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February 24, 2013

How to Shoot a Feature Film for $9,000 and Other Filmmaking Tips from Actor/Director Edward Burns

Edward Burns, director of Nice Guy Johnny and Newlyweds (his newest is The Fitzgerald Family Christmas), has been around independent filmmaking for nearly 20 years, and he always seems to find new ways of reinventing himself and figuring out different ways to tell stories that matter to him. The great thing about the DSLR revolution is that it has put professional-looking images within reach of almost anyone. You can now spend a few hundred dollars on a camera and it will get you quite a bit of the way there, and let you focus on everything else to make the best movie possible. In an interview with Sheri Candler, and in the online Q&A session below, Edward Burns talks about his career, low-budget filmmaking, screenwriting, and how it's possible to make movies cheaply.

It should probably go without saying, but every film and every situation is different. Not everything he says will apply to all movies, but Burns is one of those people I think it's important to listen to because he is out and actively producing these movies, living by the advice he's giving to filmmakers.

It should be noted that Burns spent much more money on post-production than he did on actual shooting, but the point still stands that he was able to shoot these films for basically no money (in Hollywood terms). As he says above, connections are key. The only way you're going to make a movie for no money is by getting as many favors as possible. You're probably going to have to get a lot of free work out of your crew, and ideally you'd be getting as much food donated as possible -- but in the end -- it does cost money to feed people, and that's likely where a lot of your production budget will go if you're not paying Screen Actors Guild performers.

I think the best thing about the digital revolution and the costs of production being lower is that filmmaking can be practiced by anyone at any time. If you keep your story down to a minimum and write it so that it can be produced for a budget that is within reach without any strings, you can make a movie exactly the way you want.

If you want to check out some of the Burns' recent films, you can find the links below.

Links:

Your Comment

89 Comments

Let's do it...
...
:-)

February 24, 2013

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Another helpful thing would be to read this book, by Robert Rodriguez, in which he made his debut to Hollywood at the age of 23 with only $7,000. US dls. for the movie "El Mariachi".

Rebel Without a Crew By Robert Rodriguez
You can buy it in Amazon for $11.

February 24, 2013

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Pablo Saldana

Great book, inspirational!

February 27, 2013

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Wow, in that first video he talks about how the budget for filming it was under $25k but after post production was done a total of $125k was spent! I wonder how he spent that extra $100k?

February 24, 2013

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For those confused at the finishing costs of a film...

That extra $100k can go to many things. P&A costs alone can reach the millions, even on the tiniest of films.
Of course there are the standard costs: titles and clearance, QC, sales agent shares, etc, that shock many first timers - myself included.

Don't let that backend number scare you. You can produce and finish your film for NEXT TO NOTHING (I'm speaking from experience too!) and be in good shape. If a distributor is hungry they will gladly cover the finishing costs.

Before I got my feet wet I let these 'backend numbers' be my excuse to wait for more money/resources. Don't make that mistake.

February 24, 2013

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Brock

This is correct.

February 25, 2013

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marklondon

Thanks for the info, there's been alot of negative comments lately and im glad the community is still strong with great discussions.

February 25, 2013

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Xiong

... Never mind I spoke too soon before scrolling down the comments... Thanks for the info non the less though.

February 25, 2013

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Xiong

Haha, hold the faith!

February 25, 2013

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Brock

"sales agent shares" Huh? If commissions from your sales agent is causing your budget to increase then it's time to consider a new agent or a producer who has a better grip of mathematics.

February 26, 2013

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BrianJ

I was fast and loose with the terminology, good on you. "Standard Costs" would have been the term preceding the list of 'costs' after a film is made. Indeed, sales agents work on a commission, but I never stated 'a budget will increase because of it.'

Thanks for contributing.

February 26, 2013

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Brock

Posts like this are why I bookmark NFS

February 25, 2013

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Victor

"That extra $100k can go to many things. P&A costs alone can reach the millions, even on the tiniest of films."

Brock, if I recall correctly he said he didn't spend anything on marketing for that film as after post production (editing, music, special effects, and?) he handed over to the distributor and they took care of all marketing costs.

Of course if marketing was included then I could very very very easily understand how another $100k was spent! But I think this wasn't the case.

February 25, 2013

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My mistake, i assumed that's what he was referring to when he mentioned the extra 100k.

February 25, 2013

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Brock

Will somebody stop all this nonsense about "it only cost $1k, or $5k, or $9k" to do a movie?

I want to hire Edward Burns to do 20 movies at $9k a piece. Actually, I'll pay $10k him for each one. And it won't be movies, but just very short 30" tv commercials. Deal?

Of course NOT. Because it doesn't cost $9k to do it, as EVERYBODY is working for FREE. If you sum the salaries of everyone involved, plus the costs of securing locations, insurances, rentals, catering, styling, production design, props (hiring a cool cabrio car rather than using somebody's), Sound design, Post, etc, etc, etc, and then you add a markup profit to all that, you end up at the $100k a piece, which is what the most basic tv commercial costs.

Why not say building a house for just $10k, where someone donates the land, others the materials, and architects and contractors and workers work for free, so you only pay the $10k in local fees?

February 25, 2013

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Henry

Would you believe me if I told you I made a film for that?

It DOES cost 9K to make a feature film. Yes my actors did it for free (most). Yes I wore many hats on pre, production, post. Yes my locations were free. Yes there were backend costs but that was AFTER I sold it. We also drafted gross return percentages to our leads and supporting cast.

All in all my film probably "cost" somewhere in the realm of 50,000. But to shoot the film it cost me a fraction of that.

People can scoff at the notion of making a film for that much, but to get the film in the can - which is the only thing that matters when you're starting out - you don't have to break the bank. It may shock some to know but when studios advertise their budget it's not a real number. That 20 mil movie was really made for 10-15. That 150mil movie was really made for 80mil and so forth. They markup their budgets ALL the time. Why? It's a part of selling a picture. On the flip end, yes, movies may be sold as 7.5k but really cost 125k after the marketing and distribution portions are covered. But when Rodriguez says it cost him 7.5k to SHOOT THE FILM, he's not lying. What he doesn't include in that cost is everything after. That's not deceptive because when you sell a picture you're typically not covering those costs.

If you think you need 100k+, 'contacts' and 'names' in your film to make it sellable then you're deluding yourself. I wish all of my fellow filmmaking competitors thought that way. It'd make for a sparse battlefield.

If

February 25, 2013

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Brock

Just wanted to say I appreciate what you're adding to this conversation. I'd like to learn more about your movie. If you're interested in talking about your project over at DIYFilmSchool, let us know.

February 25, 2013

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DIYFilmSchool.net

Thanks! I've taken lots of tips from this site and I'm more than happy to connect with more filmmakers struggling to get their films made. And hey, press for my film will be great! (For those that are wondering, 'why the f*ck doesn't he show us? Why is he being so coy about it?" I say, "When I'm allowed to I will, gladly. Very much, gladly!")

Let me know the best way to get in contact with you and we can start a dialogue!

February 25, 2013

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Brock

Brock, send us an email through the contact form on the site: http://www.diyfilmschool.net/call-us-with-your-questions/

February 26, 2013

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DIYFilmSchool.net

Ok, then I hire you to do twenty 30" ads every year. I'll pay you $9k for each. If you don't deliver them on time you'll be fined $10k/day until you do (as all time slots will be already booked). It's not my problem if it was rainning for 2 weeks so you couldn't shoot a take. If someone gets hurt or dies during production, is your responsability you didn't have insurance. I won't pay a single ¢ for the actors/models/narrators' screen rights though it's a nationwide campaign. We'll have meetings to re-edit the pieces several times, on your dime of course. I want the stuff delivered in HDCAM SR tapes, two copies each. Etc, etc, etc.

Do we have a deal?

Newcomers' mistakes are thinking that "what I pay=what it cost". If people work FOR FREE and you didn't pay anybody, that does't mean there were no costs involved.

BTW, $100k for marketing don't even gets you the right people to pick up the phone. It costs many millions to market a movie (10-100million), exactly the same whether it cost $1k or $100Mil to make it, which is why distributors pick Hollywood movies rather than independent stuff to fill the very scase 52 weekends/year.

February 25, 2013

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Henry

Henry, why the heck are you so angry? For one thing, you're talking about it as if film making is like washing clothes in the laundromat. "Ok, then I hire you to do twenty 30″ ads every year "

Who the heck here is talking about doing twenty ads or twenty short films a year? I just got off a project where it was a short film, and everyone volunteered their time/gear and it was shot on RED, with unknown actors, donated food from a friend of the directors that owns a fast food joint. The locations were all donated etc....

Is this the way it should always be done? No, but if you can gather a crew of people around who are interested in the artisanship of making a movie, it can be done. Would you ask those same people to crank out "twenty commercials a year" - no, but we are not talking about commercials, or 'product' like you are.

I guess that's what you are missing, the art/passion of making movies vs churning out 'product' in volume.

February 25, 2013

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I feel the same way. film making is an art and should be I am doing a project right now That I wrote, am directing and producing. Have hardly spent any money got food, locations donated(they always like the free advertisement for their business in the credits. I local restaurant we used in the small town where I live donated the location and fed the cast and crew for nothing. The local news paper printed a story and now the restaurant has increased business at least two-fold. They were already busy. We are shooting part 2 this summer and have 2 name actors that are donating their time to star in it. Yes it can be done. Already promoting and building a fan base on Facebook, twitter, local radio stations and TV all this for no charge. Premiere is at a new 15 screen local theater and also to screen at 3 other cities in the state. Did have to pay for that but not that expensive and being able to charge tickets and advertise will make that back quickly.

Still thinking about distribution but do have a friend that has connection for that. All this and still at 5k.

February 28, 2013

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Sigh. Can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink...

First off, your deal...

Make it an even 10 for 30 commercials and we have a deal. You give me 300k and I'll shoot them ASAP. Seriously. I'll shoot non-union actors with a non-union crew in as few locations as possible. Many of your commercials will be shot in these same locations with many of these same actors. Insurance will be a cinch as INSURANCE DOESNT COST A WHOLE LOT (you'd know this if you ever had to buy insurance). You won't pay for actors royalties? Well that's okay, my non-union actors will take an extra 100 a day instead. We'll have to meet several times for re-edits? No problem, I'm editing it, I'll be generous with my time if you pay me 300k. You want stuff delivered on HDCAM SR tapes? No problem, except two copies for each will have to be negotiated as that's ALWAYS negotiable. (Don't believe me on that? I just went through this process on my own film.)

Still have a deal?

Yes, I'm well aware that if things are done inkind or donated there are still 'costs', but these are not the hard costs of making the film, so what's this matter? The 9k film still cost 9k even with 50k in inkind services. Also, marketing ranges from a few thousand to millions. A conservative estimate for a films P&A can be 1-5mil, easy. But tell me how much marketing would cost for a VOD deal on a picture sold for low 6 figures? You think they're gonna spend millions there? The million dollar marketing campaigns are often associated with THEATRICAL RELEASES (both wide and limited). Actually a friend of mine has a deal for a limited theatrical release and his projected P&A costs are less than 80k. Hmm... odd, right? Not really. Deals like this happen ALL THE TIME.

A film does not 'cost the same to market no matter what the production costs'. You are completely wrong. The reason 'hollywood doesnt pick indie stuff' is not determined by marketing costs, it's returns that matter. Yeah, there are great movies that wont attract an audience, and there are shit films that will. Which does Hollywood want? Frankly, indie films dont sell because many aren't sellable (be it quality or BO draw). Weinstein makes a KILLING in the BO and awards seasons because he cherry picks the best titles at the best fests for the fewest dollars. Think of it, the film is already made (no gamble necessary), you get to see the audience/critical reaction at the fest, press swarms on it already if it's a hit so whats next? You buy it for 1 -5mil. Piss in the ocean. You throw a few mil for P&A (remember, the buzz has already been created) and you sit back and pat yourself on the back because instead of spending 10-40 mil gambling on a picture youve just scored with an aquisition that cost you a fraction of that.

You - and the people that subscribe to your filmmaking rhetoric - are not 'wrong' in the sense of costs for a picture. Yes, movies cost money and lots of it at times. But you fail to recognize other methods of making films. You've learned many things about the industry - im sure - and taken it as absolute. Roger Corman has made a career on going against this type of thinking. If you want to make a film 'properly' or 'by the book' (the expensive way) then yes, theres a huge price tag. But if you want to make a film at any cost by any means (kinda like... oh do I really have to name the directors that have done this?) then you got to unlearn what you've learned. If your filmmaking sensibilities only conform to Hollywoods method ... well, haha, good luck to that.

But please, elaborate on your experience in producing a film.

February 25, 2013

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Brock

I come from the advertising industry, based in the EU. We do commercials for average to high end brands, using unknown to A-list models/actors. Last one was for the SuperBowl for a budget of $2Mill (remember, just for a short tv commercial). Normal ads cost much less of course, when are shot in a single day and you don't have to cast Rafael Nadal, or require esoteric production. Still you can't do it for less than $100k, and that's for 30" not for a movie, because there's a ton of people to be paid, from pre-production to post, and plenty of stuff and places to rent and fees to pay, etc.

Ever since the 5D revolution, people are getting the wrong message you can do world-class stuff for peanuts just because the camera is so cheap. Camera cost/rental is a drop in the ocean within an overall production, as a fully stuffed ALEXA+UltraPrimes costs under 1k/day (x3/week). It's the PEOPLE involved and everything else that costs the most.

Oh, but for indies everybody does it for FREE. And locations are free, catering as well, and props and wardrobe and generator-trucks and 18k HMIs, and VOs and Post, and there's no royalties and, and...
Well there you go your $9k/movie.

But you think you can charge $9k for your production, and have 50 people to work for you for free?

As for movies, over here in the EU, films (done for a couple of million) very rarely break even, and that's even after half the cost is subsidized by our governments with taxpayers' money. And you know why? Because those films have to pay for all salaries and costs.

Film/advertising is an industry just like any other. Yes, you can homebrew marmelade for cents rather than having to pay $5 for a glass, but if you want to do it professionally, you must charge accordingly to pay and cover all costs.

February 25, 2013

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Henry

I understand Henry's point. Sometimes these claims that a film was made for "X" amount is a gross misrepresentation of what it actually costs to get a film done. For newbies, it's just a bridge to delusion that it's much more achievable than it really is. To get a film done for $9K, you're going to need a lot of free work and favours performed - that's just a fact. Sure, most people could find enough crew to work for free on their film, but who's to say what kind of quality they'll work at? Truly talented and professional colleagues require a solid amount of time and experience that comes from working and networking. It's a factor that can't have a price put to it, but it's something that without that, your film never would have been made.

Quantifying rates for shoots is tough, given that rates will fluctuate from job to job. But I think a fair practice should be for people to announce both a real-world expense budget, as well as an expenses paid budget. Making films based on favours and freebies is a great way to get yourself known, but it isn't a feasible way to sustain an industry or to make a living.

February 26, 2013

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Henry comes completely from a "sell a product" point of view instead of a "make art" point of view. When you make art, there are people that will work for free, not all of them, but some will, and they will do it because they believe in you as the one force driving the movie, and they believe in the movie itself. Some will do it just to add a project to their reel so they can have something to show to get other jobs and build a carrer, and other will work free just because they're your friends. That's how you get things done for free. When you talk about advertising films, who in their right mind will work for free, or even below their day rate in advertising when the company who's commissioning the project makes millions upon millions of dollars out of that commercial? You are clearly confusing Apples to Monster Trucks...

February 26, 2013

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VictorQC

My point can probably be summed up as; saying a film cost $9K does not mean there is only $9K worth of skill involved. And, ultimately, all it does is weaken our industry's hand as a negotiating force. It puts the idea in people's minds (commercial and non-commercial) that things can be achieved for a price that's highly dependent on freebies. Music videos are a great example. Standard budget for one of those use to be $50-$150K, now it's $5K. Why? Have music videos become less professional/less graphic intensive/require less crew? No. The expectations are still there for $150K looking productions, but music labels know that music videos can be done by a student and some friends who are happy to work for free. That puts pressure back on the hungry professional to take a job below their rate and chalk it up as "one for the reel". Meanwhile, rent goes unpaid that week.

February 26, 2013

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I agree with Henry and Ben 100%. It kills me every time some filmmakers do another kickstarter for more money for all the lavish production expenses (Fisher dollies, HMI's master Primes...whatever...etc...)...and then don't include money for the crew. I just talked a director out of shooting a feature on film...I can't believe I found myself in that position,...but the bottom line is, if you can afford film, you can afford to pay your crew better. As a DP, this would be a great opportunity for me (my only feature credit as DP was also shot on film), but the bottom line is the bottom line. People need to make a living off of this for the industry to be sustainable. It's maddening that people think more about the equipment than the people who are trained on that equipment. Producers are often more concerned with the equipment that meets their standards than people who meet those standards. I'd rather see Storaro shoot his next film on an iPhone than some kid a year out of school shooting on the top notch Epic/Alexa.

March 6, 2013

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Daniel Mimura

Studio films do not mark up their budgets. In fact what you usually see on IMDB is lower than what they actually spent.
-Hollywood post PA

April 9, 2013

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Brady

Does anyone have any links to any good filmmaking podcasts? This is one thing I've struggled to find. I've found a few interesting ones, and some that are particularly geared towards the indie filmmaker, but I've already powered through those and now I'm looking for more. Any suggestions?

February 25, 2013

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These aren't geared toward Indie filmmaking, and they are properly about writing--though they talk about a lot of universally important things regarding filmmaking: Martini Shot by Rob Long (KCRW) and Script Notes by John August. They are awesome.

February 25, 2013

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Kenneth Merrill

Stay tuned to NFS! We'll be doing a more general filmmaking podcast at some point... it's on our list with 309582039453 other things.

February 25, 2013

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Adding to what Kenneth already mentioned, also listen to a couple of other KCRW podcasts: The Business (all about the movie/TV business), and The Treatment (usually interviews with directors). I've also heard about something called Director's Notes, but I have not yet listened to it myself.

February 25, 2013

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Shenan

Down in Front is also a good one. It's more film criticism but I've picked up a few storytelling tips from them.

February 25, 2013

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Guest

Awesome, thanks very much guys. I'll certainly give them all a listen.

February 26, 2013

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Brilliant. Thanks for posting. Edward is an inspiration to indie film makers.

February 25, 2013

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Thanks Ryan and Joe for posting this video. I will say that Edward Burns is an extremely generous artist. He certainly didn't have to take the time out of his busy schedule at Sundance, where he was a juror this year, to talk to me, but he gladly did it. He also doesn't HAVE to post these Q&A videos on his own or spend time on Twitter with his fans (MANY name directors do not). He genuinely wants to help and that is a rare thing from a celebrity.

I think it is accurate to say $100K is his actual budget to make his films, still for MOST indies and definitely Hwood films, that is peanuts. Yes, he can call in many favors from talented friends, he has his own team to guide the marketing/publicity and other platform sales (surely John Sloss does the cable agreements and any foreign sales and receives a percentage for that), he has website/technical costs, he would have to get clearances for music, talent etc. that goes with delivery of a film.

There is another clip coming soon where he talks about collaborating with audiences (he is comfortable to a point) and his upcoming attempt at crowdfunding. Stay tuned.

February 25, 2013

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Thank YOU Sheri! Email from me coming soon, been busy but have been meaning to reach out.

February 25, 2013

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

February 28, 2013

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@Henry

I was at odds on where to begin my reply to your last comment, so instead of reiterating what I've already stated (im sure Ill do that too) I'll remedy your approach and rationale towards indie filmmaking.

Here ya go:
- A-list personnel. Get rid of them, you can't afford it in indie film. Unknown names. Hungry SAG actors. Acting grads. Your family. There are plenty out there and many will work for nothing or very little.
- Superbowl... why this was brought up in the same breath of indie-nobudget flmmaking I'm still wondering...
- You believe you need 100k for a 30 second commercial? With Rafael Nadal and a 50 person crew? Yes, I don't doubt that... But this has no value to this thread/conversation.
- HMI dont need it.
-Alexa. Dont need it.
- Generator truck. Dont need it.
- Full crew. Dont need it.

Youre trying to compare a fully professional shoot to a no-budget shoot. Of COURSE this will cost more than 9k. But no one is arguing that! I hope youre aware you dont need many of the things you listed to make a low-no-budget film.

As for government subsidized projects not returning a profit - I know exactly what youre talking about, we have the same thing here in Canada. The reason these films dont return their 500k-2mil budgets is because government bodies often fund SHIT projects. It's true. If the Canadian government was approached to make Terminator or some story about Inuit culture they would choose the latter. How could a government body justify using tax payer dollars to fund 'sex, drugs, violence ,etc' (you know, the things that put asses in seats) when they have a public obligation to further 'Canadian stories/identities'. That's a huge reason my country doesn't turn a profit or invest in film - they point at the case files and say, "See! Anne of Green Gables 4 earned nothing back!" Well no kidding! The Americans dont get ANY government funding for 99% of their films and they make bank like no other country. It's got nothing to do with 'paying salaries' that determines a films success or having it made.

I'm concerned that people reading these comments saying "You can't make a movie without X amount" are going to believe it. It's simply not true.

I was literally holding my sides I was laughing so hard when you said, "How are you going to get 18k HMIs, Post services, royalties, genie trucks, props/wardrobe, catering, Alexa's and 50 people to work for free." Your head is locked into 'professional/by the books' filmmaking, my friend. I made my film (and countless other directors around the world every year since the French New Wave) with NONE of those things. You are simply looking at film production at full-commercial cost. If you hope to make your own low budget film - or to learn something about indie filmmaking - I suggest you do some research on low-budget independent cinema.

I can't really say more than I already have. But if you insist on the contrary then we'll have to leave one another to our opinions. It's gotten to a point where I'm giving you factual, 1st hand experiences and you still can't accept it.

In the meantime, check out the early works of Lena Dunham, Jay/Matt Duplass, Chris Nolan, Darren Aranofsky, Todd Haynes, Neil Labute, John Cassavetes, Adam Wingard, Joe Swanberg, Eduardo Sanchez, Shane Caruth, Marc Price, Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, David Lynch, David Gordon Green, Jeff Nichols, Roger Corman, Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, Morgan Spurlock, Satyajit Ray, Charles Burnett and, of course, Ed Burns. They all managed to accomplish their films with less 100k (some less than 10k).

February 25, 2013

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Brock

Hi again. I mentioned ALEXA, A-list, 50 people crew, etc, because that's what I know and it's how ads are done. You don't spare on production to later waste €1mill in airing costs and ruin the whole campaign because the ad looks cheap.

I don't know much about indie films other than I have a bunch of DSLRs and can get stunning stuff out of them, but nothing comparable to a proper production, for which btw, you'd need AT THE VERY LEAST, IMO:

-Production Manager/casting director/location manager
-Director/CD/AD/Prod designer
-DP/AC/DIT
-1AC/2nd/data wrangler
-Gaffer/stage hand
-KeyGrip/props
-Hair/MakeUp/Stylist
-SoundMixer/Boom Op
-PA/driver/stage hand

So that sums up 9 production people during shooting. Notice how they are all heavily multitasking, which is never ideal. Then add up the actors, let's say 5-10 people more. For a movie I guess it'll take a month to do.
So you say you can have 15-20 people working for a month plus rent all the stuff required to shoot the movie AND then do Post (edit, sound design, ADR, Music, Grading), all for $10k?

That's certainly NOT possible, unless you do it all with a 5D and no lights and EVERYONE works for free.

Cast your family and friends? Big Mistake. More than anything else, you need a cast director and really good ACTORS, else the whole piece will fall apart. Also I don't understand how you don't need lights, when you actually require some 6-12K HMI outdoors, just to fill the shadows. etc.

But to the main point, what's an indie film for? Youtube? then Ok, do it for fun and for free. But if you want to sell it, you need to comply some standards. I've never seen such cheap stuff on EU TV, all "indie movies" on the more EU "alternative boradcasters" like ARTE, ZDF-kultur, etc are all €100k+ productions.
Likewise, independent theaters have gone bankrupt as nobody went there (other than other aspiring indie filmakers).

TV/Film is expensive to do, period. Regardless cheap 5Ds (which are fine to a point, even for pro stuff), film production require good professional actors, good lighting, pro make up and styling, professional SOUND (!) and color correction, etc, etc and all that costs money. If you don't have it, it SHOWS and neither public nor Broadcasters will be interested in it, used as they are to see professional productions on theaters, tv and even on YouTube (viral advertising) day in and day out.

Yes, you can do a movie for 100k rather than 1Mill (or the average 20-40Mill) , but there's no way you can do it for just 10k. Unless, again, everyone works for a month for free.

If there was a way you could do it for 10k, believe me that Producers would have found out already.

Have a nice day.

February 26, 2013

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Henry

Hey Henry,

Again, you're comparing 'proper productions' to 'no budget indies'.

To give you some perspective of what's possible, I shot my film with the following essentials you mentioned:

- No production manager/locations manager (I did that)
- 1 production designer, her first time doing ANYTHING on a production. (who assisted in my AD duties)
- No DP, 2nd or Date wrangler (I did that)
- 1 Gaffer with no experience (whomever was free hand on set performed this)
- No Hair/Makeup (We had a high school spfx girl come in whenever she could, but that was only around 7 days worth of a 3 week shoot)
- Sound Mixer/Boom Op (That same spfx girl did the sound when she was on set. The 'gaffer' also did sound when he was on set)
- No PA's. The actors would assist with things when not on screen.

On average I had about 4 people on set for the exception of cast heavy days. Over half of these were high school students on their summer break. Three weeks. Indeed, multitasking isn't ideal, but I didn't have the luxury to hire more people.

Actprs:
- Out of the entire cast, 1 actor appeared 'in a film' before. The rest were completely inexperienced and family members.

Post:
- I edited and graded it.
- 2 sound mixers and my old high school friend who could play a thing or two on the piano did the score. The sound mixers were old friends of mine that were currently in school for it.

