It’s Time to Watch More Great Films – The Fall Festival Season is Here

Film Festival

Yep, it’s already that time of year again. The summer is over, the leaves are starting to change. You know what that means right? It’s the fall film festival season! And also the beginning of the awards season. The Venice Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival both kick off this week, and as always, we’re in for a treat with all the new films coming up this fall (it seriously looks like a stacked season). Just a few weeks later in September, the Toronto Film Festival continues festival mania with hundreds of films showing. And the month ends with the beloved Fantastic Fest in Austin, showing the best genre films from around the world. I’ll be covering the Venice Film Festival this year, and watching for reports from the other fests. ›››

Continue reading It’s Time to Watch More Great Films – The Fall Festival Season is Here

25 Low Budget Films That Launched Careers

With the credit crunch destroying lives – don’t let it destroy your career!
See these films that launched careers. Learn how those who have trod before dealt with minimal budgets and launched hugely rewarding careers.

Remember, Raindance Film Festival is open for submissions. Get the low down on how to submit here:

Monsters 2010 UK

Writer/Director: Gareth Edwards
Budget: £ 15.000 est

Writer and director Gareth Edwards said he wanted to make a monster movie “set years after most monster movies end”. Monsters follows the journey of a journalist and an American tourist trying to make it safely through alien infested Mexico to the American border. Even just by watching the trailer, you would not believe that this film was shot on such a miniscule budget. Edwards shows what you can achieve by driving your crew around different locations in a van, learning to use your laptop for editing and to create special effects, and being resourceful. There is a rumour on the internet about the budget being just $ 15000, slammed by some who say that that is way too little for a movie of this kind, even if low-budget. The debate is still open…). And of course Gareth’s latest features is Rogue One

Buy from Amazon here:

Buried 2010 Spain/USA/France

Writer: Chris Sparling
Director: Rodrigo Cortes
Budget: $ 3.000.000

Buried is the story of an American truck driver (played by Ryan Reynolds) who is attacked by a group of Iraqi insurgents and wakes up buried alive in a coffin in the company of only a lighter and a mobile phone. Shot in 17 days, the whole film revolves around the protagonist and his struggle to save his own life, and utilises the age-old human fear of being buried alive to set in motion a story which works on an emotional and psychological level more than through special effects and visual action.

Cortes had very few tools and very limited space with which to create this film – but he managed it very powerfully.

Buy Buried on Amazon here

Paranormal Activity 2009 USA

Writer/Director: Oren Peli
Budget: $ 11.000

Marketed as “one of the scariest movies of all times”, Paranormal Activity utilises two classic indie movie expedients – one location plus handheld camera – to tell the story of a couple who move into a new home only to start acknowledging a presence who manifests itself at night and seems to be following them. Writer and director Oren Peli used his own house for the shooting, and eliminated the need for a camera crew by leaving the camera sitting on the tripod for most of the filming – something which increased the story’s believability and thus worked two ways.

The film focuses on the raw ‘scare factor’ rather than on gore and action, and this also works in containing the budget, showing that establishing empathy and a sense of “familiarity” with the audience doesn’t cost much but works very well when you want to scare them senseless.

Buy Paranormal Activity on Amazon here:

Aguirre: Wrath of God 1972 Germany

Writer/Director: Werner Herzog
Budget: $ 370,000

While traveling on a bus with his football team, Werner Herzog wrote the scrip for Aguirre in only two and a half days. The film depicts the insane Aguirre as he travels through South America. It quickly became a masterpiece, which justified the intense shooting. Not only was the use of stunt men and special effects out of the budget, but also the crew had to deal with moving about in the extreme heat of the jungle, as well as with temperamental actor Klaus Kinski, who shot off the finger of an extra. When you have a low budget, you take what you can get; and in this case, it worked out perfectly.

Buy Aguirre: Wrath of God on Amazon here:

Bad Taste New Zealand

Writers: Ken Hammon, Tony Hiles, Peter Jackson
Director: Peter Jackson
Budget: $ 255,000

It is always interesting to see where big name, blockbuster directors got their start. Peter Jackson, director of the “Lord of the Rings Trilogy” and “King Kong,” got his start making a cheap film filled with blood and guts, all about bad taste. His first film was an over-the-top story about aliens searching for human flesh for their fast food chain. The film was made on the weekends over the period of four years, with friends and family helping out; all of the alien masks we made in Peter Jackson’s mother’s oven.
Buy Bad Taste Amazon here

The Blair Witch Project 1999 USA

Writer/Director: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez
Budget: $ 22,000

While most low budgets build on word of mouth, this film created a viral campaign, making many people believe the events in the film to be true, portraying it as a true documentary. While the hand-held cameras made some theatre goers sick, it didn’t stop too many from coming, as the film grossed $ 248 million, making it one of the few films in American history to have one of the highest ratio of box office sales to production costs. Not only did it manage to make a large some of money, it also managed to create nightmares in the minds of the audience. My 30 year old sister still cannot go into basements because of this film.
Buy The Blair Witch Project on Amazon here

Brick 2005 USA

Writer/Director: Rian Johnson
Budget: $ 475,000

Writer/Director, Rain Johnson, spent seven long years to get Hollywood to produce his script, but constantly failed as most producers found the material too unusual for a first time director. The apprehension was perfectly understandable, as the film was written in the style of Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled detective stories, but set in a modern day high school. Rian Johnson was finally able to bring his film noir style thriller to life independently, as friends and family of Johnson helped to fund his project. He then also managed to use his creative abilities to figure out difficult ways to film his demanding script. For instance, in some circumstances, he would shoot some scenes backwards and play it forwards. To save money, the film was even edited on a home computer, and the score was recorded over iChat. All this hard work paid off, as “Brick” was awarded a special Jury prize for originality of vision at the Sundance Film Festival. A large cult following has developed for this hugely engaging and smart thriller.
Buy Brick on Amazon here

Clerks 1994 USA

Writer/Director: Kevin Smith
Budget: $ 27,000

The most revered independent filmmaker in the United States, Kevin Smith has an unadulterated cult following. His groundbreaking film, Clerks, tells the story of a group of friends set mostly at a convenience store. Crafting a script chocked full of humour and scintillating dialogue. Smith chose to shoot his film in black and white, to emphasize the writing rather than the visuals. College students and young adults alike latched onto this simple comedy. Smith pulled out all the stops while trying to finance his film. He maxed out all of his credit cards and sold most of his extensive and expensive comic book collection. Smith also had to put up with the pressures of an inconvenient schedule, forcing him to make creative decisions. Most of the film had to be shot at night, during after hours at the convenience store. Smith had to figure out a way to sell the idea of a shop looking closed, but was still open for business. So Smith wrote in a scene where a character places a sign on the outside of store with the words, “I assure you, we’re open.” This proves that any unfortunate situation can be turned into an asset. The risk was worth it in the end. Since its debut in 1994, Clerks is still thought of as one of the best independent films, let alone comedies, of the 20th century.
Buy Clerks on Amazon here

Cube 1997 Canada

Writer: Andre Bijelic, Vincenzo Natali, Graeme Manson
Director: Vicenzo Natali
Budget: CAD $ 365,000

Made before the “Saw” franchise, “Cube” was original and frugal in a way that it was set in a limited space. The space appeared to be several different cube rooms, which adds variety to the limited set. The story is well known: a group of strangers are picked off one by one by booby-trapped rooms. One room was built for the entire productions, and in order to create the illusion of different rooms, sliding panels were added to change the colour or the room, and different traps were used to add a little spice of variety.
Buy Cube on Amazon here

Night of the Living Dead 1968 USA

Writers: George A. Romero and John A. Russo
Director: George A. Romero
Budget: $ 114,000

Dawn of the Dead 1978 USA

Writer/Director: George A. Romero
Budget: $ 650,000

Both of Romero’s first Dead films completely changed not only the way people viewed zombies, but also the way they viewed horror films. Each film is a well-crafted thrill ride, full of blood and guts, but also provides plenty of social commentary about modern life. These films also brought new life to the zombie idea, as before this, no one knew why they were supposed to be afraid of zombies. Thanks to Romero and his horror ways, zombies now plague the dreams of millions. All these nightmares started on a very low budget film. In order to create the gruesome effects of zombies feasting on flesh, chocolate syrup was used as blood and roasted ham was flesh, a wonderfully delicious combination, as most extras threw up after takes.
Buy Night of the Living Dead on Amazon here

