This post was written by Dan Hasson.
My name is Dan Hasson. I am the writer and director of the feature film, When Are You Moving Out? The film was made with my good friend and producing partner, Tom O’Brien, who also starred in the main role. It's a film that took advantage of what we had access to, turning it all into part of the story. The film centers on two best friends moving in together, but disagreements about cleaning and house parties are destined to drive them apart.
That was it, just Tom and I. We had no crew so that forced us to wear many hats. The film was made for approximately $3,611. This covers food, equipment, and post-production. That is a lot of money to any individual. However, by feature film standards, this is a no-budget film, and yet we succeeded in getting it made and then securing an international distribution deal.
So how could you get your film made and distributed across video-on-demand (VOD) platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Vimeo in the USA and Canada? Below is a guide to how we worked to achieve this with When Are You Moving Out? in an approach that utilizes what we had access to. By following these steps and utilizing what you have access to, you too could be on your way to making your own film and securing international distribution!
If the approach is taking stock of what you have, then start with locations and follow with character and story.
Where do you live? Where do your friends and family live? My parents had a house that they were kind of enough to let us use. They live on suburban streets, near a field and near a beach (we shot the film in Brighton and Hove, UK, if you’re wondering). That’s a handful of locations we could use already.
We decided that Tom and I would be the leads. Tom has some acting experience, and I don’t.
However, I love film, I work in the industry as a 2nd Assistant Director and so see plenty of actors work on a daily basis. Tom and I are already good friends. Therefore the film should be about two good friends. We have the house as a location, so this developed into two best friends living together.
Credit: Dan Hasson
There are two best friends living together, but what’s the story? Why do they live together? Have they just moved in together? Yes!
Now some drama. Tom and I have both lived with friends in flat shares and know what it’s like. For example, someone not washing up is a pain. So is loud drum and bass at 2 a.m. when you’ve got to get up for work in a few hours.
Through this, I wrote one character who is messy and loud and one who is the stark opposite, and this branches off to many possible storylines. While the writing process was somewhat more complicated than that, by asking these types of questions, I was able to develop the story that I turned into the 90-page screenplay that eventually became When Are You Moving Out?
We took stock of what we already had instead of spending money on the latest equipment, not that we had a budget to dive into anyway. Below is a list of the main equipment we used to make the film.
I had a 14-year-old Canon 5D Mark ii. I installed the Magic Lantern hack to shoot in RAW (which I converted to ProRes 4444 for the film’s masters).
I owned three lenses and just settled on one (that’s right, one lens). A Nikon 28mm f2.8 stills lens. Why? It was a good lens to shoot wides, mids, and close-ups. Additionally, there was no time wasted changing lenses as we didn’t have a long schedule. I also just love the way the lens gave the film its own look.
Credit: Dan Hasson
I had a camera rig I bought off eBay for $40, so I could operate handheld too.
Alongside this, I bought a Manfrotto tripod, the biggest expense (around $400) of the grip equipment. It was bought way before the film was even written for other projects but I still include it in the film's budget.
We used natural lights through windows, the sun for exteriors, and one small LED light that cost $10 on eBay. However, the LED light was only used in a handful of shots in the final cut.
I already owned a Zoom H4N Pro (around $150), a small Sennheiser shotgun mic (around $80), and two radio mics that cost less than $30.
However, some scenes had three characters. For these scenes, I would make sure that there were only two characters in a shot, and if there had to be three, one character would not have minimal dialogue or we would ADR their lines.
This resourceful method I had the confidence for through discussions with the film's sound designer/mixer, Robert Newman, in pre-production. We discussed how the production sound would be recorded and the best working practices to provide Robert with what he would need to do his job.
Credit: Dan Hasson
I wanted to keep the shooting ratio down and not waste hard drive space. We shot the film like a finite resource. To do this, we rehearsed a lot. This allowed us to record each shot in a take or two.
Because it was shot in RAW on the Canon 5D Mark ii, we couldn’t play back each shot with ease. We made sure we knew what we were doing and trusted in the process.
