Thursday, July 10, 2008

Don't Make A Short, Make A Feature for $2,500

Why make a short film? If your answer is cost you are actually spending more money. What? Yes.

First the day of shorts is gone to showcase your talent. With the advent of digital tech you can make a feature for no-budget. $2,500 is all you need. But lets not get ahead of ourselves. Lets get back to why NOT to make a short.

There are some reasons to make a short but these should be limited to story alone. If you have a small idea, a one trick pony, make a digital short (Like SNL). Other then that, make a feature. Unlike shorts, you can sell a feature. People buy features. Studios want to see that you can tell a story. The best reason to make a feature, you can make your money back.

Making a short you are throwing your money away. So, unlike a feature you are waisting money, costing you more. Even if you don't sell your film or a studio can't see how wonderful and creative your are, you still have a product to sell.

I know, I'm a downer. It took me a long time to realize that no money is made in making a film. That is right. NO MONEY IN MAKING FILMS. The money comes from marketing a film.

Movies themselves are a huge money suck. Cast, crew, props, sets, craft services, location agreements, lights, cameras, film (video) stock, etc., etc. With no guarantee a profit will be turned.

So, what do you do? Give yourself a budget. Lets say $2500 and forget about making the sweeping drama about a towns Mesothelioma lawsuit. Cancer from asbestos may play well come Oscar time but for now aim small.

K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid). Small cast, 3 locations, and a simple story. Think, teens lost in the woods or dinner party. The subject will limit itself. Then hold yourself to that budget. Most likely you will not be paying your actors or crew, so feed them well. Spend a little extra cash to keep them well fed, pizza gets old after three days. Also, ask some local restaurants to donate food for a credit. Once we gave a guy a walk on for some beef sandwiches.

Next, pre-produce then pre-produce some more. The more you have your act together the more the cast and crew will respect you and be willing to go long into the night. Do not have the cast sitting around, you will not get the best performances. Schedule them so that have as little time on set as possible. Also, have the crew do the next set up while your shooting, this will move things along.

Keep your shoot to 12 days. That is 3 days a week for one month. Do nights an interiors on Friday after work and days and exteriors Saturday and Sunday. Budget about $100 a shooting day for food. That is $1200, just for food! That leaves you with $1,300.

Don't worry about about HD or any of the new wiz bang tech. If you don't already have one get a solid 3 chip camera by begging or borrowing, don't steal. If you want someone else to shoot your film get a student, most likely they have one are are eager to use it.

Spend most your time with the story and script, people can overlook bad lighting, no one can overlook a bad story.

Buy your MiniDV tapes online You can get 10 60-min tapes for about $25. Get 20 and shoot like you are on film. Buy a shotgun mic with a boom. Of course you can spend a lot here but I have got good results from $200 mics. Toss in another $50 for the boom pole.

So assuming you have a computer you can buy editing software and cut your film yourself. I suggest, if you don't already have a program, and older version of Adobe Premiere (Possibly 6.5). Buying older versions will save you cash. You can pick up this perfectly fine program for $150.

After that, you are left with $850. I know a lot of you are going to criticize me for not including lights or dolly or a half dozen other things but this is no budget film making. (If David Lynch doesn't need them, you don't need them.) There is no sense maxing out your credit cards, taking out loans, using other peoples money and most likely straining your relationships with friends and family. If the film story is good the film will be good.

The the remaining $850 on miscellaneous production cost, DVD's, film fest submissions, and small viral marketing for your film. After you went the fest route, you can publish the film yourself (see From there you can possibly get it on Netflix.

So, get out there and start doing. Good Luck.

No comments: