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

02.24.13 @ 5:34PM Tags : , , , ,

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.



We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • Let’s do it…


  • Pablo Saldana on 02.24.13 @ 6:41PM

    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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

    • This is correct.

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

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

    • “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.

      • 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.

  • Posts like this are why I bookmark NFS

  • “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.

  • 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?

    • 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.


      • on 02.25.13 @ 9:54AM

        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.

        • 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!

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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…

          • 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.

          • Daniel Mimura on 03.6.13 @ 6:36PM

            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.

      • 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

    • LOL, stop being negative. Just b/c you can’t make the film for such a great price. Doesn’t me the next man can’t. All about connections. My best friends for music producers,sound editors,mixers, I have friends in catering and other areas as well. Which saves me lots. You just need to be more friendly with people. Then you might enjoy the riches too.

      Be friendly-Negative responses isn’t needed nor liked on this blog.

  • 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?

    • Kenneth Merrill on 02.25.13 @ 11:43AM

      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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • @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).

    • 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
      -1AC/2nd/data wrangler
      -Gaffer/stage hand
      -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.

      • 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.

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

        - 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.

        - 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.


        • 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.

          • 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!

            • ‘Monsters’ comes to mind – Wikipedia lists 7 cast & crew total for most of the film. The director, a sound guy, a line producer, a ‘fixer’, and the two stars.

            • And about the ‘student short’ thing – at my university the final projects are ~15-20 minutes, shot on Alexa and with a budget £10k+. The DP of one said at the end that it would be a while before he would get to use similar equipment/resources again.

          • 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.

          • 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.

    • I’m really hoping this works, I’m interested in getting the contact info of Brock on this thread. If this does by chance reach you, I can be at my website Please send your info through our contact section and I will make sure to call or email ASAP! This is in regards to a feature film I will be making this year.

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

  • ..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.

  • Cool. Inspired by Ed Burns, we shot a feature for $10,000 last year and are premiering at a fairly big festival in a few days. We did pretty much what he describes in the “How do you make a movie for $9000″ video. It’s been a great experience (of course it’s still ongoing). I encourage anyone to go for it. There’s a million different ways/methods to make a movie, so don’t listen to the naysayers telling you what the “right” way is!

  • Aside from the actual article, I enjoyed that exchange between Henry/Brock in the comments. I was wishing there was a bit of each of their films to illustrate the two production styles. Henry raises valid points about legal releases and insurance. Is there any European resource of legal/business info for people attempting a first film? (Or does the info in the USA books on the topic more or less apply to Europe?) Also, does anyone know of a fair profit-sharing model for a low-budget/small crew film? That is, keep upfront costs down but let crew participate in earnings.
    And more power to Ed Burns. When I saw the Brothers McMullen in Madrid, when it first came out, the theatre was packed. It was an event.

  • What examples do we have of fantasy or sci-fi films being made? Apart from Monsters.

  • @Brock
    indie filmaking experience? I have none. I work in advertising where there’s not even an inch of margin for mistakes, or for experiments with cheap indie stuff (unless it’s internet viral video). I’ve been a producer and marketing manager as well and worked with EU broadcasters doing all sorts of stuff, which got me to know pretty well how they work, what they buy and what any sort of video productions cost, back fom the U-matic days.

    Technology making tools available to anyone is a great thing, but that doesn’t make the rest of the process any simpler. Video/film is NOT like photography, as it takes a lot of people from many different disciplines to do it right and profesionally and this industry has vey strong QCs (unlike in the music industry). Moreover there’s a ton of legal issues and office and paperwork to mess with for any project, which, if not handled properly, can be a source of serious trouble.

    But the most relevant issue is after all this one: what’s the project for? What’s the target market? Who’s going to buy the finished product. Who is the client? Who is going to pay for it?

    Canon was ‘very happy’ for “House” using their DSLRs for an episode. That was a very successful marketing stunt which made thousands to run buy their 5Ds, …but nobody mentioned House’s production company had also a budget of $4mill+ and the best pros in the industry. Small difference huh?

    Is there a market for indie filmaking? Who is the client? Who buys it? I have never seen any on TV (EU) and Theater distribution is reserved for Majors. Both TV and Theaters require very high standards and those can’t be reached with ultra low budgets ($10k and the like). Differences from profesionally done stuff vs indie are so high (acting, lighting, sound…) that people only come to accept it when the product is FREE (youtube), but I have a hard time thinking the viewing public will want to pay for it (theaters) or watch it on TV, where everyhting is expected to have a certain quality level (and there’s always somthing better produced on the next channel).

    Anyway, you’re all of course free to go ahead with your indie project. But please do hire a pro Boom Op and Sound Mixer and least, and get insurance and legal advice, and don’t forget to make everyone sign contracts BEFORE you even start.

    PS: for those who want to know/see what we do, take a look in here

    • I feel like Michael Corleone in the Godfather Part 3…
      Do you notice you’re running circles in your argument?
      So you’ve stated you have no indie filmmaking experience yet you throw your knowledge around like it applies to all indie films. I’ll say AGAIN – I’m not arguing that what your saying isn’t ‘how the business works’, what I’m arguing is (Like Mr. Ed Burns is stating) you don’t NEED to make an indie film like ‘the business does’. 9k films DO happen and DO succeed. There is solid proof of this Do you understand?

      Now time to reiterate AGAIN what I’ve said in the past posts…
      - “Technology making tools available to anyone is a great thing, but that doesn’t make the rest of the process any simpler”…… AGREED! YAY! But were we ever arguing this? This is such a vague statement that you can interpret my answer anyway you want to ‘prove’ your point. Having cheap tools may bring the ‘equipment cost down’, but, as you say, the labour and all the other personnel costs are unaffected. Now stay with me here… the way you get around these issues is don’t use a full crew. I’m not saying ‘No crew is better than full crew.’ I’m not saying, “Your project will be equal to the quality of a fully crewed project.” I’m saying, “YOU CAN SHOOT YOUR FILM WITHOUT A FULL CREW.” And for that matter, 98% of the ‘essential elements’ you listed aren’t needed either… wait for it… FOR MAKING A ‘CHEAP’ INDIE.
      What are you going on about re: “This industry has very strong QC’s” (unlike in the music industry)? What relevance does that have to our conversation? Do you think I had my QC done ‘within the music industry?’ Very strong or not, I PASSED my QC with NONE of the elements you deemed essential. Legal work – I think I covered that and we both agreed that ‘it can cause serious trouble’.

      Who is this for? What’s the target market? Who’s going to buy the finished product? Who is the client? Who is going to pay for it? Great questions and very commercially minded. I’ll be honest and straight forward: 1. Narrative films do tend to target a market specific market (in my case, ‘indie’ – yes, indie is a genre – horror was the specific market we wanted to hit). 18-26yr old males was the demographic. But truly, my main concern was ‘finishing the damn thing.’ I’m sure such aimlessness sounds like blasphemy to a commercial filmmaker. 2. *rubs crystal ball*, and the buyer of the finished product is…….. we had no clue. That’s often the case of all independent films. It could be anything from a large studio, to mini-online distro – there are so many avenues that no one could tell you ‘who’s buying the finished product’ on an indie film. 3. Who are the clients for indie films? The answer would be somewhere between answer 1 and 2. Typically, what makes an indie film indie, is that there are no clients that commission the work besides your financiers. But in my case I – moi – was the client commissioning his own projet. 4. Who will pay for it? See answer 3.

