Dear Micro-Budget Filmmaker,
Like many of you, I know what it’s like to make a dollar out of fifteen cents and also know how it feels to be overlooked due in part to a lack of resources. We all know there are so many great films made for so very little, and not nearly enough recognition of these highly creative and passionate endeavors. They end up getting lost on hard drives or Amazon and iTunes.
I've produced, written, and directed three micro-budget features over the past ten years and like many, have experienced ever-changing distribution and exhibition realities. Streamers currently dominate. Foreign and home video sales have dissolved. Although incredible advancements in digital tech now allow many to execute their visions more easily and obtain production value at lower cost, this lower bar to entry has led to significant saturation of the market.
As a filmmaker with a creative hunger, when multiple attempts at old-fashioned development with industry folks who express interest go nowhere, you can grow tired of having to keep waiting for approval, of not being selected by the “Big Boys”. The micro-budget filmmaker isn't interested in living in development, they’re interested in making films...with whatever they have.
It’s an awesome, courageous act in the face of uncertainty and most respect you for pulling the trigger. But waiting on the other side of production and post are more challenges: major film festivals are tough to get into, significant distributors and buyers need big names to get sales and theaters usually charge too much to 4-wall your film. It’s difficult to compete with institutions that have millions of dollars for big names and marketing campaigns behind them.
But the micro-budget filmmaker isn’t interested in giving up: the same creativity applied to your film is applied to your DIY marketing and releasing campaigns—you begin to build a small audience, start getting into some mid-level festivals and likely find a small distributor that makes sense. It starts to all feel like it was worth it. The film is released and whatever audience you managed to target purchases it, or watches it for free with ads, and then… let’s be honest again—it proceeds to get lost in the mix with many others.
Alright, THIS is where I want to add something new and unique to the typical, gloomy micro-budget ending.
For me, this has led to a lot of contemplation on how to reach audiences that are interested in discovering fresh voices, ready to reward craft and efficiency over celebrities and brand.
So, I’ve decided to create an event designed around the current marketplace which evaluates and celebrates micro-budget filmmakers and their films, a space I believe needs filling. This is a new approach to the typical festival model we’re all so used to, a March Madness bracket-style competition entitled The Micro Film Tournament: A 16 film, 4 round tournament dedicated to micro-budget filmmakers who’ve made the most with the least.
Each round is meant to resemble an aspect of the current real-world marketplace a film faces. We want to see your latest but we also encourage you to blow the dust off any older projects you may have. Forget allowing it to be buried—revive it. Also consider submitting your short, as long as it works as a proof of concept for a feature film you would like to make down the line.
On the way to my office every day I pass by a quote on the wall by Frank Capra that says, “Don’t follow trends, start them.” I figured I’d take a shot and create what I’d like to be a part of: an event that celebrates and recognizes the hungry, scrappy filmmaker and their films. This is for the new film you just finished, the one that never fully got the love it deserved and for the one you haven’t shot yet but can’t get out of your head. It’s also a great way to test your film against the current marketplace.
This tournament may not be the answer to all the issues I've listed above, but it feels like a push in the right direction. I’m very excited about what could come of this and the network we might be able to build through a shared value of efficient, well-crafted film-making. We very much look forward to seeing and sharing your work!
The Micro Film Tournament
The Micro Film Tournament takes place November 5 - 8, 2020 in Burbank CA. Submit Now
Criteria FEATURE FILMS must be shot for less than $250K. No film age limit so please also submit your past project that may just be sitting on a shelf waiting for a revival. 16 feature films will compete for a Grand Prize and with a variety of rewards through each round, where 8 finalists screen their film in Los Angeles over 3 days. (The first 16 will be chosen by our diverse committee of programmers, the only selections WE make.)
SHORTS can be any length or budget but must also work as a proof of concept for a feature film you would like to make down the line. We will also invite 4 of the final 8 filmmakers to take part in a filmed roundtable to discuss their micro-budget process, among many other sponsored events. We’re constantly tweaking so please check in for updates as we move forward.
How it Works
- ROUND 1: 16 feature films are selected by an online audience who vote on the films key art and synopsis- just like a VOD consumer deciding what to watch.
- QUARTERFINALS: 8 features and 8 shorts are selected by a committee of working industry professionals that support our cause - i.e. producers and filmmakers of major Hollywood films who will view and critique the remaining films to determine which ones move on to the final 4.
- SEMIFINALS: 4 features and 4 shorts are reviewed by a pool of film critics on a 5-star system with the top 2 overall averages moving on to the final round.
- FINALS: The 2 remaining films are voted on by a live audience attending the closing night double feature.
Source: The Micro Film Tournament