Buy Dawn of the Dead on Amazon here

El Mariachi 1992 Mexico/USA

Writer/Director: Robert Roderiguez
Budget: $ 7,000

Robert Roderiguez’s pinnacle of independent film, El Mariachi, is famed for its ultra-low budget of only $ 7,000, was funded by drug trials Roderiguez went through. Roderiguez was able to create a very compelling story about a mariachi band player who is mistaken for a notorious Mexican criminal. In Roderiguez’s book, “Rebel Without A Crew,” he details how he was able to produce a film without hiring a film crew. Along with Roderiguez, the other actors in the film would operate the film equipment when they were off camera, thus solving the problem of a film crew. Roderiguez used his ingenuity and creativity in order to make up for the lack of props, lighting and camera equipment. El Mariachi stunned audiences and has become the paramount of independent filmmaking. Roderiguez’s story continues to be an inspiration for independent filmmakers.
Buy El Mariachi on Amazon here

Eraserhead 1977 USA

Writer/Director: David Lynch
Budget: $ 100,000

From the enigmatic and perplexing mind of filmmaker, David Lynch, comes perhaps his most erratic, bizarre, and simply disturbing tale in his oeuvre. It is so twisted, no matter how many times it is viewed, it will never completely be understood. It is pretty much a nightmare someone would have on acid. It is remarkable that the film was actually made, because of shoddy funding, the film took about 5 years to complete filming. Friends, like actress Sissy Spacek, and family helped to finance the remaining money not covered by a grant from the American Film Institute. The long delay was worth the wait as the film captures the attention and imaginations of the audience, not to mention, making them become vegetarian and putting them off from having kids. It is always worth a chance to experience truly different film, and on that point, Eraserhead will not disappoint; and for you Pixies fans, you can finally understand and see where their song “Lady in the Radiator” comes from.
Buy Eraserhead on Amazon here

The Evil Dead 1981 USA

Writer/Director: Sam Raimi
Budget: $ 375,000

Long before his was bringing everyone’s favorite webslinger to life, and producing wretched horror films, Sam Raimi was king of campy horror films. Raimi started by writing and directing the cult classic, “The Evil Dead.” Raimi’s outrageous gore fest was shot over a one and a half year period with problems following every turn. Cast members left the production halfway through the shoot, which required Raimi to hire stand-ins for important shots. Bruce Campbell, the star and hero of the film, endured harsh shooting conditions which often included going home in the back of pick up trucks covered in synthetic blood and guts. However, Campbell did stay true to the project, following Raimi until the end, and even acted as a stand-in for missing actors. For his loyalty, Raimi has since given Campbell cameos in all of his “Spider-Man” films. Amid the various problems during filming, the movie has since become a gold standard for independent horror flicks.
Buy The Evil Dead on Amazon here 

Following 1998 UK

Writer/Director: Christopher Nolan
Budget: $ 6,000

Christopher Nolan, the man behind such films as The Prestige, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and Memento, debuted as a filmmaker with a little film called Following. The film tells the story of a struggling writer who tried to find stories by following random people who eventually becomes the mentor of a masterly thief. Using the same sort of techniques as Robert Roderiguez with such a tight budget, Nolan chose to film in his friend’s and family’s homes for locations, used natural light instead of expensive lighting equipment and rehearsed the scenes extensively before filming on expensive stock.
Buy Following on Amazon here 

Halloween 1978 USA

Writers: John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Director: John Carpenter
Budget: $ 320,000

Much like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” four years earlier, this low budget film help to bring about a surge of slasher films, whether you like it or not. The film relied on word-of-mouth to gain a following, and to grow into a cultural phenomenon. The film employed a various use of camera angels, effective music, and a lack of actual graphic violence capture the attention of audiences for years to come; unlike its forgettable and unneccessary sequals. Its classic status was gained on a very low budget. Money was so tight that all of the actors used their own clothes, as there was no money for wardrobe, and a cheap Captain Kirk mask was repainted and refurbished in order to create Michael Myers iconic mask.
Buy Halloween on Amazon here

Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer 1986 USA

Writer: John McNaughton and Richard Fire Director: John McNaughton
Budget: $ 110,000

The film was shot only over the course of 28 days. In order to film that fast and with a small budget, friends and families of the cast and crew were used, as well as the filmmakers own possessions. The film takes an interesting path, as it focuses on the main characters sick fantasies rather than the actual crimes committed.