      Remember when you said, “DSLR projects are immediately dismissed?” That would be why I brought up my 3 examples (One being HOUSE) that were not immediately dismissed – in fact, widely distributed.
      Is there a market for indie filmmaking? Who buys it? Since you’ve apparently never see them on TV (which is damn near impossible) and never seen them in theatres (you must not get out much) I don’t know where to start. The few indies that get theatrical distribution are often times bought by Majors and mini-majors… So does that answer your question? Also, limited theatrical release happen ALL THE TIME as well as VOD and TV deals. These studios and distribution companies are the ones that buy it and, well, do I need to explain where the process goes from there? YOU don’t see them because you A. Don’t know an indie that could be playing OR B. You assume everything in theatres and on TV were not made independently.
      “Both TV and Theatres require very high standards and can’t be reached with ultra low budgets” you say? Yeah… usually, but how about Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch? They were kinda’ in theatres, right? I’m not arguing that it isn’t a rare occurrence, it most definitely is, but your rhetoric is absolutely ridiculous.

      “People only watch indie films of lesser quality when they’re free…” Okay, am I the only one completely amazed by this asinine statement? Amazing.

      Your last statement may be the only sensible thing I read in this reply – though the aside was rather sneaky. I guess it’s up to readers to determine whether they need a 100k to shoot a 30 second commercial or a fraction of that to shoot a feature.

      • “So you’ve stated you have no indie filmmaking experience yet you throw your knowledge around like it applies to all indie films. I’ll say AGAIN – I’m not arguing that what your saying isn’t ‘how the business works’, what I’m arguing is (Like Mr. Ed Burns is stating) you don’t NEED to make an indie film like ‘the business does’. 9k films DO happen and DO succeed. There is solid proof of this Do you understand? – See more at:

        Brock, I’ve worked for advertising humans beings in the past. :) They can’t process things without money and lots of gear involved. That’s what make them to feel important. :) It’s probably a genetic stuff… they can’t get how people like Ed Burns or John Cassavetes or Takashi Miike (who goes from big to NO budget from film to film) or Shane Carruth can make movies without a gigantic crew or tons of HMI lights!!!! They can’t… because their existence is about to worship money and corporations above all… so the trully independent way of making films, as art, as personal expression of an individual singular vision (the case of the masters of micro budget movies) is an alien concept their mind can’t grasp just because it would create a paradox with the way their belief system is setup to work.

        You are right in your points about no and micro budget movies (there are great atemporal pieces of art done this way, from Cassavetes to Aronofsky to Shane Carruth to…) and the thing is the points you make just make Henry’s brain to fire up his “belief system immunologic defense” :D

        art as art is a dangerous idea to art as commerce kind of people! ;)

        after all, how come not everybody want to be famous or rich or to live for hollywood industrial way of making movies? how come? ;)

    • i’m wondering why a guy like you, who obviously comes from the extremely pro business side of advertising filmmaking mind set, are doing on a site that’s mostly about doing things the cheap indie way?

      • The same reason a Cadillac salesman would seek out people looking for a vehicle…
        He wants to sell everyone on, “Only a Cadillac will do.”

  • This is a great story! I just shot an indie micro-micro budget feature (1hr 29min run time) for just under $1,400.00. Yes, I own most of the gear (Lights, camera, grip, audio) so nothing had to be rented. My friends who are actors all helped out. I did all the set up from making coffee to dolly work to shooting the movie and directing. But, it’s what I like to do. I work full time, and make films on my spare time. My friends were happy to help out because of the passion in just doing something.
    My last feature was shot under $4k budget, and it sold.

  • In a way, the point Edward Burns seemed to be making was – to make a low budget indie film – you DON’T do what advertising TV producers do. You CAN shoot with a 5D or GH2, and there might be less need for film insurance, permits, or big crews, lights and vehicles to transport the heavy gear etc. Just take the subway, and while you’re there, shoot a scene or two on the train with available lights…Having been an actor in Saving Private Ryan, I’m sure Edward Burns has taken note on how Steven Spielberg shoots Hollywood pictures, but also having success with his indie movies at Sundance and on iTunes, Burns obviously has figured out how to get things done in non-traditional ways. That said, folks like Ridley Scott and David Fincher and lots of other filmmakers have gained valuable experience shooting TV ads and creatively using the available bigger budgets. Sorry for being so obvious.

  • @Brock

    Please don’t get the impression I’m against you or your movie. But let’s back to the beginning. My original point was, that to all those stating “I did a movie and it only cost me $1-10k”, they ARE NOT STATING THE TRUTH, mislead a lot of people and in the end it all does a disservice to the industry.

    Lets get onto it: One thing is to say “I only paid $10k of my own pocket to do it” and another, is what the TRUE COSTS of it all were in the end.

    All those micro-budget movies rely first on FREE WORK. But if you went to sum all the hours EVERYONE INVOLVED put, and pay them at the minimum wage of $10/hr, you end up easily at $50k, just on salaries!

    Then add all the food that people eat during the pre-shooting-post, the ticket transports, the gasoline, the KWh some house owner paid for using all those 2K tungsten heads, etc etc. Then add the costs of everything that was borrowed for props, like somebody’s cars, clothes, furniture, make up, etc.
    (we shouldn include the insurances, location and fees that should have been paid/contracted, just in case… we I won’t )
    So the above together easily adds another $25k.

    Therefore in the end, the indie filmmaker might NOT HAVE PAID for all those expenses, BUT SOMEBODY DID (either directly or by NOT getting paid). Then the real cost of the movie was $10k+$50k+$25k= $85k. This means the indie filmmaker has took advantage of other people’s $75k money.
    And he even BRAGS about it (!).

    Now, what happens next? If the piece ends up being decent, it might get sold. Lets say for $75k. Then the indie filmmaker brags everywhere again, that he did a $65k profit!. Well, actually the production has NOT made any profit, but it lost $10k, as $85k is the sum of money everybody should have been paid in the beginning for their time, work and borrowed stuff.

    Had a professional production company made the film, they would have added a logical markup and wouldn’t have sold the film for less than $150k.

    The summary of the story is that a clever producer, rather than paying $150k, got the same product for just $75k, because the indie filmmaker relied on FREE LABOUR (and free everything).

    This hurts everybody. Hurts young actors, gaffers, PAs…. and it will ALSO hurt the indie filmmaker when he “graduates” and works professionally, as some student will undercut him as he did
    Somebody mentioned it here. Music labels aren’t paying $150k anymore for videos, they are rather relying on those young filmmakers (that use free labour and free everything) and are instead paying just $5k for the video. Is this a good thing?

    Now, is that saying pros are afraid of newcomers undercutting them because cheap technology has put the tools at their reach? Well, to those pros working at the lower end, yes. But not to those doing more professional work, where certain standards from the end product are to be expected (Advertising, Broadcast, etc).

    This is where I say again you CANNOT do professional work for $10k. First, as we’ve seen, because workers MUST be paid.
    Second, because you must use the proper tools: pro camera+lenses, good sound pros and their tools, powerful HMI lighting to “fight the sun outdoors” (there’s no other way around it), pro grading suite…, etc plus all the usual insurance, contracts, catering, hotels, transports, fees, etc, etc, that every professional expects to find when working.


    • @Henry

      You simply don’t get it. I can’t waist time explaining it further.

      Re: music videos. I didn’t want to correct the fellow who posted about this, but seeing as you’re taking the opportunity to stand behind it as ‘proof’ that low-no-budget filmmakers are hurting the industry, I’ll speak up.

      Do you think music videos are made for so much cheaper because of cheap cameras and students willing to do it for free? Do you think students direct Lady Gaga videos (which cost near the millions) or 50 Cent videos? The cost has come down, immensely so, in the music video business… but that’s because the audience has changed. MTV does not exist as it used to when Gondry, Jones, Fincher and Cunningham directed music videos (many of these directors were low-no budget filmmakers themselves, and that was in music video’s golden age). Viral sensations and youtube has proved to be the home of music videos. Couple that with an industry experiencing rapid change in distribution (When’s the last time anyone bought a CD? lol) and you begin to see why labels aren’t paying the millions they once were (that’s right, millions). The big names still make the big videos with the big budgets (these are often paid for by corporations in return for product placement – watch a justin bieber video and look at the technology he uses). Small bands still have small videos made with small crews and small budgets. The industry isn’t being hurt by new/cheap technology. And yeah, the professional near the bottom of the scale SHOULD be scared, because now his expensive camera and big budgets aren’t as easily justified for the budget conscious client (there’s that word again!) – talent, creativity and efficiency scares those without it.

      All the best.

      • Ben Howling on 02.28.13 @ 1:03AM

        A lot of what you said just reinforced why music videos have come down in price. You’re right, it’s not just cos of students, but the very fact a student can make a viral video for next to nothing is what gives music labels confidence that they don’t need to spend big bucks on videos anymore. The handful of big budget music videos doesn’t do anything to replenish the amount of full fee paying videos that used to be in the market. Instead you’ve gotta make $5K stretch across gear, DOP and grip, location, producer, director, catering and post costs. And these are professional jobs that people have to pitch for. And expectations haven’t become lower, they still expect a video that has the production values of a bigger budget video. That’s the pitfall, expectations haven’t been lowered to match the budgets.

        And saying “people without creativity should be scared” is a terribly arrogant thing to say. Doing a job for free isn’t a creative decision by any means, and there are very few directors who could legitimately tip their hat to being as good a DOP as an accredited ACS DOP, and a $5K budget puts you in a position to have to make that sacrifice. So wearing multiple hats comes at a cost.

        People accepting low budget jobs does hurt the industry, because it reinforces the notion that these jobs are feasible for these rates. But it can’t be stopped, because someone, somewhere, will be up for the challenge and up for calling in favours. That doesn’t change the fact that music labels still make profits whilst professional crew are working for free. It’s comparable to illegal immigrants taking cash in hand jobs for next to nothing, because they’re desperate enough to take the work, whilst their employers certainly are benefiting from the exploitation.

        • So at the same time you’re saying “These labels expectations are lower, therefore their budgets are lower” AND, at the same time, saying “They still expect a video that has the production values of a bigger budget video.” Well which one is it? Do the expect lower or expect the same at less of a budget?

          Saying ‘people without creativity’ should be scared isn’t arrogant so much as it’s true. When creativity drives a creative industry it’s a GOOD THING. Only the people of the top of the food chain churning out poor products that ‘look real good cause they have “REAL” budgets/crew/actors/equipment’ get upset and say, “Well, they didn’t use HMI’s! Their actors aren’t famous! They didn’t go to a post house!” Etc. That’s democratization of an industry and the only people crying are the people standing to lose the most. You can’t stop progress (technology or otherwise) for the sake of keeping a cushy position or maintaining a cost of production. Even if the music videos drop substantially, that means there are MORE VIDEOS able to be made.

          What you’re saying about ‘accepting low paying jobs’ is hurting the industry is not incorrect – the SPFX industry is going through that right now. A race to the bottom. But the creation of projects – no matter how small – NEVER hurts an industry, and in all my experience I’ve never seen a pro crew work for free. Never. Ever.

    • Henry,
      Let me site an example of what one creative filmmaker seems to have done on a low budget:
      It seems to me, when Bennett Miller shot, directed (and I assume recorded great audio) and edited(?) his early feature length “documentary” film about a NYC tour bus guide, it was an original idea and he did not undercut union member jobs. He did most everything, and he had one subject. Most of the film was shot on a bus and in the subject’s apartment and free NYC city environment. His subject would probably not have been qualified to be in the actor’s union at that point. Bennett Miller then shot some cool TV commercials for a hip NYC TV Production Company, then in a few years he was making films with union members on films such as Capote and MoneyBall, and directing the likes of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Brad Pitt, and I’m sure Wally Pfister got paid to DP and Aaron Sorkin made money as a screenwiter. Ask Spike Lee if he paid a union crew on his early films in Brooklyn. Did Bennett Miller hurt anybody by making a nonunion film early in his career?

