a $20,000 Micro-Budget Feature….that makes a profit!
Now: How do you get Kickstarter or Indiegogo to Finance your $20,000 Feature? Simple…Make a $2,000 “No-Budget”….
I think you “get the point”?
Start at the bottom… which means commence your career with either a No-Budget, a Micro-Budget or a Low-Budget profitable feature film… with, of course, an amazing amount of talent that sets you apart from anyone else who has every made a feature film.
REAL-INFORMATION, REAL-FACTS: No-Budget, Micro-Budget or Low-Budget Feature Films
The 1-week or weekend (No-Budget) shoot for $3-10K.
The 2-week (Micro-Budget) shoot for $20-50K.
The 3-week (Low-Budget) shoot $200-300K.
BUDGET: $3,000 – $10,000
BASIC CONCEPT: Shoot a Movie in real-time…That’s 90-minutes. Get a 90-page script that chronicles a person(s) adventure over 90-minutes.
(Hitchcock did “Rope” but also view “Run Lola Run”, “2LDK”, “Unfriended”, “Time Code”, “Tangerine”… for ideas)
CREW: 4-5 person shoot (camera, sound, grip/gaffer, you & 2 assistants) at $100-$500 each/weekend.
CAMERAS: 2 iPhones (4K) or Samsungs
SCRIPT: 90-pages in real-time
DIRECTING: 3:1 Shooting Ratio with 1-take/setup.
SCHEDULE: 30-40 pages/day, 15-18 hour days
CAST: 2-6 actors ($100-$200/weekend)
CATERING: Burgers, Fries, Pizza & Subway ($200/day)
MUSTS: Aspect Ratio (2.35:1), Apps (Filmic Pro, $8), Steadicam, Lenses (Moondog Labs) & Microphone (Sennheiser)
BUDGET: $20,000 – $50,000
BASIC CONCEPT: 90-100-page Script that takes place in 1-Location. Basically, a stage play, a courtroom drama, a high school reunion, a haunted house, the family dinner from hell, the wedding gone bad…
(“Clerks” was a video/7-11 store, “Barbershop” since it went Above-The-Line Guild, with a name-or-two, was not Micro-Budget, but it should have been, and it was 1-location)
CREW: 10-12 person shoot (DoP, Shooter, Sound, Boom, Grip 1, Grip 2, Gaffer 1, Gaffer 2, Production Designer, You, 2-3 Assistants)
CAMERAS: 2 DSLRs (2-week shoot), Cannon, Sony or BlackMagics or REDs (1-week shoot)
SCRIPT: 90-100 Pages, 1-location, no Special Effects, No Visuals, No Stunts, no Ext-Night Scenes… dialogue oriented stage-play.
SHOOT: 1 week ($20,000) or 2-weeks ($50,000)
DIRECTING: 6:1 Shooting Ratio (1-week) or 10:1 Shooting Ratio (2-weeks) with 2-Takes/setup
SCHEDULE: 10-12 Pages/day, 1 Page/hour (1-week shoot) or 7-8 Pages/day, 1 Page every 1.5 hours (2-week shoot)
CAST: 3-8 Actors ($100-200/day or $500-1,000/week)
CATERING: Continental Breakfast (Craftservice) & Lunch Hot meal, Chipotle, Upscale Supermarket Deli ($15/person or $400/day)
MUSTS: Get the Master Shot first, Make sure audio is perfect, don’t obsess on lighting (get a Key & 1- back or Fill)
BUDGET: $200,000 – $300,000 (Caveat: movie is marketed as a “Million Dollar” feature film)
BASIC CONCEPT: This is called (marketed) as the Million Dollar Feature but it’s true negative-cost to manufacture is between $200,000-$300,000. It is usually a Genre Concept (Horror, Blood, Zombie, Fatal, Final, etc.) sold at Film Markets (AFM, CANNES MARCHE, EFM) to 35 Nations or Territories for 35 sales at $10k – $50k each. Then in North America, without a theatrical release, it goes directly to DVD or On-Demand for additional profits.