Buy Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer on Amazon here 

Living in Oblivion 1995 USA

Writer/Director: Tom DiCillo
Budget: $ 500,000

This film shows independent filmmakers that there trials and tribulations of making a film could be a lot worse. “Living In Oblivion” follows a director’s attempts at making a film, having to deal with narcotic actors, script changes, and nothing going quite right. The film was only shot in 16 days, and completely financed by the friends and family of the filmmaker. The actors of the film felt so strongly about the project they worked for free, and in fact contributed money to help produce the film. When you have an idea that is strong, anyone is willing to help out.
Buy Living in Oblivion on Amazon here 

Lord of the Flies 1963 UK

Writer/Director: Peter Brook
Budget: $ 250,000

Few films can be considered respectable adaptations of classic novels, but Lord of the Flies manages to do so, but only loosely following the story. Brook let the children run wild, encouraging improvisation, creating a natural and primitive feel to the film, matching the tone of the book.

Buy Lord of the Flies on Amazon here

Mad Max 1979 Australia

Writer: George Miller and James McCausland
Director: George Miller
Budget: Australian $ 350,000

To think that a film can be made for not even half a million dollars, and go on to earn $ 100 million world wide, and spawn two sequels, is beyond mad. This film about a post-apocalyptic Australia, focusing on the break down of society helped to launch the careers of star Mel Gibson and director George Miller. The film was also significant in that it helped to open up the global market to Australian films.
Buy Mad Max on Amazon here

Napoleon Dynomite 2004 USA

Writer: Jared and Jerusha Hess
Director: Jared Hess
Budget: $ 400,000

Love it or hate it (hopefully hate it), there is no denying the power this low-budget film has. Despite being filled with an assortment of strange characters, offbeat choices, and relatively plot less nature, it quickly found an audience in theaters, becoming a sleeper hit, grossing over $ 40,000,000 domestically. Who would have thought that a film made for less than half a million dollars, centering on a pathetic nerd, would go on to become a pop culture phenomenon.
Buy Napoleon Dynomite

Once 2006 Ireland

Writer/Director: John Carney
Budget: €130,000 (approx. $ 160,000 at the time)

While the storyline and structure of “Once” is fairly simple and a tad clichéd, it is completely earnest and raw, strong enough to overcome its shortcomings and tug at your heart. The strong performances, fairytale setting, and all of the great bittersweet showcase the power and greatness of the film. The film caught the attention of the Academy Awards, as they honored it with an Oscar for best originally song. A film may not have the most money, and many may not have seen it, but if a film has some great qualities, ones that are not necessarily affected by money, people will take notice.
Buy Once on Amazon here 

Open Water 2003 USA

Writer/Director: Chris Kentis
Budget: $ 130,000

Much like “The Blair Witch Project” before it, “Open Water” uses a minimalist approach, as it was shot on cheap digital video, not necessarily to save money, but to increase the terror. One gets a sense of real and urgent terror due to the low budget look of the film, as if they are watching actual events unfold right before them in real time, a couple lost at sea is made even more terrifying, it slowly creeps under your skin. Just because one has a low budget, does not mean they cannot take advantage and embrace it.
Buy Open Water on Amazon here 

Pi 1998 USA

Writer/Director: Darron Aronofsky
Budget: $ 60,000

Trying to figure out a mathematical equation to why you might like PI might be as impossible as the main character’s quest to find the meaning of God through numbers. However confusing the film is, it is masterly crafted and wonderfully imagined by today’s leading art house director, Darron Aronofsky. As the paranoia and obsession takes hold on the main character, the film swings into full action through mind-bending metaphors and sequences. Aronofsky, determinated to fund the project, sold shares to his family and friends, who managed to fund a majority of the project.
Buy Pi on Amazon here 