  • “powerful HMI lighting to “fight the sun outdoors” (there’s no other way around it),”

    have you see the solutions in Terrence Malick’s films on how to be clever in “not fighting the sun”, but working with it, without the need of HMI light?

    And if I’m wrong, correct me, but Mr. Burns says his way of making movies give back money for his crew in the end… one thing is to be paid in advance (normal procedure in the “industry”), another is to apply your work as investiment and recieve (or not) the paycheck later -depending on the success of the film in a niche.

    Btw, Mr. Marine, have you seen the last movie by Hal Hartley? Shot with DSLR and distributed only online? lovely little movie!

    See Henry, great art being done with DSLR cameras and distributed over the web… it’s not into the “industry” norms, even costing more than U$9k, but it’s not unprofessional either. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, you don’t need spaceships or blue CGI people to reach hearts and minds. :)

    • I have not seen it yet, I’m a bit behind on Hal Hartley’s films.

    • quote—————-
      have you see the solutions in Terrence Malick’s films on how to be clever in “not fighting the sun”, but working with it, without the need of HMI light?
      / quote———-
      Ok, you’re shooting a L’OREAL commercial on the beach with two models, camera faces the sea and sun is behind the models for rim light. Now expose for the sky, for not to blow the sea and its reflections, and the model’s faces are 4+ stops underexposed. This is a commercial over shampoo and you need the models to look bright and great, so you want them 1-1.5 stops over background. How do you think you are going to get that if it’s not with a pair of 12-18K HMIs? Remember the lights won’t be naked but will go through a couple layers of diffussion, which might cut the power yet another 1-2 stops. BTW you need the shots in the can as soon as possible because in the afternoon you must do a couple more shots 50Km from that beach and there’s no time to do it any other day because the models flight next morning to Milan.

      This is how things are done in the pro world. Everything is organized and works like a swiss clock. On pre-production, the DP takes the shot list and the locations, and gives a list to the product manager of all the lighting stuff that must be on set, on each day. PAs drive producers and clients to hotels, etc etc.

      I’m not saying this is for everybody and that indies should work like that. I guess with indie stuff you wait and wait and wait till your location is available, or until you can get a screaming HMI rental deal due to cancelations, then adjust the shooting to the (free time donating) actors’ schedules and so on.
      That’s very well, but in the real world there are VERY TIGHT deadlines to meet. Your clients need the spot for next week to start the campaign, or the Broadcaster must air the docu on monday, or the studio/distributor has already started marketing for the movie that must open in a month, etc, etc.
      Magic words are always: ON TIME, WITHIN BUDGET.

      I stated already that I own a bunch of DSLRs and love to play with them, but I consider them toys for experimenting, not for real work (for which on the other hand, you need another billion things besides the damn cameras). But still, can you do professional looking work with a mark III and a 50mm? Well, yes if resolution is not critical. But still I’d require proper actors, great MUAs, good stylists, some 5600k lights, nice props…etc, not forgetting a PM and PAs that allow the work go smooth and things fall into schedule.

      So let’s see, totally unknown models/actors are €500/day, production crew €250-1,000 a piece/day…
      wait, I already blew €10k in pre-production.

      • Henry:
        “Ok, you’re shooting a L’OREAL commercial on the beach with two models, camera faces the sea and sun is behind the models for rim light”

        :D :D :D :D :D :D dear Henry, who is talking about making a commercial to a product in here? I’m start to thinking you suffer from cognitive dissonance!

        The thing is simple:
        1. henry don’t like indie movies, he can’t stant things like John Cassavetes’ “Shadows”, “Minnie and Moskowitz”, “A Woman Under the Influence”, or Aronofsky’s “PI”, or Shane Carruth’s “primer”, “Upstream Color”, or Edward Burn’s micro budget movies.

