What does it take to make a successful feature film that gets a Hollywood premiere and international distribution? A lot less than you might think.
My name is Zander Weaver. My brother Elliot and I have just spent the last 5 years directing and producing my debut feature film, COSMOS—a contemporary sci-fi adventure that explores the thrilling first hours of first contact when 3 amateur astronomers intercept what they believe is a faint signal from an alien race, stumbling upon something potentially world-changing. It’s a small, contained film, set over one night, that explores how our search for answers "out there" brings out the best in us "down here".
What’s cool about COSMOS, though, is that it had zero budget. We had no money set aside and no financial support. We did spend money, of course—approximately $7,000 (completely out of our own pocket)—buying some gear, software, food, petrol, and paying for location electricity, but that expenditure, for a feature film, is incredibly low. Some short films have budgets of $30K+, so to make a full feature with a fraction of that, by industry definition, is “no budget”.
So, how did we do it? Better yet...how did this “MacGyver movie” made by 3 people, shot in a friend’s garage on a $600 camera using 3 LED lights and decade-old software get bought by the leading global distributor of indie entertainment, have a Hollywood premiere, a US theatrical run, and worldwide VOD release?
In an effort to liberate, inspire and entertain (at our own expense!), we’re going to share how we tackled production and take a look at the most amusing no budget elements of COSMOS that will hopefully make you realize that you probably already have everything you need to make your own film.
But before we do, let's look at the results:
And here’s a featurette where we explain why and how we made a movie this way.
As the featurette above explains, we did almost everything on COSMOS ourselves. We could talk about each step in detail, but the goal of this article is to show you that you don’t need the latest and greatest gear to make a movie that gets released and in front of paying audiences. If you feel trapped and disenfranchised by a lack of financial backing, pro gear, and industry connections...so did we...and COSMOS is what we did about it.
So here’s our no-budget checklist for COSMOS—part entertaining, part ridiculous, and hopefully part inspiring, too.
1. $600 Camera
We shot COSMOS entirely on the original 1080p Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (it’s “OG” and so are we!) and not once...not once...did our distributor ask us what we shot on or what resolution we’d deliver in. We shot in standard HD 1080p 24fps 172.8 shutter in ProResLT and our cinema DCP (which we made ourselves) was upscaled to 2K in DaVinci Resolve...and I kid you not, we’ve had professional camera operators, DPs and producers ask if we shot on Alexa or Epic.
2. 2 Lenses: 1 Old, 1 Cheap
90% of COSMOS was shot on an unmodified 1960’s Sands Hunter 28mm stills lens. Why? Because we already owned it and we liked how it looked. The exposure ring clicks. It blooms too much when wide open and the focus wheel is stiff...but can anyone tell? No. The other 10% was shot on a cheap Tamron 18-200 zoom we bought off Amazon for less than $100.
3. $5 Homemade Camera Rig
There are 2 types of rigs:
- The eye-wateringly expensive type, precision milled from aerospace metal
- The dirt-cheap type that snaps on first use
After many frustrating hours of research I decided to make my own. I went to my local hardware store, picked up some off-cut wood, copper piping, and plumbing fixtures. A bit of sawing, drilling, and screwing later, we had what we needed. I made a detachable shoulder support with exercise ankle-weights for counterbalance and added a field monitor, follow focus ($25 on Amazon), a cardboard extended matte box, and voila!
It’s not the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, but it’s robust and reliable and never let us down across the entire shoot. Total customization, total flexibility, total affordability.
4. Wheelchair Dolly
Short story—we went to the thrift store where they had a broken keyboard and a kneeboard. We bought neither, but we did buy a wheelchair and used it as a makeshift camera dolly. We’re not the first to do this, and we certainly shouldn’t be the last because it works. We did have a 1m Konova Slider which we put to use rigorously, and we also occasionally resorted to the tried and tested method of sliding the camera along on a towel.
5. Leaf-Blower Wind Machine
I mean what more is there to say? Just ask your actors to look up into the vast night sky in awe and then blast dusty, hot air in their eyes from the battered old leaf-blower from your garage. That’s showbiz, kid!
6. 3 LED Lights
Our FULL lighting kit on COSMOS consisted of 3 LED panel lights and (sometimes!) a 2kW Blonde used exclusively on night exteriors when we had main power supply (which was rarely).
We shot an entire forest night sequence with only 3 LED panel lights, limiting the lighting to the immediate surroundings—but we used it to our advantage to create an isolating, lonely feel. Just 3 guys in the middle of nowhere—what’s beyond in the deep dark woods? We’d bounce practical torchlight off reflectors or, when shooting around the car, use the headlights themselves to help fill the space.
Inside the car, things were even more interesting. The 3 LEDs were used exclusively for “moonlight” backlight through windows. The interior of the car was lit completely practically or with supplementary “creative” solutions like iPads screens and phone torches. This suited us perfectly. Adjusting a lighting setup became a matter of switching desk lamps on and off or moving an iPad around. An actor not in the frame might hold the iPad in the right position to light the shot for us and we used a simple app to select the colored light we were looking for. Adjusting the screen brightness to control its intensity, we were sorted. All computer screens and ambient colored light were achieved in this way.
So again, limited gear required us to think creatively, but it never stopped us.
7. Garage "Studio"
For 33 days of our 55-day shoot, we filmed in a triple garage lent to us by a generous friend. We parked our car inside, put up a black cyc, turned off all the working lights, and lit the car interiors with our practicals and 3 LEDs. Every single scene inside the car, including driving sequences, were filmed in this garage.