Primer 2004 USA

Writer/Director: Shane Carruth
Budget: $ 7,000

“Primer,” tries to defy all the time travel science fiction flicks that have come before it. Shane Carruth, who starred, wrote, composed, produced, edited, photographed, and directed certainly had his hands full with this unconventional film. This probably accounts for the extreme lack of funds, as to save from hiring extras hands. Although many would feel the pressure of manufacturing a film single-handedly, Carruth is confident enough to pull off an excellent story. Carruth’s trust in the audience to think intelligently about his movie is one of the most endearing aspects of this film. The script does not allow for dumb, plot filler sequences, but meticulously converses about time travel in a lucid and unforgettable dialogue. It was a hard task to accomplish for a first time filmmaker, who never went to film school, nor had any previous film experience.It all paid off in the end when it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance FIlm Festival.
Buy Primer on Amazon here 

Slacker 1991 USA

Writer/Director: Richard Linklater
Budget: $ 23,000

Serving as a direct inspiration for Kevin Smith to become a director, and his film “Clerks.” “Slacker” follows a band of young adult bohemians in a day around Texas. From the filmmaker who gave us “Dazed and Confused,” Richard Linklater produced this misfit and unexpected comedy which had given Linklater the chance at fame.

Buy Slacker on Amazon here 

Swingers 1996 USA

Writer: Jon Favreau
Director: Doug Liman
Budget: $ 250,000

Long before helming such projects as “Elf” and “Iron Man,” Jon Favreau penned this indie masterpiece. Long regarded as one of the top comedies of its generation, “Swingers” managed to catapult many up and coming artists to the big business. Vince Vaughn was quickly hired after “Swingers” debuted to star in Steven Spielberg’s “The Lost World,” Jon Favreau was acknowledged as a well-respected artist, and Doug Liman went on to direct such films as “The Bourne Identity” and “Go”. The real gem of this movie is Favreau’s script. It is intensely funny and uses character interaction for comedy more than plot, which makes the entire film very quote-able. The film follows a couple of actors who dream of making it to the big leagues, but manage to become regulars at the classy neo-lounge scene.
Buy Swingers on Amazon here

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974 USA

Writer: Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel
Director: Tobe Hooper
Budget: $ 83,532

Having been banned for a long period of time in the United Kingdom, it is not exactly clear why. While the title suggests a blood bath, of victims being sliced and diced, the film actually shows very little, leaving all the gore and torture to your imagination, making it all the more terrifying. The film creates a unnerving and tense atmosphere, that never lets up. Even with its small budget, it has become a corner stone of not only the horror and thriller genre, as it has become one of the most referenced and imitated horror films, but it also of exhibits the art of low budget filmmaking, as it is an intelligent and absorbing film. Forget about all the pathetic, half-assed, sequals and remakes, the original is still the best.
Buy The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on Amazon here 

Welcome to the Dollhouse 1995 USA

Writer/Director: Todd Solondz
Budget: $ 800,000

While films like “Napoleon Dynamite” use young social outcasts to create completely unrealistic humorous and feel good moments, “Welcome to the Dollhouse” cuts to the bone, creating a painfully realistic look at adolescence. The film poignantly explores the horrors of an unattractive and unpopular girl trying to survive middle school, never letting up with the cringe worthy, and all too uncomfortably familiar moments, and pitch black humor, even up to the very downbeat end. Its hard not see yourself in, the unfortunately named, Dawn Weiner. While the film may not have grossed nearly as much as most films about adolescence, it has developed a deservingly huge cult following, and serves as a reminder that although your childhood might have sucked, nothing compares to what this girl went through. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Feature at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival.
Buy Welcome to the Dollhouse on Amazon here 

Fade Out

Theare are the films that launched careers both big and small. See if you can find a common denominator that you can use for guidance in your own career.

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The Surprising Things You Can Learn By Watching Films Upside Down

It was one of those nights where try as you might, you couldn’t keep yourself off the floor. Using some awkward gymnastics, I managed to drape myself over a sofa arm and found myself looking at the television with my chin skywards. Goodfellas was on, and watching the film upside down lead to a whole […]

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Watch: A List Stephen King’s Favorite Horror Films

What kinds of scary movies does the King of Horror watch?