When developing the story and characters for When Are You Moving Out? we knew that costumes could incur a large cost and therefore eat into the minimal budget we had. As such, we knew it had to be a film set in contemporary times. This allowed us to use each actor’s own clothes for the characters which kept costume costs to nothing.
Of course, if you are shooting a period piece, then it's unlikely that you could keep a costume budget this low. Rentals, charity shop finds and lots of research in pre-production could help here!
Hair and makeup
Similarly to our costume budget, setting the film in contemporary times allowed us to not have to spend money on hair. Each actor kept their own hairstyle for continuity. The only major aspect of this department was my character's beard, which he has for the last third of the film. I grew the beard over pre-production and we scheduled and shot any scenes required first.
Again, with makeup, the actors in the movie didn’t require makeup in part due to their characters and the type of personalities I had written for them, and again to the nature of the story, it wasn’t essential for any one character to require makeup.
Credit: Dan Hasson
Art department and props
I might be beginning to sound like a broken record here, but because we chose to set our film in the present-day, and because no main plot point hindered on any prop we did not have access to, we were able to keep costs low in this department and utilize what we had already.
This was part of the writing process too. We had bicycles. Tom had an old laptop. We had cooking equipment. So these were all used in the story. But really the story was about two young guys moving in together, so they wouldn’t have much, anyway!
I had a 2015 MacBook with 8GB of RAM (definitely not enough). It did everything I needed it to do but the entire production process certainly did take its toll on the laptop.
Industry-standard editing softwareDaVinci Resolve has a free version that I used to cut and grade the entire project. Not only is it free, but it’s a powerful tool to use for every step of the editing process. It allowed me to export AAF files of the project's sound to Avid’sProTools for the sound designer/mixer Robert to work on.
For the grading process, DaVinci Resolve has brilliant and powerful tools to get what I wanted out of the image. I additionally paid for theFilmConvert plugin to grade alongside the tools that come with the software. This enabled me to get more of the desired look that I wanted for the movie at a cost that suited our budget.
Festivals and distribution
We submitted When Are You Moving Out? to a few festivals. We aimed high (Sundance, Slamdance) and got rejected. We also submitted to some smaller festivals and we were selected by four. This was great!
All of the festivals that we submitted to were done through the websiteFilmFreeway. Some cost money to enter, and others were free. In total, we paid $220 to enter a total of eight festivals. All of this was done to try and reach distributors in the hopes of securing a distribution deal.
We also submitted the film directly to distributors. We researched companies, wrote cover letters, and hit send. A few months passed and we got a reply—we did it! An international distribution deal was offered to us for When Are You Moving Out? We negotiated a contract and secured a VOD release on platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Vimeo across the USA and Canada.
Credit: Dan HassonThe steps above are simple enough, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t problems during each part of production. We had initially cast actors with formal acting experience but each one dropped out due to personal reasons. So who did we get to fill the roles? Friends and family!
Because of our resourceful audio approach during production and having to wear so many hats on the day, our focus wasn’t always on one specific department. A downside to this was highlighted in the post-production process when I realized that for some sound files, the levels were all over the place! One crucial scene towards the end was saved by the sound designer/mixer, Robert’s, hard work and skill set. He mixed the whole scene’s dialogue to play from one of two actors’ radio mics. At times other equipment broke down too, but we didn’t let that stop us (although I certainly wanted to at the time).
So what’s my point here?
While the steps listed above are simple in theory, this doesn’t mean that shooting a movie will be easy. Things will go wrong, equipment will break, and an unpredictable amount of situations may arise that seem daunting. However, by following these steps, you’ll be able to work towards making your movie in a way that doesn’t break the bank, doesn’t require a large crew, and could get your film into film festivals and secure international distribution.
No studio executive or producer is waiting for you to go out and make a film. You have to go out there and do it in any way you can. Don’t sit around saying something like, “I would make my film if…”
There is always an "if" that could get in your way. Don’t let it. Use what is available to you to make your movie.
Tom and I made sure from the start that the most important thing was we enjoyed making the film and enjoyed the final film. Then anything else would be a bonus. The fact that we got film festival recognition and secured international distribution for our debut film really was a bonus.
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