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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Micro-Budget Blues or How to Make a Movie in 6 Days: Part Two

Fundraising

I wish I could say I knew the magic “secret” but the truth is, there isn’t one. Fundraising is and always was fairly straightforward. It’s someone without money asking someone with money for it. In the past, I’ve raised money through employers and networking. On Edges of Darkness, the financing came from the producer, who I had worked for as a camera operator on a comedy documentary. On Trap, it was through a producer who was new to the game, that I met working my day job. Then of course there’s also self-financing, and on a micro-budget this is doable. Trap was shot (production) for just over 5k. There are plenty of avenues out there; you just have to be able to sell yourself when the time comes. These days part of being a filmmaker is being a salesman.

Actors

Working with actors on a micro-budget movie is a different experience for me, then what I have witnesses on bigger sets. First off, on a micro, time is really against you. I chose to pay actors and crew, even if it’s just a little. But this also puts my micro on a set schedule. There is no overtime or reshoots. What I get is what I get. During a typical day I get anywhere from 1 to 3 takes and very little rehearsal. If, by the 3rd take the performance isn’t there, I HAVE to move on. Otherwise the movie will not be finished. Of course this is a general rule and there are scenes and takes that I make exceptions, but in general this is a rule I have to stick to. Therefore, I try to look for actors with as much experience as possible and that can come in a give a serviceable performance with as little help as necessary. I try to set up a rehearsal period before the shoot, but this is usually un-paid, so I always leave it up to the actors.

Post Production

This is where a lot of micro productions get killed. It’s such a skilled job, it’s hard to find someone good to edit, do sound design, fx, art…ect. I’m lucky in that I started as an Editor and own my own equipment. So far, I’ve edited all of my own features. I do this not out of wanting to be an Auteur, but because I have to. When I can afford to turn my work over to an experienced, competent editor, I will. But until then I will continue to edit my own work. Also, over the course editing my own and a few others, I have also been forced to learn sound design. If you watch all three of my movies the progression of sound is one of the most noticeable improvements. One of my best friends is a web and graphic designer. He donates art and does web work for me usually as a favor. If I didn’t have him, I’d probably have learned myself. These days, you have to be kind of a one-man army, especially if you have no money.

Distribution

I’ve heard for years that it’s hard/almost impossible to sell a movie. I’ve found this not to be true. I’ve had no problem finding distributors for all three of my movies, so far. These are not all great movies, some are not even very good, but all had certain sellable elements that low budget distributors look for when it comes to putting out a movie. In my experience, it’s pretty easy to sell horror, especially if you utilize some kind of creature or monster. Zombies are an easy sell. Slashers in the woods, not so much. For me the trick isn’t so much getting the movie out there, as it is getting my fair piece of the pie. While I have made some money on my works, I am still working a day job and the projects are not yet 100% feeding the next projects. Although, they are getting very close. It helps to talk to other filmmakers who’ve sold to a company before jumping right in. Get as much info as you can. Sometime, just getting your movie “out there” is good enough and there are plenty of distributors who will do that. But as you progress in your career, it becomes crucial that the movies are making money and that you or your producers are seeing a fair amount of that money.



Micro-budget filmmaking is hard. It takes all of your energy, time and focus. Everything is a favor; every day is another new hurdle. But, the results are yours and yours alone.

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