Make a Small Budget Go A Long Way – Advice From 3 Indie Films

The budget is one of the most important and one of the most difficult components in filmmaking. Many have struggled on working within the limitations of the budget they have and in result, have produced poor films by being overly ambitious and unwilling to compromise. The fact of the matter is that not every production is going to get the equipment or location of their dreams but that’s okay. A film does not have to suffer because it doesn’t have the financial backing that Lord of the Rings had. A successful film is one that embraces constraints and makes them work in the film’s favour. Cutting costs does not lower the value of the film. The goal of this blog post is to prove that films can be successful with little to no budget and provide advice that independent filmmakers have used themselves on prosperous films.

Clerks (Directed by Kevin Smith with a budget of $ 27,575)

Clerks was the debut feature film for director, Kevin Smith. Before there was Chasing Amy or Dogma, there was Clerks. It has the lowest budget that Kevin Smith has had to work around and yet it launched Smith’s career and won the “Award of the Youth” and Mercedes-Benz Award in 1994 at Cannes Film Festival.

Kevin Smith was able to achieve great success with extremely low funding which proves that big budgets do not make a film great. Filmmakers can do something just as good as big budget features do but with nothing at all. The trick is to embrace your limitations and make them work for you rather than against you.

Use what you have available

Location wise, Kevin Smith’s entire film is based in a convenient store in New Jersey and it’s video rental shop next to it. These spaces are actually places Kevin Smith was working at in the time of production and was given permission to use them during their closing hours. Which is exactly what happened; Kevin Smith and his cast stayed in the convenient store overnight in the span of approximately 21 days to film Clerks. Because the shop was closed while filming, Smith worked it into the script that some kids broke the blinds outside and that’s why they wouldn’t open (when in reality, it was locked from the shop being closed). Throughout the film, there is a large sheet that says “I assure you, we’re open”. The lesson here is to take advantage of the options you have to save money and make it work into the plot. Scripts can be rewritten and made better but budgets hardly ever have that flexibility.

Shoot in Black & White

Shooting in Black & White is a lot easier than shooting in colour because, to put it simply, it’s less colours. The colour grading in post will be a lot cheaper since every frame will look the same because it’s varying shades of black and white. This also makes lighting a lot easier and in the case of Clerks, you can trick the audience into thinking a scene that’s being filmed at night, is a daytime scene.

You also see this sort of technique in Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It. In that film, Spike Lee could only afford so little colourful filming that he used it to indicate a hyper-realism, sort of dream sequence that appears like a fantasy in comparison to all the black & white scenes. This is an example of, again, using your limitations in a smart way and making it go in your favour as opposed to sloppy and cheap.

Cast Yourself

Instead of paying the fees for extras, Kevin Smith cast himself and friend, Jason Mewes as the two men who hang around outside the store. Kevin Smith’s character, Silent Bob has no speaking parts so the characters are relatively small and don’t necessarily carry the plot anywhere, they serve as another comedy element so instead of paying someone to play the small parts, he assigned the roles to him and Jason. This is a good way to save money; typically for extras, people without any acting experience can do just well enough.

Slacker (Directed by Richard Linklater with a budget of $ 23,000)

Before Boyhood, Linklater was known for bringing attention to a subculture society in Austin, Texas. Slacker was made in 1991 before the young adult bohemian lifestyle was really given any exposure. The film has no plot really; it revolves around short snippets of the people and their conversations throughout the day. The film never stays on one particular person for too long, it constantly moves throughout the city of Austin. The film shows that filmmakers can make it on the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress alongside Citizen Kane and The Godfather while having less than half of their budget.

Natural Light

The use of the sun as your primary light source is one of the easiest ways to cut down how much you spend on your film. Most of Slacker is filmed in the day which of course makes it much easier to limit the use of artificial light and therefore the budget. More than half of the film is filmed outside and the scenes that are filmed inside are contained in rooms with lots of windows that the actors or a particular object can get the most light from what is outside.

Camera

Slacker was filmed on a 16mm Arriflex camera. The 16mm film is a common film type used in most low budget films. It has also been the known film within most home movie making cameras. Sacrificing the quality of film will definitely lower the costs of production without lowering the quality of the finished film as clearly demonstrated by Slacker. Slacker also features a Fisher Price Pixel Vision camcorder in which they used to film the bar scene. The Fisher Price camera is literally a toy camera that Linklater used, with great difficulty, due to its cheap price and to give the scene a gritty texture. Slacker proves that you do not need the best quality equipment to make an important film.

Blair Witch Project (Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez with a budget of $ 60,000)

Blair Witch Project, which made its UK debut at Raindance Film Festival, is a “found footage” horror film surrounding a local Maryland legend, The Blair Witch. The film has been largely influential in the horror community as one of the first first-person mockumentaries that some people are convinced was based on a true story. It is known as one of the most profitable films of all time, grossing around $ 248 million with an original budget of $ 60,000.