8. Actors' Wardrobe
Literally, all costumes featured in the film (with the exception of the Astro-Nut caps) were the actors' own clothes. We raided their wardrobes and created combinations that suited our story: COSMOS follows 3 intelligent space scientists and their clothing should reflect their character. These guys aren’t scruffy nerds covered in Cheeto dust; they’re smart astronomers and take pride in their appearance. We fixed on a cool-casual look that would be practical to wear “out in the field”.
9. Pre-Owned Props
No-budget filmmaking 101: only write props into your script that you already have access to OR can be easily made. Volvo car: already owned. Computer monitors/ torches/ desk lamps/ cables: already owned. Super-Telescope: add VFX glass to the open end of a tripod flight case. Alien-finding antenna: turn Dedo lamp stands upside down and add blinking LEDs. Car-mounted aerials: mount a monopod to the roof of the car and use an actual umbrella with gold mesh to double as a real “umbrella-dish”. Computer car workstations: buy some wood, build two wobbly desks and spray them blue so no-one notices them while watching the film.
10. Final Cut Pro 7 & Color 2
We cut and sound-mixed the entire movie on 2009’s FCP7. Why? You guessed it...we already owned it. Could you tell? No. Can anyone tell? No. Bong Joon-Ho cut Parasite on FCP7...did it matter to the Academy? No. No one cares. Many filmmakers scratch their heads at this, but in its day, FCP7 was an industry leader. If it was good enough for David Fincher and the Coens, it's good enough for us.
It’s the talent, not the tools, that matter.
We graded the entire movie in Apple Color 2 as it came in our old Final Cut Studio 2 package from way back when. It can keyframe and power window and do LUTs and it worked perfectly.
11. Free VFX Software
Blender3D is a free open source VFX powerhouse. COSMOS has approximately 170 VFX shots all single-handedly modeled, rotoscoped, composited, and rendered by yours truly over 12 months. Snobs would have you believe Blender is the poor man’s Maya or 3dsMax, and I would argue that unless you’re skilled enough to know how to use the additional features of paid software, don’t bother getting them.
It’d be like learning to drive in a V12 muscle car—it’s overkill (and dangerous!). This analogy in itself is a disservice to Blender3D, as it’s already in prolific use by VFX houses all over the world.
12. Homebrewed Foley
In a soundproof tent constructed from broom poles and beach towels, between the hours of midnight and 4 am over a period of 4 months, Elliot single-handedly designed and recorded every single sound effect you hear in COSMOS. He then edited and mixed over 66,000 individual foley effects into the film on 100 FCP7 audio tracks. It took him working 5 days per week for 18 months.
13. 3-Strong Crew
This is as insane as it sounds. During pre-production, it was just Elliot and myself. Our core crew during the shoot jumped up to 3 as our Mom joined us to do hair, make-up, and continuity (and often slated shots and took BTS stills!).
Post-production took 3 years and was just Elliot and myself with our composer joining us for 3 months of scoring. We took responsibility for everything. Every location, every prop, every costume, every phone call, rigged and de-rigged every piece of gear, set every light, every camera focus mark, and every mic placement. Marked the clapperboard, charged the batteries, kept the smoke machine warm, and made sure the background haze wasn’t too thick or thin. We directed the actors and watched their performances, kept track of script continuity and dialogue accuracy.
We backed up every shot. Synced and edited every take and made every cut. Graded every shot. Designed and track laid every sound effect. Mixed a cinema grade 5.1. Created every visual effect. Approved every piece of music. Made the exports and DCPs. Delivered them for QC. Designed and painted the poster. Cut half a dozen trailers and teasers. Built an online community and shared our BTS to inspire fellow filmmakers. Answered every DM, replied to every comment. Reached out to every blog or publication, wrote every article (including this one)... and still it continues.
90% of COSMOS was a 2-man movie studio, and honestly, it feels like my brain is on fire. But I’m also liberated. I feel unstoppable. We’re indie rebels who’ve finally made their movie without having to convince anyone or ask for permission or funding. We’ve won.
So, what’s my point here?
My point is this: you don’t need quality gear to make a quality film. You may watch COSMOS and not like the story (that’s subjective) and you may have told it differently if it was your film, but it’s hard to argue with the high level of production value for a no-budget movie made by 3 people.
How was this possible? A painfully simple answer: hard work. Not money or contacts or industry favors or million-dollar gear or even natural-born talent...just hard work.
What does that mean for you? Hopefully, it’s inspiring and liberating. Yes, it would be great to have a RED Epic (some of you probably do), but that’s not enough. You need to work hard. And you need examples that show you hard work will be and is enough. There are many films that prove this and hopefully COSMOS is now one of them.
My advice to you would be to stop delaying and stop making excuses. (I’m not saying you are...but if you are, stop.) Grab the gear you have and push it and yourself to the limits. Stop waiting for that Alexa or for when you can shoot in 6K instead of 4K. None of that will make your film more engaging and impactful.
Tools are an amazing enabler, but quality gear will never guarantee a quality outcome. Playing the same Fender as Jimi Hendrix won’t make you a Guitar Hero. Wearing the same running shoes as Usain Bolt won’t win you Olympic Gold. And shooting on the same camera as Roger Deakins won’t make you an Oscar winner. It’s the artist using those tools that matters and their understanding of craft.
Craft can’t be cheated. Craft can’t be inherited. Craft can’t be bought from a gear supplier. Even talent without craft is just potential. Craft is honed through hard work.
We were able to make COSMOS because we honed our craft through hard work.
If two brothers from the UK with no money, no industry help, homemade gear, and a camera/lens combo most would laugh off set can make a feature film that was bought by a leading global distributor who saw enough potential to stage a Hollywood premiere and finance a US theatrical run and worldwide VOD release...then you can, too.
Hone your craft, work hard, grab your camera and get it done. Good luck and I can’t wait to see your movie!
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Congratulations. Well done and inspiring to have done it with the budget that you did. Just to be clear A24, and Magnolia pictures, are the worlds top Indie Distributors not the one you got to distribute your film. People talking up their films here on nofilmschool recently is fine and all but I was curious so i paid and downloaded this film. I think it's proof that half the battle is just making your film. Making a film worth making is a whole nother topic. And one that should be focused on. Probably 60% of the films made are really a waste of time and resources, and making a film just to say "hey look at me, I made a film," should not be the criteria.
April 21, 2020 at 10:12AM
We didn't say "the worlds top indie distributors" but apologies it should say "a leading" in both instances in the articles (it says "the leading" higher up and "a leading" in the outro), but regardless Gravitas Ventures is a leading worldwide film distributor. Also the merit of film worthiness is subjective, whether a film is worth someone's time or resources is really up to them
April 21, 2020 at 10:50AM
True enough. And really what is cool is that you guys didn't feel like the gear had to be top-of-the-line or even have a bigger crew etc.. you proved that all those "necessities" are bullshit compared to the hunger, the desire, and the idea. I also get that this was a stepping stone for you guys to make further work so all in all very well done and you should be proud! The fact that most films are a waste of resources is true even on the biggest level so ... But that's just something that needs to be out there. My view at least 60% of movies serve next to no purpose and should not be made. That being said your movie didn't take many resources and I would argue it deserved to be made and help set you on your career. So well done.
April 21, 2020 at 11:38AM
Hey man, I thought I'd look into your history on this website, and I think 90% of your comments is so very negative. Try to view things a in a more positive way and lighten up a little. You might say that 60% of the films is a waste of time and resources, but who are you to judge. I knew after 10 seconds of seeing this trailer that it was worthwhile and an impressive achievement.
April 24, 2020 at 3:09AM
Good article! Filmmaking with no financial backing boils down to lots of hard work. Blackmagic cameras are great low budget solutions that produce wonderful images for the money. I'm using my bmcc on my film "Girl, Yeti, and a Spaceship".
Blender is absolutely wonderful for making great effects and 3d models and it's free! I think that hard work and spending years doing all the post production yourself is what's required when you don't have a budget. I used Blender, Final Cut Pro 7, and Color on my first movie "Space Trucker Bruce". I'm currently spending 2 years modeling, animating and compositing the spaceship scenes for my new movie "Girl Yeti and a Spaceship". The toughest part for me with these indie projects is spending 6 years creating it. I'm not sure if there's a faster way given all the work that needs to be done, also working full time, and only so many hours in the day. The amount of work really necessitates being happy with the script. Hard to put in all that work if you don't love what you're making,
April 21, 2020 at 11:52AM
Thrilled you enjoyed it Anton - thanks for reading. You're totally right, our number one tip for anyone who asks is LOVE the story you're telling. Cus when the times get tough and you're truly tested, if you don't love it then you won't have the motivation to follow through. You sound like you know exactly where we're coming from. Please do reach out to us on social media, would be cool to connect :)
April 23, 2020 at 6:46AM
That was a great article, thanks and congratulations. I've have always believed that necessity is the mother of invention... I have never done a project of any type (not just video) that was "overfunded". It keeps you thinking, learning and hungry. Those things combined with tenacity and hard work often produce amazing results. And Rory Sopoci-Belknap nobody gives a rats ass what you think is a waste of time and resources...
April 21, 2020 at 12:25PM
Just an update...went over to Amazon Prime and watched the whole movie. Incredible job guys .... really enjoyed it. Great story, visuals and sound design ... it feels like a "big" film. So is Chris Davey a friend of yall's? .... How did you get someone with that kind of talent score your picture for free!!!!! Again ...nice job.
April 21, 2020 at 9:48PM
Hey Michael - thanks so much for checking out the film on Amazon! Ah, that's awesome. Really appreciate your support. Furthermore, we're thrilled that you enjoyed it! How wonderful.
Chris Davey was an incredible find - we'd done some groundwork with some old friends of ours who wrote some theme concepts for the film and fully intended to score the whole project. Unfortunately work commitments got in the way and so they couldn't commit the time required, we therefore needed to find another UK based composer who could take over where they left off. Enter Chris Davey. We managed to find him at the right time, found an agreement regarding deferred payment etc - he loved the project and was keen to get involved and he worked his socks off for us. We turned the score around in 3 months and enjoyed every minute of the close collaboration we had with him. He's since gone on to score spots for Avengers Endgame, trailers for Doctor Sleep, Planet Earth, BBCs War of the Worlds, Woman in the Window and more. We can truly say, we knew him when. http://www.chrisdaveyfilm.com/
April 23, 2020 at 6:44AM
Amazing job on this!! I see some people who suggest that some films aren’t worth making. It’s always the same, usually someone without a single credit on IMDb. Lol. I’ve been in the film business for 30 plus years and can tell you, as I’m sure you know, it’s hard to make any movie, good or bad. This looks amazing and I’m sure we’ll see a lot more from you in the future. Love to see people doing it on talent and not using money as a crutch. Way to go!!
April 23, 2020 at 6:25PM
Thanks Dan, that means a huge amount to us. Especially from someone with your level of experience. As you've said making a film is an incredible challenge, especially with no support, having made Cosmos I find it hard to criticise other filmmakers work. It's a miracle any movie gets made and whilst we can learn from each others mistakes, I think it's important that we hold each other up and build a community of support with one another. Thanks again for your kind words - hopefully we can connect on social media? That'd be swell.