        2.henry wants that everybody see the world as he sees it.

        3.henry can’t accept there is space for industrial feature movies (and it’s a system in decadence) and for artisan kind of feature movies.

        4.Any time someone shows Henry that his arguments that THE ONLY WAY IS HIS WAY, Henry comes and shows us and example of industrial ADVERTISING FILMMAKING as a proof that MICROBUDGET movies are a SCAM!

        Sorry, Henry, but as far as I know, Terrence Malick would not shoot a L’OREAL advertising, so the fact that THERE IS SOLUTIONS to work with the sun and not fight against it with HMI expensive gear is out there, therefore, all your argument against low budget filmmaking, natural lighting filmmaking, filmmaking as an art form before being a form of commerce is bogus.

        Your are right about your arguments if we apply them to the advertising world, or to big movies with stars and lots of sets built into big studios, etc… BUT!

        but there are people that love movies as an art form, so for these people, a vision, a story with a soul, an original concept (like in Carruth’s movies), it doesn’t matter if it has a STAR in it, or if it has the best tools behind it, because if it has a vision and the author knows how to use his budget and gear and technical limitations in favor of his vision, you can get wonderful art as in some of the examples people has written in here.

        Don’t you think Mr.Carruth can make such AMAZING and thought provoking SCIENCE FICTIONS with VERY VERY low budget?? have you seen the trailer for his new flick? Doesn’t it look just GORGEOUS the images without the use of your SEXY HMI nano SUN? ;)

        So I’ll let you a question, if you feel honest about anwser it, I’ll be happy, if not, I’ll keep meing happy (since lots of chinese meditation makes me happy all day! :D)… the question is:

        why indie and micro budget and no budget filmmaking is so annoying to you in such this personal level? have you being raped by an indie or micro budget film? Share with us! :)

      • Dear Henry,
        I ARE A F!@#GK IDIOT. You have no clue about film making and your example with the L’Oreal Commercial proves it. There is a better faster and CHEAPER way to shoot it. But because people have to justify their salaries they ask for ridiculous and not necessary things. I am DP I know what I am talking about. I ALWAYS ask for the most expensive equipment when I shoot a commercial, because people like you will not take me seriously if I do not. Yet I know I could have save the production 70% of the money if they were not such an IDIOTS like you are.
        Also you seem not to be able to discuss argument in a logical way – I would you you to see a psychologist. I pity your wife ( hopefully you are single) for the poor woman has to endure such a hard head like yours.
        You are typical snobbish EU hipster who has no clue about the job and people yet treats everyone like they are lower than him. I am ashamed to call myself European because of monkeys like you.
        The whole conversation proves why America is still a better place to work. There are no idiots like you here, and people are not stupid to avoid good advice.

  • Read Rob’s BOOK; met and talked with him many times at SXSW and AUSTIN, here’s the reel deal on his first movie:

    Cost pennies to shoot…borrowed his buddy’s camera; went across border; shot mostly 1 to 2 takes; shot a lot of no dialogue insert shots; had a crew of locals and cast he paid nothing for except for his lead and a few others.

    Went back home, spent most of his budget on film processing and negative print; dubbed it to VHS, edited it on deck to deck old school machines at his college film school at night, when other students weren’t there (did that for more than a few months); took his rough copy to sell to Spanish tv in LA ( his whole intention all along) for his same budget of 25 k, maybe a bit more; dropped a copy on vhs off at an agency in LA for shits and giggles…an agent saw it, liked it, saw the potential and signed him up. They sent it to Sundance and once it got accepted; SOMEONE — NOT ROB — put the rest of the money up for a clean, film print, etc. Once it got picked up at Sundance, whoever bought it, put more money into it for theatrical release.

    Did he make EL MIRACHI for under 25 k? Damn right he did. But he never intended for it and his success to happen.