Camera

Just like Slacker, Blair Witch Project has embraced their access to cheap cameras by buying dinky consumer cameras in which they equipped the actors with. Because it was a “found footage” film, the audience can excuse the poorer quality (compared to more modern and professional cameras) because it’s supposed to come off as “real footage”. One can excuse the shakiness and grain that comes with a lot of inexperienced filmmaking since it’s supposed to come from a “home movie” type of camcorder. After the filming was completed, on Halloween after the span of 8 days, the producers took the cameras back and managed to get a slight refund which made the budget go even further.

Marketing

The marketing of the Blair Witch Project can attribute to a lot of the film’s success. They decided to promote the film as if the Blair Witch was real, which many locals do believe. Promotion of the film consisted of fake police reports and interviews in order to create a sense of curiosity to draw in audiences. The team even made fake Missing Person flyers for the actors featured in the film in order to attract people to see the film for the actors “last known whereabouts”. It is referred to as one of the most “terrifying and successful” campaigns in film history.

The post Make a Small Budget Go A Long Way – Advice From 3 Indie Films appeared first on Raindance.

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Director Barry Jenkins’ 14 Favorite Films from the Criterion Collection

What kinds of films pique the interest of Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins?

Have you ever dreamed of entering the Criterion closet and perusing their massive collection of historically and culturally important films? If you’re a cinephile, you probably have, but if you’re a celebrated filmmaker, like director Barry Jenkins, you actually get to do it. Back in November, while promoting what would become the future Oscar-winning film Moonlight, Jenkins visited Criterion and was invited to thumb through their library, and he not only got to live every cinephile’s dream, but he also had the exact response every cinephile would have once being enveloped in all of that cinematic goodness:

«This is a bit overwhelming. There’s too much good shit in here.»

Here are Jenkins’ top Criterion picks:

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No Film School

A Vibrant Year — My Favorite Films from the 2017 Cannes Film Festival

2017 Cannes Film Festival

What are the best films out of this year’s Cannes Film Festival? Which ones should you be taking an interest in? What films should be a priority for you to see? After 12 days at the 70th Cannes Film Festival, after 30 screenings, it’s time to present my 2017 list of my Top 5 Favorite Films. This was my 8th time back to this festival, and I love being there in the middle of all, committing fully to seeing as many films as I can. These five below are the ones that I adore, that connected with me emotionally or intellectually, and I hope everyone plans to check them out when they arrive in their neighborhood. They are worth the wait. There were many great films this year, and this is my final recap of the fest (with my list of all the films at the end). ›››

Continue reading A Vibrant Year — My Favorite Films from the 2017 Cannes Film Festival


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Watch: When Films and TV Shows Reference the ‘Reference Master’ Quentin Tarantino

How often do you have to reference other films in your own films before your films start being referenced in other films? Go ask Quentin Tarantino.

From Fellini’s 8 1/2 to Fujita’s Lady Snowblood, Quentin Tarantino has paid homage to a plethora of different films and TV shows in his own work. I imagine watching one of his films is kind of like walking through the video store where he used to work, Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, just title after title of timeless and obscure pieces of cinema.

Tarantino has made his favorite and most influential films such a part of his own work that his penchant for referencing them has become, on its own, a source of reference for other filmmakers. In this entertaining supercut by video essayist Jacob T. Swinney you’ll get to see just how high Tarantino’s work has reached in pop culture.

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No Film School

Watch /Film’s Peter Sciretta Talk About the ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Trailer at Star Wars Celebration

star wars celebration

By now, you’ve probably watched the Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer a few times and have all kinds of thoughts and opinions. We do, too – just look for our trailer breakdown very soon! But in the meantime, /Film’s editor-in-chief Peter Sciretta was invited on the official Star Wars Celebration stage to talk about the trailer and discuss its handful of reveals and many mysteries. And yes, you can watch it below.

For the discussion, Peter was joined by Eric Vespe of Ain’t It Cool, Germain Lussier of io9, and Michelle Buchman from Nerdist. Their discussion got off to a slightly chaotic (and very amusing) start, with Finn himself, John Boyega, crashing the stage and taking over as they were analyzing the very first shot. Of course, getting interrupted by a lead actor from the Star Wars movies while at a Star Wars convention has got to be on a geek’s bucket list, right?

Naturally, Peter was able to capture the moment. We’ve included another image as well, so Peter will have definitive proof that he shared the Star Wars Celebration stage with John Boyega:

john boyega 2 john boyega

But now, let’s turn our attention to the main event, where this quartet of geeky film bloggers watches the trailer together, pausing every so often to speculate and discuss and analyze everything that’s going on. Using the video embed below, scroll about 39 minutes from the start of the live stream to watch the whole discussion!

If you want more from today’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi shenanigans, you can read our post about everything we learned from the panel and check out Rian Johnson’s photos from the set. The film itself will hit theaters on December 15, 2016.

The post Watch /Film’s Peter Sciretta Talk About the ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Trailer at Star Wars Celebration appeared first on /Film.


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