April 24, 2020 at 6:07AM
Congrats, and I agree, it's not the gear but the content. I've known a lot of independent filmmakers making it and got distribution deals not because of the gear but because of the story/content, and these are all no budget feature films.
April 21, 2020 at 1:34PM
Thanks Johnny, really appreciate it. You're quite right and we must always remember that - content comes first x
April 22, 2020 at 6:01PM
This site desperately needs lots more stories like this one. THANK YOU for reporting it! A joy to read and to watch.
April 21, 2020 at 3:57PM
Daniel - thank you sir! Really appreciate the support and positive comment. Please do reach out to us on social media using the links in the article, would love to talk more - we're working to build a community of likeminded filmmakers x
April 22, 2020 at 6:01PM
Excellent work and writeup. There was just discussion at BMD forum about do we need new gear this year from BMD and you show excellent example why what we already have is more than enough. https://forum.blackmagicdesign.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=111599
April 21, 2020 at 10:31PM
Hi Kim, thanks for this - really glad you enjoyed the article. The whole topic of new gear vs old gear is always interesting. New gear can obviously bring about wonderful new opportunities for storytelling but ultimately the opportunities already available to us are abundant with the equipment most of us have to hand. Hopefully Cosmos will help someone out there with this kind decision making, who knows :) thanks for reading x
April 22, 2020 at 6:00PM
Really inspiring story. I loved the featurette and the trailer looks really good. Nice to see the OG BMPCC getting some love. That was my first camera and I absolutely love the images it can create.
I'll be watching it this weekend after my finals are done.
I am curious what you did for audio. What mic and recorder did you use?
April 21, 2020 at 11:34PM, Edited April 21, 11:34PM
Hey Kent, thrilled you enjoyed the trailer and featurette - the original BMPCC is a thing of beauty and served us incredibly well on this project. We actually managed to arrange a giveaway of a BMPCC 6K recently with Blackmagic, we were amazed they were willing to support us. Just goes to show the values of the company. I think you've reached out to us on social media (and I'll respond tomorrow morning, a little early here) but to quickly answer your audio question:
We used a Zoom H4n audio recorder and a Sennheisser 416 mic. While I was shooting, Elliot would record sound or vice versa. Hope that helps (and looking forward to talking more) x
April 22, 2020 at 5:57PM
1. Zoom H4n or Zoom H4n Pro? (The link is to Pro.*)
2. Did you use any audio from a shotgun on the camera?
3. Did you use any lavalier mics, and if so, which?
4. Presumably the Sennheisser 416 was on a boom, using typical mic placements?
*Huh! The website here automatically put in a link on my post after I posted it!
April 29, 2020 at 3:13AM, Edited April 29, 3:14AM
I personally didn't like the trailer ("the greatest discovery of mankind", beurk), I don't see the point of making an indie film that looks like a cheap blockbuster and Gravitas Venture is definitely not a leading worldwide distributor, it's just an american indie online distributor for VOD. A leading worldwide distributor would put your film in theatres all around the world.
BUT this article is one of the best I've read in nofilmschool in years. It's real, true, inspiring and motivational. You put a lot of energy and time in your passion and that's beautiful.
April 21, 2020 at 11:52PM
Hey Vincent, thrilled you enjoyed the article; pleased it served its purpose. Thank you for your support.
No hard feelings of course about you not enjoying the trailer or the concept for the film. Gravitas Ventures is a leading distributor of independent film - they distribute theatrically (as they did for us), to cable, VOD, SVOD, TV (paid and free), DVD and Bluray - granted it would have been wonderful to secure a distributor who could have given Cosmos a worldwide theatrical release but that would have been far beyond our expectations for the project. Short of that they distribute to all the platforms and windows available.
April 22, 2020 at 5:55PM
If I die with just 10% of the creativity and talent that these guys have... I will have considered my life a success.
April 22, 2020 at 1:47AM
Jerry, I'm sure you are a man of many talents and much creativity, but thank you for your kind words - please do reach out to us on our social media if you want to talk further, we're keen to build a network of like minded filmmakers
April 22, 2020 at 5:50PM
Thanks Zander, I will take you up on your offer.
I watched your flick yesterday... two thumbs up!
April 24, 2020 at 2:44AM, Edited April 24, 2:56AM
One of the best film making articles I've read on the internet - more content oriented towards actually CREATING stuff - this is what we're here for! Some years ago remember reading a Blog where this guy had tons and tons of equipment - literally; lenses, latest DSLRs and pro-cameras - and would nitpik the hell out of everything yet only showed badly shot videos of people walking. Can't remember his name, but it made me cringe and laugh at the same time!
April 22, 2020 at 2:34AM
Alfred, thank you! Thrilled you enjoyed the article so much - we were hoping to just offer a reference for people, regardless of their project or its scale, that there's always an option. It was tough banging our heads against a brick wall when trying to raise money and we wanted others to feel the same liberation we felt when just let that go and decided to take control ourselves. Would love to talk to you more, feel free to reach out to us on the social media links in the article, we're trying to build a community of like-minded filmmakers x
April 22, 2020 at 2:07PM
April 22, 2020 at 3:01AM, Edited April 22, 3:01AM
Thanks Geralde, really appreciate it. Please do reach out if you have any other questions about the process or indeed just want to connect with other filmmakers! We enjoy that :)
April 22, 2020 at 2:05PM, Edited April 22, 2:05PM
The film looks great! However, it was not a no-budget film as the article says there were $7000 spent on production costs which is still incredibly small but is a budget. Looks like you had a great script, time, and people willing to put in the time, which is key for any indie film. Congrats it looks great! I would not go as far as to say that if you were able to land a distribution deal anyone can. The vast majority of indie filmmakers will never see the light of day for a number of reasons, which I think means the film is that special.