Equipment:
- I had roughly 2.5 k in equipment rentals, the bare minimum. Lighting wise, that was enough for a redhead kit (3 1k's), a basic lighting kit (300k, 2x 1k's) and practicals.
- I edited on a homecomputer and shot with a Canon 7d I purchased.

If I want to sell it I have to comply to standards? Yeah, so? I sold it. I complied. I passed my QC.I don't see how this is a money issue.

You're touting a lot of 'they wont be interested if....xyz", but I SOLD IT. I'm telling you I experienced this first hand! I shot it for less than 10k. I cannot make this any clearer. *bangs head against wall*

What you know is how 'it should be done'. Please, do your research and find these films that were shot on 10k or less. Primer is a good start. IT HAS BEEN DONE! Let your producers know.

Cheers

February 26, 2013

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Brock

I'm glad you sold it. But that sounds like a student short, not at all something a Broadcaster would air. They have VERY strict QC and reject stuff done on DSLRs by principle. Then image must fall within EBU broadcast-safe ..etc etc. All this you can't do without proper expensive tools (10bit monitoring, scopes..), definetely not with a home computer.
Also remember if they went to program it, that piece must compete with the soccer, the quiz show, the singing Idol and the CSI from the other competing channels. Not a chance. The target would be so small it's not worth any money due to the minimal ROIs. This is how TVs work, including our subsidized (EU) public channels.

BTW using a "friend/fx girl" for doing production sound is the biggest mistake there is. How many indies have found too late (at edit suite) the entire film was ruined due to poor sound, as later professional ADR would cost a fortune?

So you sold it. Did you pay afterwards everyone involved a proper amount? Did those who worked signed release contracts, etc etc. This is very serious. Once you sell it, it's not a student passtime anymore, but a business, and you can get sued by anybody who felt they've been taking advantage of (happens all the time).

Anyway, I guess we come from different backgrounds. Form the outside of the industry it's nice to dream you can do it all now that the tools are so damn cheap (5D), but the reality of it is that all together is much more complex than what it seems. YouTube is one thing. Business Theaters and Boradcast another entirely different.
For a start, the legal, contracting, fees, permits, insurance, QC... etc are the hardest to grasp to the unninitiated, but the most relevant. Doing the actual comercial/film/short, while it takes a lot of money and resources, is only the 30-40% of it. Everything else is paperwork and contracts and making sure you won't get sued in the future.
Cheers.

February 26, 2013

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Henry

Henry,

I have a hard time giving you credit in regards to your experience in indie filmmaking as well as selling said indie film as you've done neither.

My film may sound like a student short (actually, student shorts have MANY more resources than I did as well as followed 'business standards" , ten fold) but the end product IS the bottom line. All the time. No matter what the size of the crew, the budget, etc. Our QC was tough to pass and required time on my side to adhere to all of the necessary corrections. I have no clue what proof you have on DSLR's being rejected on principle. Maybe in EU, but in North America they can reach theatrical release and every window on the way down it's distribution life. Like Crazy is the first example to come to mind. Shit, even HOUSE had a few episodes shot on a DSLR. Come to think of it, select portions of Black Swan was also shot on DSLR's. And Broadcast safe? Lol. You do know many of these things are fixable in post IF you even end up going outside them. The post house doing our QC laughed at me when I asked all of these 'broadcast concerns'. He simply smiled and assurred me 'we got it, son.'

So, by your rationale of competing air time, if your film/product can't compete with the leading shows they dont broadcast it? Do you know how many channels are broadcast around the world? Do you know that countries (such as Canada) must broadcast a certain percentage of home-grown content? It's not like there are 4 channels that wont buy a film because it has to beat out American Idol, lol. You're trying to tell me how TV works by pontificating on the most general of all knowledge. I wont even touch the realm of the ever expanding VOD/Internet markets...

As far as getting someone (that isn't a professional) to do sound - yes, it's definitely not optimal in the production process. But guess what, I couldn't afford a pro. Or anyone to be on set to assume the duty full-time. Better pack it in, right? After all, it may totally cost me in post to fix it... Except it didn't, Sure I lucked out. But I also had to deal with ADR and all the rest... But I didn't go to a post house for this. I WAS the post house. I had my actors come in with my sound mixer and do ADR in his basement. I did my own foley. I did it all. No fortune was spent. Was it comparable to a professional mix? No, of course it wasn't as good, but it was good enough.