    Did the other folks put more money into it for a clean FILM PRINT and theatrical release? Damn right they did. It’s their money.

    But the truth is this; HE MADE A SUCCESSFUL, FEATURE LENGTH GENRE movie for the masses for under 25 k; and he was his own crew…and the bulk of the cast had no acting experience at all!

    So…in this digital age…with great digi cameras ( for under 5 k) able to shoot cool-looking genre features;
    what’s the big problem in this debate????? Go out and do the same, on your own, with non experienced cast and take a shot!!!!

    • Yes and then it ended up being like $250k because of post production

    • Ah ha! Good to see you’re already gtntieg somewhere with it. Insight is isn’t always necessary with NLP, but in this case, it seems to relate closely to the process.My perception is that, until now, you’ve had a need to consciously understand everything, when in fact there’s another part of you, willing to run the show and make a good job of things, without you necessarily knowing what it’s doing.So, yes. You already trust part of yourself (conscious mind), and it’s now time to learn what the other bit can do, given half a chance! The techniques in weeks 3 4 of the course are mostly drawn from New Code NLP, which is very oriented towards working with your unconscious mind.In the meantime, let’s see what it can do on its own. Keep us posted!

  • Sidewalks of New York is pretty awesome

  • This is a zero-budget short film. Cost me nothing to shoot because I worked with everyone involved on trade, already had the camera as payment to me for past videography work and did all of the post production myself:

    Pt. 2:

    Watch in 1080p and with GREAT SOUND and be amazed! :-)

  • Dear Ed,

    I was inspired to keep going by your interviews with Jeff Goldsmith on digital shooting. I am shooting this series in the same guerrilla style. If you’re shooting in NY and need help drop me a line.

    A little money can produce great results.


  • Filmmaker123 on 07.28.13 @ 2:45PM

    Technically you are both right. Those who say they made the movie for $10k, technically aren’t telling the truth. And there was a recent settlement where Interns File Suit Against ‘Black Swan’ Producer…

    This led to a settlement and other studios/production companies scrambling to quickly back pay people. Technically you are also running the risk of violating employment laws on minimum wage as well. It’s a very grey area that can get you in trouble.

    However sometimes it’s the only way it can be done. If nobody invests in your movie, you have a failed kickstarter/indiegogo campaign and don’t have any rich friends or family, you just have to scrape what you can together and go shoot with what you have. That means casting actors who will do it unpaid/deferred. At the end of the day, no great company was started without a lot of free work at the start. The guys that came up with Google, weren’t paid to program it. Neither was Microsoft or Facebook at the start. A lot of stuff starts with a few people doing all the hard work for free to cheap. And in the end, this is the American way. It’s also how people prove that they are worth being paid something. The sad reality is, until Ed Burns movies are shown to have a really large audience and sell, he’ll always be struggling to raise capital and will be shooting $9k features or whatever. There is so much money out there waiting to make more money. They are dieing to put it into something that can make a serious profit but you have to first show a track record for it. Win some awards, do something really great. I admire Ed Burns but the truth is he doesn’t understand what makes a great story. He just wants to keep shooting and starring in things and hasn’t realized yet that his writing is simply not good enough. If it was, he’d get financed. He is connected and has the following. Now he’s going to go and do his kickstarter thing and he’s just going to endlessly just be chasing his tail because his writing is not good enough. He knows how to do so much, he’s a fantastic actor but his writing is very weak and undeveloped and meaningless. It’s like he’s shooting his rough drafts and thinks they are gold. He needs to give some really great writer out there a chance at writing his next movie. Pick the best story you can find and use your connections to get it financed or to win some awards. Just my honest feedback that nobody probably will ever tell him because he is an amazing person and I do admire him, but he needs better screenplays.

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  • Gautam Narang on 08.27.14 @ 11:45AM

    How do you go around filling in a film budget with no budget? Is there a template that you can use? I’m planning in doing a web series and would like to get grants and have the business grow even though you have no budget you have to still make one right?