April 22, 2020 at 6:52AM, Edited April 22, 7:17AM
Hi Paolo, thanks for your kind words about the film and indeed about us getting distribution. I guess there are different scales of distributor and each filmmaker can aspire to attaching a distributor of some form; in our journey searching for the right company to work with we crossed paths with many distribution companies, small and large, I'd like to think there's a home for almost any movie; but perhaps I'm an optimist haha :)
And regarding the $7,000 - we say we had "no budget" rather than no money; by industry definition anything under $70-100K is "no budget" but we mean this more in the literal sense; there was no pot of money dedicated to this project, no outside help or support from investors or producers. That minimal spend over 6 years (~$1k a year) was out of our own pockets as and when expenses were required: some software, petrol, food, electricity bills and minimal advertising. Equipment was pre-owned as we were previously freelancers (including our editing software, camera and lights etc).
So, it's definitely not accurate to say we spent no money on the film but we feel we're being genuine when we say there was no budget. Hope you feel that's fair, apologies if you felt as though we were trying to suggest something untrue and thank you again for your complimentary words :) x
April 22, 2020 at 2:05PM
Fairpoint, I said that becasue the $70-100k "budget" is something i have never even dreamed of. I made 2 films and one had a budget of $600 the other $1500 all out of my own pockets, hence my comment.
April 23, 2020 at 3:27PM
Yeah it makes perfect sense - I get where you're coming from. So would you class your films as budgeted then? Just out of interest, even though it was your own money?
April 24, 2020 at 6:09AM
May 6, 2020 at 11:23AM
We made a zero budget feature film which is getting amazing feedback. We would love to find a distributor that specialises in the lower budget things... Any ideas or tips? Thanks! The film is Polar, search for B07XFH5BHW and it comes up straight away.. Please let us know if you have any ideas! Thanks. Dom.
April 22, 2020 at 8:55AM
Hi Dominic, we've spoken to the folks at NFS about us writing a potential article on distribution as we've had a lot of questions on the topic. So we'll work on putting an extensive piece together sharing all we learnt. My biggest tip would be: don't hesitate to reach out. We compiled a list of indie distributors in our range and who might be interested in our film and then contacted them directly. Many of them are very receptive to this approach because it means they can deal directly with filmmakers (and in all likelihood get a better deal vs. a sales agent). If you're happy to do your research and broker your own deal this is a viable option. Sorry for the convoluted response - please do reach out to us on the social media links in the article, we'd be more than happy to go into more detail.
Kind Regards x
April 22, 2020 at 1:58PM
None of this low budget approach stuff matters when the story isn't any good.
April 22, 2020 at 10:45AM, Edited April 22, 11:42AM
Hi Stephen, sorry to hear Cosmos wasn't your cup of tea but thank you for giving it a shot at least. This is our first article on NFS for Cosmos so perhaps you read about it elsewhere. Film is very subjective and what one person loves, others hate, we've learnt that through the process of releasing this film. But the film was not made to say "hey look we made a film", it was made to demonstrate the talent of those involved and to fulfill a lifelong goal to direct a feature. I can assure you, the motivation of "hey look what we did" is not enough to carry you through 6 years of work on a project - above all you must love your film and the story you choose to tell.
On a side note, there are no zooms in the film. There are push ins, perhaps that's what you were referring to.
April 22, 2020 at 1:49PM
On a ultra-limited budget, you can only tell limited stories (in some respects). But this story is great. I've watched the movie 3 times already and love it. It could have had a tighter editing, but other than that, it's a great film.
April 22, 2020 at 1:58PM
Great trailer and behind the scenes! Definitely going to watch this tonight. Curious what kind of portable fog machine and fog solution you used? It seems to have worked well.
April 22, 2020 at 1:48PM
Hey Curtis, thanks for your support! Would love to hear what you make of it, please reach out to us on the social media links in the article.
Regarding the smoke solution, we tried various things, we have a cheapish fog machine that just wouldn't cut it and even trialed smoke pellets (but they were hard to control and not pleasant!). In the end we decided to purchase a Artem gas powered smoke machine - the single largest expense on the project! Our plan was sell it on after we used it on Cosmos to save money, but it was so effective we felt we'd rather hold on to it for future projects. It's not cheap by any means (more expensive than our camera!) but we felt it was worth it for the production value it offered (and for the things it helped us hide). Hope that helps and please do get in touch, we'd love to talk more. Cheers x
April 22, 2020 at 1:54PM
So, they have said the post has taken 3 years. So the production has happened in 2017? or early 2018? What? Was BMPCC available then?
April 22, 2020 at 11:08PM
Hey Shankar - we shot in 2015 and 2016. The BMPCC Original (not the 4K or 6K) came out in 2014/2015. Hope that helps x
April 23, 2020 at 6:49AM
Your site has a lot of useful information for myself. I visit regularly. Hope to have more quality items.
April 23, 2020 at 2:03AM
All films are made on grit and determination regardless of the budget, but this just proves that everyone is always focusing on the wrong things. Dreaming of fancy cameras, production values and eye candy is just a distraction from the hard work. Cameras are easy these days, it is literally the easiest part of the puzzle. All that nonsense about 'Netflix approved' cameras and whatever else is kind of hilarious because it is just another way to procrastinate and avoid trying to actually make a film. I work in docs and the same thing happens all the time, people dreaming of the highest end kit or debating which lenses to buy when there are a small number of outliers still shooting on 5D's (or similar) and those are the guys moving people to tears and getting Oscar nominations (thinking specifically of Minding the Gap and Hail County, This Morning, This Evening. Both shot on 5Diii.)
