November 21, 2014

How to Create a High Concept Sci-Fi Short Film with No Money

Metal Gear Solid Philanthropy - No Budget Short Film
Some genres of film -- low key dramas, for example -- are relatively easy to produce with small budgets. High concept sci-fi action films, on the other hand, are not.

In 2009, Italian production company Hive Division produced Metal Gear Solid: Philanthropy, a low-budget feature length fan film based on the legendary Metal Gear game franchise. Although Hive Division was in the process of producing the second installation in the Philanthropy series, licensing issues forced them to cancel the project entirely. As one last hurrah, the Italian filmmakers produced a 12-minute short film with no budget whatsoever. Despite the distinct lack of a budget, however, they managed to create an incredibly polished and technically impressive piece. 

So without any further ado, here's Metal Gear Solid Philanthropy - Part 2.

The film's director, Giacomo Talamini, was also kind enough to send over another video which details how this short film came to life, and how his team managed to make it look so good considering their budgetary restrictions.

What's most surprising to me, especially after watching the "making of" video and seeing the DIY battery-powered LEDs that were used, is just how awesome the lighting of this piece is, especially on a few of the exterior shots. Although some areas of the screen occasionally fall off into black, the sparsely lit, high contrast look lends a distinctive and effective aesthetic to this particular piece. In a way, the lack of high-powered cinema lights -- or even low-powered cinema lights, for that matter -- actually benefitted the filmmakers by forcing them to use the few lights they did have very wisely. And that's exactly what they did.

I may not know much about Metal Gear Solid, or gaming in general, so I can't really speak to the content of the short film, but from a technical filmmaking perspective, what Giacomo and his team accomplished with MGS Philanthropy: Part 2 is incredibly impressive. It's a testament to the power of the tools that filmmakers have at their disposal these days, and it's an even larger testament to what filmmakers can create in spite of not having any money.

If you have questions for Giacomo and his team, leave them down in the comments!     

Your Comment

21 Comments

What other gear did you use on your camera setup? I think I spotted a SmallHD monitor?

November 21, 2014 at 4:58PM

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Alex Forey
Student Filmmaker
95

Hey everyone, sorry I didn't reply sooner. For some reasons, I checked the article for a few days and see no comments, so I just replied to whoever was asking questions on NFS's Facebook page. Better late than never, I hope!
The monitor is not a Small HD, it's a way less expensive model we bought on coolLCD. I'll ask Mattia the exact model tomorrow.
Besides that, there are a few Lanparte (shoulder mount, quick release plate) and RedRockMicro (matte box, hand grips...) rig components. Everything was powered using the same lithium batteries we used for the lights!
We also had an Atomos Ninja with us, in order to record proxies, but it turned out to be unreliable when matched with the ML firmware we were using, so we stopped using it early in the works.

December 5, 2014 at 8:09PM

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Giacomo Talamini
Founder and Director, Hive Division S.r.l.
137

fantastic work guys.. I love the special effects.

November 22, 2014 at 2:41AM

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Its unfortunate that you couldn't continue what looked to be a very ambitious project (I saw the first part of Philanthropy a few years back it was very well done).

The thing is I've been developing a Metal Gear fan film for a few years and then I read that your project had to be cancelled due to licensing issues... does that mean anybody doing a fan film of Metal Gear cannot release their film without being officially authorised? or is it just crowdfunding that they wouldn't allow you to participate in?

All the best,
Anthony
www.loftworksdigital.com

November 22, 2014 at 8:02AM, Edited November 22, 8:02AM

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Anthony Pearce
Storyteller & Studier of all things!
91

Hey Anthony!
Potentially, ANY fan film can be stopped at any given moment. It almost never happens simply because killing a community-driven project is a PR suicide for a game publisher... and because the developers typically appreciate fan content.
Unfortunately, with the Hollywood adaptation supposedly under development, it's not a great time for MGS fan films from a legal standpoint.

December 5, 2014 at 8:17PM

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Giacomo Talamini
Founder and Director, Hive Division S.r.l.
137

I love me some Metal Gear. MGSV HYPE

November 22, 2014 at 9:02AM

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Well, I`m a huge Metal Gear fan and what I can tell you is that they did an incredible job not only technically but storywise and also has captured the essence of an MGS game.

Congratulations to Hive! They`re awesome!

November 22, 2014 at 1:16PM, Edited November 22, 1:16PM

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Fernando
109

Thanks Fernando!

December 5, 2014 at 8:17PM

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Giacomo Talamini
Founder and Director, Hive Division S.r.l.
137

I have hopes this actual experience helps each person who had a hand in making the film, a respectable note of experience on your resumes! Great job.

November 23, 2014 at 12:47AM

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Gilly
237

Really impressive effort, and visually stunning. The relatively weak ADR really took me out of it though.

November 23, 2014 at 12:27PM

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They really hit the MGS tone. I love it, great job! :D

November 24, 2014 at 5:37AM

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Sandro Schreiber
Filmmaker, Student
90

AWSM!

November 26, 2014 at 6:02PM

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Revilo von Asur
Producer/Writer/Designer/Musician/Director of Photography
103

This is such an eye-opener, it sheds light on how a small crew can create an awesome film, and the look you guys achieved was impressive. You mentioned it was a no-budget film. I would like to know exactly how much you spent

November 30, 2014 at 10:27AM, Edited November 30, 10:27AM

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Oladapo Bamidele
Director/Writer
95

Hey Oladapo! I don't have the exact number but it was something in the range of 4k to 6k €. I'm just talking live expenses here, everyone involved worked for free.

December 5, 2014 at 8:27PM

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Giacomo Talamini
Founder and Director, Hive Division S.r.l.
137

It's nicely done, but contrary to the opinion of the most here, I don't think it hits the MGS essence. Just a personal opinion though.

December 4, 2014 at 12:29PM

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Mebil Rosales
Director, Screenwriter, Editor.
106

Question: It's repeated several times that this was an extremely low budget project, could you qualify that, or rather quantify it? What is extremely low budget in this instance?

December 5, 2014 at 12:33PM, Edited December 5, 12:33PM

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Hey Allan, like I said to Oladapo, it's something in the range of 4k to 6k €, live expenses only (food, accomodation, gas, costumes, props, permits, etc.)

December 5, 2014 at 8:29PM, Edited December 5, 8:29PM

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Giacomo Talamini
Founder and Director, Hive Division S.r.l.
137

BTW, if anyone wants to know more about those battery-powered LEDs we used on set, we just put online a quick tutorial :)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZV9FtyByM7g

December 5, 2014 at 8:35PM

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Giacomo Talamini
Founder and Director, Hive Division S.r.l.
137

How much was the total budget of this movie ? Looks atleast $10000. Which is actually pricey.

March 14, 2015 at 5:14AM

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Very impressive, especially the VFX!

Can you tell something more about the scope of the VFX? How many days were spent in post-production and how many people worked on it?

March 14, 2015 at 7:01AM

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Where did you shoot your movie, I understood that it was an italian war museum? The location looks really MGS Ground Zeroes. How much did you pay for the location per day? Was it expensive?

March 14, 2015 at 8:56AM

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Pia Grey
Producer
74