At the beginning of the project I had VERY FEW people sign legal documents stating they would volunteer for the credit and experience. Do I recommend this? F**K NO! HUGE mistake on my part, but I lived and didn't get sued! Ideally EVERYONE would have signed a contract of sorts (these contracts cost nothing but 10min of your time, btw). I also had people that signed nothing. My leads were given a percentage of profits AFTER the film (not the proper/smartest way to do it, btw), but it was fair and no one sued anyone, even the individuals that were difficult. Was I lucky? Sure. Whether the actors knew that they had NO LEGAL GROUND WHATSOEVER TO SUE, is unclear. If there is no contract, there is no breach of contract. The worst someone can do is refuse to sign a release (which is why you get it at the beginning of the shoot) and halt the distribution/broadcast of the picture. This could easily become a HUGE deal. But even then, there are legal process' to combat these issues (these will cost money. Big money.) IF this was a union film and a legal document was signed and there was abreach of said contract, yes, you can definitely get sued. HINT** Having a legal team to cover your ass is a brilliant first start.

Making a movie is indeed a complex thing, but every project that isn't created by the standard methods of union/full crew/proper budget filmmaking isn't inherently shitty or 'youtube-fun-time-who-the-heck-cares'. Spouting the 'legal/contract/fee/permits/insurance/QC' rhetoric is absolutely ridiculous. I had next to NONE of those things cleared when I began shoot AND ONLY dealt with it after the film. Is that smart? No. Would I recommend doing it that way? No. But sometimes you dont have the luxury to afford that (or in my case, the patience) to acquire it first. But all of these things DO NO COST EXCESSIVE AMOUNTS OF MONEY. You're making it sound like these are the things that make it impossible to shoot under 10k for a feature - it's simply not true. How do I know this? Again - I WENT THROUGH IT! lol.

In summation, fellow filmmakers ----- Do not let people tell you that you cant make a film (and sell it) for less than 10k. They are wrong. There's a 'right way' (aka. the expensive, tried and true, typical professional production way, as Henry would subscribe to) and there's 'any way' (the way most of us would subscribe to). Don't let 'getting sued', 'legal', 'fees', 'permits', 'insurance', 'qc reports' and 'contracts' translate into 'WITHOUT THESE THINGS YOU CANNOT MAKE A FILM.' They are imoprtant and you should educate yourself on it, without a doubt. But I, as well as HUNDREDS of filmmakers each year, continue to make our films despite these things.

I think I've said my piece and appreciate the chance to argue our different takes on the matter. As someone already stated, they may have taken something out of our chat. I can't take anymore time on long winded retorts, so a final cheers!
B.

February 26, 2013

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Brock

You lost me here. Just because a shoot was done without a regiment checklist of crew and facilities, doesn't mean it won't be of a good quality, or "broadcast safe". Again, it all comes down to freebies and favours from talented people, but you can make it work.

February 26, 2013

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Henry, what about films shot on REDs I don't have enough room here to list major picture with worldwide release that are shot digitally. I know that is indie films but We shot our film on a RED the DP has his own equipment and did it for free and has a long list of film credits and not just shorts. Robert Rodriquez shoots most of his films on Digital and REDs. Also there is talk that by the end of 2013 in the US all films will be shot on Digital and in Europe by 2015. Thats why Quentin Tarantino wants to quit film making.

February 28, 2013

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Thanks you guys, this has an abundant amount of information here and I'll always keep it in mind.

February 25, 2013

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Xiong

..and here was I expecting the first comment to be - Tip 1: be Ed Burns.
There are a number of films completed for around this number (or more realistically about 20k) every year.
You can even afford 'name' actors if you are lucky enough, or are in the UK. (British actors will do a lot for straight cash). At our place we must help out 3-4 of these a year with kit or post.
There are no barriers. But PLEASE - record good sound. A lofi/mumblecore pic can look terrible (or even, good!), but will still sell to VOD because you can hear the dialogue.
If you have any budget at all, get a good sound recordist, and budget time/money for ADR. PLEASE.

February 25, 2013

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marklondon

Cannot agree with you more re: sound. I lucked out as our post sound mixer was INSANELY talented. Camera can be downright awful but if your sound is shit you're in for a heap of trouble.

February 25, 2013

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Brock

Not to hijack this conversation, but in case you're checking responses from the bottom up, I wanted to suggest you contact us through the contact form on our site if you're interested in talking about your film and your experience making it. http://www.diyfilmschool.net/call-us-with-your-questions/

February 26, 2013

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