It's a funny old business making films. Anyone who achieves it is worthy of attention! Well done guys.
April 23, 2020 at 7:09AM
Thank you so much Liam - it seems we certainly share similar values. I think you've hit the nail on the head. I don't know if it's filmmakers wanted something to hide behind or if it's the industry trying to get more money out of filmmakers, or both, but as soon as we realise the gear we have in our hands is plenty to tell a compelling story, the better. I'm not just one of those people who says that and doesn't believe it, I honestly think someone out there could make an Oscar winning film on an iPhone. You're spot on. Would be great to connect on social media, drop us a message through the social media links in the article - we're keen to build a community of like-minded creatives x
April 24, 2020 at 6:12AM, Edited April 24, 6:12AM
Hi - thanks for sharing, excellent article. Have you written an article yet based on your experience with everything that happened AFTER you finished the film? That's the part I've been stuck on for years. Would love to hear more about how you approached everything other than the filmmaking. Who did you call? What did you consider to be your priorities? What was your original goal and how/did it change? Thank you -
April 23, 2020 at 11:06AM
Hi Jeremy - no problem and thank you for reading it! Glad you found it useful. We're actually already in talks with NFS regarding an article specifically about distribution - we've learnt a lot and are keen to share it with the filmmaking community. Feel free to reach out to us on our social media links in the article if you want to talk through private messages etc. Would be cool to connect. All the best Z
April 24, 2020 at 6:15AM, Edited April 24, 6:15AM
Hi Gerbert - hopefully this'll pop up in your notifications, it won't let me reply directly to you for some reason. Thanks so much for your kind words about the trailer! And we're thrilled it made your day. You're indeed right about the BMPCC original - that little camera is a workhorse and served us well. Totally overlooked in our opinion.
We didn't know the film would be distributed until we'd finished it and began shipping it around. We believed that distributors would be far more likely to bite with a finished film that with one half complete, so yeah there was a degree of uncertainty. But I think you just have to stick to your guns and believe that there's an audience for your film and there's a distributor out there who'll want to make money off it.
It sounds like you're in the thick of it with your own project - it's certainly easy to doubt yourself but if it's a story you're passionate about telling then you won't be content unless you've told it. Provided it's not putting you or your family in a tight spot financially, keep going and don't let go of that original flame that made you start the project. I'll be the first in line to watch it!
Would be cool to connect via social media, we're trying to build a community of likeminded filmmakers so please do reach out to us using the links in the article. That'd be awesome. All the best and thanks again Z
April 24, 2020 at 6:20AM
nice work in no budget , my best wishes to all in team
April 24, 2020 at 11:55AM
Cheers Rajesh! Much appreciated :)
April 27, 2020 at 12:21PM
Hey Zander & Elliot, congratulations! Chuffed to bits to hear about Cosmos here on NFS, it's been in my Amazon watchlist for a while, so I guess no more excuses to watch it! :) I think inspiration-wise this is one of the best low-budget filmmaking stories, also it's a personal favourite because I use the original BMPCC too here in the UK and made a short sci-fi with it. So I am with you 100%. There is one thing I miss though, it's not just you but indie filmmakers rarely count their energy and time into the budget. Having worked 18 months only on the sound effects makes me wonder if it was the most cost-effective thing to do? And that's just the foley... Now you have had this experience, what are your thoughts on this? I hope you don't mind me asking. Best, Attila
April 27, 2020 at 7:57AM, Edited April 27, 8:21AM
Hey Attila - thanks so much for the kind words and the support. Would love to hear what you make of the movie if you get the chance to watch it (also, let's connect on social media or something, please do reach out on one of the links above - would love that).
You're absolutely right, regarding the time commitment. Our official spend does not include the time and lack of earnings over the period we made this movie. Arguably it is still cost effective though as we'll take all the producers gross (obviously paying the 4 others involved as well), but it requires an enormous upfront investment of time. But we don't really condone this as a way of running a filmmaking business, there are faster, easier ways to produce films. But if you want to get your foot on the feature directing ladder and want to stand above a sea of short films, it's hard to get a break or the trust from investors/producers if you've not got a feature film to your name. That's why we made Cosmos the way we did, we were happy to put the effort and time in because for us the end goal was not money but exposure and track record for future films.
In hindsight I would recommend raising at least a bit of money, crowd funding, to help speed up some of the elements (sound and vfx being two examples). That being said, as soon as you start paying one person for their expertise it becomes hard, quite rightly, to tell others working on the project that they won't get paid. You're not under any obligation to share that kind of info with your team, but we'd struggle morally.
(And you're the BMPCC rocks. Where are you based in the UK?)
April 27, 2020 at 12:21PM, Edited April 27, 12:22PM
Hey, Zander, many thanks for the answer! I think your work should be part of the budget... It's actually one of the most valuable assets, not just during the shoot or post but writing also. Although the budget of my short made with the BMPCC & a C-mount lens was under £100 and I have never counted my days of work in. :) That would multiply the cost and ruin the essence of the core message. There, there... I am in conflict with myself. :))
I have connected through Instagram, attilaishere. I am in London, hope we can get a cuppa when the lockdown is over if you're near.
I'll watch the film over the weekend.
April 29, 2020 at 6:00AM
What does it take to make a successful feature film that gets a Hollywood premiere and international distribution? A lot less than you might think.