(above: Roger Corman “King of the Bs” is credited with making over 700 genre feature films that all made profits)
CREW: 16-19 person shoot (DoP, Camera Operator/Shooter, 1st AC/DIT, 2nd AC, Production Manager, Sound, Mike/Boom, Grip, Dolly Grip, Grip #3, Gaffer, Best Boy Electrician, Production Designer, Art Director, Craftservice, 3 PAs) at $300-$1,500/week salaries
CAMERAS: REDs (2) at $1,500/week rental. $6,000 (2-week shoot) or $9,000 (3-week shoot)
SHOOT: 2-3 weeks. $200,000 (2-weeks). $300,000 (3-weeks)
DIRECTING: 15:1 Shooting Ratio (2-weeks) or 25:1 Shooting Ratio (3-weeks) with 3-takes/setup
SCHEDULE: 7-8 Pages/day (2-weeks) or 5-6 Pages/day (3-weeks), 1 Page covered every 2 hours
CAST: 4-8 Actors (SAG Ultra-Low-Budget at $100/day), plus 1-Name Actor (TV name at $25,000 for 3-5 days) for marquis value
CATERING: Mobile Truck at $15/day/person or make deal with local restraunt at $12-14/day/person and you supply Craftservice
MUSTS: 5 Page/day schedule with 5-6 setups/page; means 25-30 shots over a 12 hour day. But subtract 1-hour to get going in the morning and 1-hour for lunch leaves only 10-Hours (600 minutes) for shooting which translates (25-30 shots/setups) into less than 30-minutes per setup… Which means little to no time for (A) lighting and (B) rehearsal but allows the actor(s) enough time for 3 takes. The 3rd take is usually called “Golden Take” and the one selected by the editor for the Final Print.
YOUR 1st FEATURE FILM
Here’s the bottom-line. I truly believe you will start your film career as either a Producer, Writer, or Direct, even Actor (Stallone?), with the same type of movie/script that Quentin Tarantino, or Spike Lee, or Kevin Smith or James Wan, or John Waters, or Scorsese or Spielberg started with…which is some variation of the basic stage play executed over one ($20K), two ($50K) or three weeks ($200K)…. or possibly even a 1-day or 1-weekend movie ($5K) shot in real-time.
As we all know traditional 2-4 year film education (NYU, USC, UCLA, AFI, etc.) programs, costing $50,000-$200,000 have gotten absurdly expensive and. although excellent, are not worth the time or money….especially when no one is recruiting.
Thus, I created my very practical (“No-Bull”) common-sense film programs for only $89-$249.
Whatever your decision is… I hope that I have inspired you to move forward with your 1st Feature Film.
Dov Simens / Dean / Hollywood Film Institute
17 comments on “YOUR 1st FEATURE will be either a $10,000 (NO-BUDGET) or $100,000 (MICRO-BUDGET) or $1,000,000 (LOW-BUDGET) shoot… (Read & Pick the one best for you)”
Great advice and totally agree with everything except that on the ultra low budget SAG film there’s no need to limit yourself to one location. We did a 4k with 20 locations for under $100,000. Ask friends on Facebook to find you free locations. Plan every detail.
Great stuff as always, Dov. Since the State of Michigan, in its infinite wisdom, totally killed their film incentive program here, we’re back to square one as DIY filmmakers. And realistically, as newbies, we weren’t going to get any budget from the state anyway. So this material you are giving us is gold. Appreciate it. I look forward to ordering your course soon and absorbing all that excellent knowledge.
Thanks for the kind words Alan. Keep me posted.
Thanks Linda. It’s certainly doable but your case is probably the exception more than the rule. I advise keep it simple.
Valuable information from you as always …. thanks from Brazil
No problem Jack. Thanks for reading!
You nailed it as usual. You give the best advice to filmmakers. I look forward to the master class and more of your tips.
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Hi Dov, what do you think of approach followed for the film ‘Following’, that is, multiple locations but minimal crew (2 actors, 5 crew members). Can we make that in 30,000 $ range ?
Hi Dov, I’m a big fan and graduate of yours and other multiple film schools, I now run my own film finance company in the UK and would like to add relevant stuff to do with tax credits, finance and other budget issues.
Our UK film tax credits and other tax credits from Private Investors combined can bring up to 40% of any budget.
Can you tell us more about this? I’d love to find out some additional information.
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