Stephen King is a maniac. He has not only written hundreds of published works, making him one of the most prolific writers of all time, but he has managed to scare the bejesus out of his readers for well over 40 years with his dark and twisted contemporary horror/sci-fi/fantasy works. But he’s not only renowned in the literary world. He has made an indelible mark in the film industry with 64 of his novels and short stories being adapted into some of the most iconic horror films in history, including Carrie and The Shining. (Fun fact: The Shawshank Redemption was adapted from his 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.)

It makes you wonder what kinds of scary movies catches the attention of such a well-respected and aptly nicknamed author like the King of Horror. Well, Fandor has put together a list of a bunch of his favorite spooky flicks in the video below:

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No Film School

Here Are All the Reasons Why You Should Stop Making Films

Most of the time, there are more reasons to quit than to shoot.

How many times have you told yourself that you don’t have what it takes to make films? Films take time, money, talent, and creativity and more often than not you feel like you just don’t have any of those things. Maybe your parents have told you that it’s a waste of time. Maybe you’ve already tried to break into the industry and failed. Maybe you haven’t made anything in years because your inner child has been replaced by your inner critic who is constantly telling you that if you try you are going to fail.

If this is you, you should watch this video by Simon Cade of DSLRguide immediately.

When I was in first grade, my teacher asked the class to draw a picture of our favorite animal. Once everyone was done, we sat in a circle so we could show everyone what we drew. When my teacher held up my picture—it was of a cheetah—a boy laughed and pointed at it, and that was the first time in my life that I ever realized that something I made could be seen as “good” or “bad.”

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No Film School

Interview: NY Filmmaker Jim Strouse on Making Uplifting Indie Films

Jim Strouse

“You really have to drive your own train and you have to keep it running.” Yes indeed. Meet Jim Strouse. Also known as James C. Strouse. Jim is a filmmaker originally from Indiana, who now lives in New York City. If you don’t recognize his name, hopefully you will recognize his films – Grace Is Gone (in 2007), The Winning Season (in 2009), People Places Things (in 2015), and now this year he has brought us The Incredible Jessica James. Jessica James stars the talented Jessica Williams as Jessica James in an optimistic, engaging story of a struggling playwright in New York. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, like every film Jim has made, and is being released by Netflix – it’s available to watch now. I caught up with Jim at the Sundance Film Festival this year for a chat, and I’m happy to finally present our interview in full. I love his films and I’m glad I had the chance to talk with him out there. ›››

Continue reading Interview: NY Filmmaker Jim Strouse on Making Uplifting Indie Films

Dementia 13 Remake Coming from Chiller Films

Dementia 13 Remake Coming from Chiller Films

Dementia 13: Remake of famous Corman/Coppola shocker coming from Chiller Films

Director Francis Ford Coppola‘s 1963 shocker Dementia 13 was quickly thrown together by the young filmmaker (his first feature, outside of an earlier nudie Tonite for Sure) at the behest of producer Roger Corman, who was mentoring the young filmmaker at the time. The crew was in Ireland and finished shooting The Young Racers early and Corman pushed Coppola to whip out a Psycho-riff quick. He did. And many cite the results as one of Coppola’s best films.

Now, 54 years later, Chiller Films have announced that they will be releasing a remake of the shuddery, black and white psychodrama in theaters on October 6, 2017 and on VOD and Digital HD on October 10, 2017. This retelling is directed by Richard LeMay (The Dark Rite, Naked As We Come) and is written by Dan DeFilippo (The Invaders, Chilling Visions: 5 Sates of Fear) and Justin Smith (Siren, The Boy). The cast includes Julia Campanelli (Walking Away), Ana Isabelle (The Eye, Lost Cat Corona), Marianne Noscheze (Horror Time), Channing Pickett (Redheads Anonymous) and Christian Ryan (Celebrity Ghost Stories).

In the original Dementia 13, Luana Anders murders her husband and ventures to Ireland to his family estate where she is menaced by his disturbed family and then beheaded by a roaming axe-murderer. In this remake, a vengeful ghost, a mysterious killer and a family brimming with secrets converge in one night of terror. Dementia 13 is produced by DeFilippo and is executive produced by Smith.

For more information on the film, please visit the official Dementia 13 Facebook page.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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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