April 29, 2020 at 3:10AM
Thank you for sharing your story, your creation and your passion.
The "war of art" rages on in each of us. When we are frustrated we try to pin our failures on the "wrong" tool or blame some other outside factor. The hardest thing is to be honest for it is the only way to truly channel that inner creative river that flows through all of us.
April 29, 2020 at 11:47PM
Some incredibly wise words there Jason - it's often hard to take that look inside and confront some of the things that really hold us back. We're all guilty of putting up our own barriers, it can make it easier to accept why we're not doing what we know we really should be. Anyway, thank you for your wonderful comment and sorry it's taken so long to get back, only just seen some of these comments here. Please do reach out to us on social media, it'd be awesome to continue the convo, but either way best of luck with all your own creative projects x
June 18, 2020 at 6:11AM
Really inspiring post. This film has been on my radar for weeks and now I think I will actually watch it. Absolutely love stories by filmmakers talking about the craft and the technical struggles of producing a project like this -- something that most audience members don't think about when watching. My only downside is that I spent $13000 on my last SHORT film and I am kicking myself (despite being pleased with the outcome) for not just ramping up and doing a feature. I think if I had it to do over again, I would just do it that way...the time and money investment being the main hurdle. But this is inspiring because you underscore the point that you don't need anyone's permission to make good art, JUST GO DO IT. It's also key to point out that having a small tight knit group of film friends with like-minded ideas is also key to the survival of a project making it to the finish line. Harder to do it by yourself or with just one friend at the helm. You almost always need that third guy who is the champion of the project to keep you both going. A+ work and like I said, can't wait to watch this!
Edit: I want to talk about this on my podcast...is that alright? Thanks again for posting this Zander...I made an account just to comment
May 5, 2020 at 7:00AM
Hi Michael - sorry for not getting back to you sooner, have only just seen some of these new comments. First of all you can absolutely talk about it in your podcast, if you haven't already - we'd appreciate the coverage!
Secondly, thanks for such a positive comment - wonderful to feel that kind of support. It's all a learning process isn't it and you have to trust that whatever you did before seemed like the best route at the time. Each new project helps us grow - we've made Cosmos, it's taught us such a lot about the process and ourselves, we wouldn't want to do it like that again but we wouldn't trade that experience for anything.
Really hope you enjoy the movie if you get a chance to catch it and best of luck with your next project! Please do reach out to us on social media, we're keen to connect with likeminded folk! All the best x
June 18, 2020 at 6:08AM
Respect the crap out of this. Well done!
May 6, 2020 at 7:05AM
Well Benja, we respect the crap out of you my friend. Thank you for reading and being such a positive voice - please connect with us on social media, let's keep the convo flowing :) Best of luck with all your filmmaking endeavors! x
June 18, 2020 at 6:05AM
What an awesome read, thank you for the inspiration. About to start filming my first short while quarantined and this is great to see. Out of curiosity, after going through such an ordeal and emerging victorious, what's next for you guys?
May 13, 2020 at 10:10AM
Hey Lee - sorry for not getting back to you on this sooner, only just seen your comment. Thanks for being so supportive. Plans before Covid were to move to LA and begin pitching to studios, we've made some good contacts over there through Cosmos - the good news is that to a degree that's still happening via video calls but we're now also keeping our eye on filming regulations and restrictions and developing something we may end up producing with independent financing that would be achievable in a Covid world, perhaps while we're waiting for the drawn out Hollywood development process.
I've mentioned to a couple of people on here that it'd be great to connect/continue talking on social media; we're trying to build a community of likeminded filmmakers so it'd be awesome to see you over there sometime. No pressure though; thanks for your comment and best of luck with your short! Let us know when it's out :) x
June 18, 2020 at 6:04AM
Thank you for sharing this and letting people know that "no budget" doesn't mean that money isn't spent nor does it mean decent equipment wasn't used. No one creates something without costs (whether it's the cost of time, materials, money out of their own pocket that was never designated for a project, personal equipment).
Great job and great purpose to educate us all.
May 27, 2020 at 7:10AM, Edited May 27, 7:10AM
Hey Christopher, thanks for such an awesome comment - really pleased you enjoyed the article. Yeah, when we say we had no budget people immediately jump on the fact that we spent money; money was of course spent, although a very small amount spread over 6 years, but there's a difference between spending your own money on something and having a budget for it. Equally by industry definition no budget is anything under $50k... rather absurdly! Haha
Thanks again. We'd love to connect with you on social media, hoping to build a network of likeminded creatives, hopefully we'll see you over there sometime.
June 18, 2020 at 5:59AM
OK, here's the big question (and maybe you answered it in the article but I didn't see it):
Did you make money from the distributor?
I did the same thing as you. I made an $8,000 movie, went through the festivals and got picked up by Gravitas as well. And besides the very small minimum guarantee, I haven't seen a dime from them in 2 years.
June 17, 2020 at 11:04PM
Hi Joe - we received a decent MG (can't legally disclose) and we received our first royalty statement recently. To answer your question, yes we are making money from the film.
June 18, 2020 at 5:57AM
Ehh, since when can't you legally disclose what your MG is? Under what circumstances? The distributor? Distributors don't care. Look at Sundance every year -- it's part of the promo for a film getting picked up. I'll share what I made of my movies any day. You guys made a solid film, worked your asses off, very meticulously shot and nicely acted -- it needed 15-20min cut out IMHO, a bit of redundant action, but it's a really impressive achievement by all of you. Big slow clap to you guys. Now, back to the question posited by Joe B... If you really want to help your fellow filmmaker -- who not only wants to express themselves creatively, but REALLY wants to make a living at this -- you'll share what kind of a return a well-executed film like yours can get. If you don't want to throw out a dollar figure then perhaps a percentage of profit you've made, and maybe realistically what you expect to make in the first year? Again, great job to all, and I don't mean to bust your b*lls on this on the behalf of the up and coming filmmakers here, but camera hacks and budget workarounds are nice, however, the other 50% of show business is business. Thanks, Andrew!
June 24, 2020 at 10:10PM
June 18, 2020 at 12:47AM, Edited June 18, 12:48AM
This is so awesome! Can you share about your script writing process and pre-production? How long did the writing take? Did you storyboard? All that stuff would be great to hear about. Thanks!
June 18, 2020 at 5:12PM
Sorry for the slow response, Stefan. Really glad you enjoyed the article :) We share quite a bit of that kind of info on our social media, we also started a blog documenting the process as we were going through it (it's incomplete but we're working on it!). That can be found here: https://reeldealfilmschool.wordpress.com/cosmos/
(But to answer your questions here: the writing took about 3 months and we storyboarded the whole film ourselves - it proved incredibly valuable, as we were juggling multiple responsibilities when filming having that document to rely on was enormously important, knowing that we'd already come up with creative and compelling shot choices allowed us to move through the shots quicker and also grab extras when we knew we were covered). Please do connect with us on social media :) x
June 29, 2020 at 5:40AM
the title of the article should be “we made a movie with 7000$”
please stop using stupid catchy titles to get clicks.
June 20, 2020 at 3:38PM
Hi Khireddine, "no-budget" refers to the industry definition of under $50k, please don't blame the article or NFS for using industry budgeting terminology
June 30, 2020 at 4:59AM
Just watched on Hulu. Congrats guys. Well made throughout. :)
June 22, 2020 at 4:29AM
Thank you kindly, John! Thank you for giving our film a shot and for leaving such a positive and supportive comment. Really means a lot to us x
June 30, 2020 at 5:00AM
Just watched the film and enjoyed it very much. I only stumbled on this site while trying to see what the film was about. I wasn't up for a silly SYFI. I read this article when I finished the film and I am most impressed. It actually makes the film so much better realizing all the hard work of two brothers with a vision that went into this. I look forward to their next adventure into film making and I hope they use all the creativity they found in themselves for the next.
June 28, 2020 at 8:37AM
Jere - thank you very much for checking out COSMOS, for looking into it further and for your well wishes :) They are truly appreciated, comments like these mean a lot to my brother and I and the small team behind the film. Thank you again and best wishes x
June 30, 2020 at 5:03AM
June 29, 2020 at 7:26PM
So excellent well done. However a few weird bits of feedback. The ending issues with Power and starting the car was a bit silly. Also the data loss with power was weird even for then. Also while small I was super confused why at the end some dead pixels ended up on screen really distracting. Anyway amazing job congrats!
July 11, 2020 at 8:43PM
Hey Darren, thanks for checking out the film - really appreciate it. Totally respect your views on the movie, stories are of course subjective but we feel Cosmos sets up a tone and a world where power loss etc is acceptable fun, it's not supposed to be Arrival or Contact, more of an Amblin, adventurous vibe.
The dead pixels you're talking about on a couple of shots at the end are actually small flares that came from our wide angle adapter. We removed all the dead pixels in the movie, perhaps we should have got rid of those flares too :)
Thanks again for your kind words and for watching it, means a lot x
July 13, 2020 at 6:32AM
The movie was a perfect mix of intelligence, intrigue and emotions. The screenplay was tight, although I feel the car sequence towards the end seemed out of place with the general feel of the movie. Would be curious to hear your thoughts on why you felt this to be a good fit.
But nevertheless, this is one of my all time favorites now. I imagine it’s going to do wonders for the astronomy community, with many a young viewer picking up a telescope and gazing at the night sky.
I firmly believe that movies are a director’s medium, and the direction for this movie was on point. Very well made, and with such a small budget, it is truly a great effort!
July 29, 2020 at 6:46PM
July 31, 2020 at 8:37PM
Hey Zander! Awesome work... very impressive, well done!
But we can trump you... We Shot Our Film with NO Camera, NO Lights, and No Budget UNDER FULL LOCKDOWN (and Still Got Distribution)!
Check out the CABIN FEVER TRAILER: vimeo.com/418894808
THE MAKING OF: vimeo.com/420298876
Warm greetings from South Africa!
August 1, 2020 at 1:53AM, Edited August 1, 2:03AM
I am doing an extensive interview with the Weaver Brothers live via Zoom on Aug 27, 2020 (1pm PDT). We'll discuss their film, show clips and stills, and answer all your questions. It's FREE! Join us! Search for us on Eventbrite - "No Budget Confidential" and "Cosmos".
August 25, 2020 at 2:13AM
Definitely big congrats in order. I was loving the hell out of the movie, but then, they burned a ton of time packing their gear into the car. That's some poor writing right there. Most important discovery in history in total jeopardy, but we're gonna pack our gear first.
December 7, 2020 at 7:00PM
It is a long time since I read the article for the first time, I have returned to comment because I did not do it before.
I want to congratulate you on the good work done, that's what counts. I discovered them through this article and for me it was really inspiring, thanks for sharing the vibe, hopefully one day we can collaborate, and I hope to be able to master spoken English to be able to communicate xD.
Greetings from Valencia, Spain.
July 21, 2021 at 5:31PM
Shouldn't this headline read, "Our script was so awesome that..."
January 2, 2022 at 4:30AM