Monday, 24 February 2014

NO BUDGET FILM MAKING : THE MYTH. THE LEGEND. THE TRUTH.

READ THIS : Please bare in mind that this is just how I have approached filmmaking. These are things that have worked for me, they may or may not work for you. I'm not saying there is a right way or a wrong way to do these things I can only speak from my own experience and point of view. There is also no substitute for hard work. With that in mind Read on. 

It's fair to say that No Budget filmmaking is becoming more common, the drop in the price of technology and accessibility to cameras and computers has seen to that and made it all tremendously easy, I mean its highly likely that right now your reading this on something that capable of shooting and editing a movie. So I'm shocked in this day and age that people consider it, not only a myth, but actually something to be looked down upon. In a world where you can make a film and even edit it on your phone, some people still view no budget filmmaking as nothing more than a legend and a fabrication of truth. As someone who spent the first decade as a filmmaker working with pence to make my short films, I want to talk about the truth.


THE MYTH


"The No Budget Film Is A Myth"


I've been confronted with a school of thought recently and it has kind of shocked me. Especially as back in 2009 I made my first feature with zero funds. I've always been incredibly proud of the fact that myself and a handful of people looking to break into the industry as actors, camera ops, sound techs, etc, achieved on little more than belief. Yet some people look at this kind of achievement as somehow less valid, because little or no money passed hands.


A still from Dead In The Woods
I think that no budget filmmaking can be 'A Myth' if you want to be. If you're looking for a reason why you 'can't' go out and make movies then I guess it is quite convenient for it to remain just that, A Myth. I didn't have the luxury, as a teenager I didn't have the money to even own my own camera, So I borrowed my friend's camera whenever it was free and used college editing suites or my friend's computer when he wasn't using it for his own projects. 

The first film I ever shot, was on SVHS and cut on a tape deck in an old dusty room at our local college. It sucked (ironically it was about Vampires), but it taught me a lot about how not to make films. More than I'd learned from any of my extensive reading on the subject. See I just simply wasn't interested in 'not' making movies, I was, however, interested in actually going out and doing it.

I spent the next decade making short films, all of which had no or very little budget and learning each time how to make the next one better than the last. Whilst I was at university, most of the students made 3 films during their study time. I made about 25, not all of them good, some of them terrible, but with each one I learned a new lesson about lighting, about sound, about directing actors and about a bunch of other things that I never would have even considered to be important. All on nothing.



THE LEGEND


I spent the most part of my early teens following low budget filmmakers and trying to learn as much as could from their movies, their writings and sometimes working with some of them. The internet back in 1999 wasn't really the extensive knowledge base that it is now and to learn specifics you couldn't just jump onto youtube and find what you were looking for, you just had to figure it out. I struggled for many years to find a no budget feature though, but I knew there had to be one, but it seemed to just be a legend.

The first appearance of Evil Santa in the MychoVerse
During this time one filmmaker had really stood out to me. Robert Rodriguez, who made his first film, El Mariachi, on £4000 ($7000). After some research I found that Mariachi's budget had been spent on filmstock and that everything else in the film had been snatched up from Roriguez' family and friends. It was at that moment that I realised the no budget film was staring me right in the face.

Film stock was no longer an issue, in 2008 we had inexpensive digital tape (I understand the quality difference, but 28 Days Later was shot on MiniDV and that's good enough for me) and so without that as an expense, the no budget feature was certainly closer to being a reality for me. From here, removing the element of filmstock, I started to see more of my favourite films had been made on little to no money. Evil Dead, Phantasm, some of my favourite movies of all time could have been made today on much less money.

After graduating I had a theory, and that theory was pretty simple. I had made 25, 5 minute long short films on no money, that would amount to 125 mins. I figured that a 90 minute feature was like making 18, 5 minute movies and that was the beginning of the basis for Creepsville.



THE TRUTH


Whenever this comes up, the first argument I get is where did you get the camera, the computer, the etc, etc, etc. Here's the simple honest truth, I had it. Already. I worked 3 jobs whilst at university and saved up for a camera. Because I knew I was serious about wanting to make films, before I ever had the notion of wanting to make a feature, I spent £300 on the cheapest minidv camera on the market. I bought a computer with my own money to edit my footage on, before I ever had the notion of wanting to make a feature. It took me about 10 years of buying stuff here and there to have everything I needed to make movies. The truth is, if you're serious about this. You'll have it. 



Our 1st werewolf (Fool Moon) made with £land Halloween stock 
Now people say "well that's your budget" and I say to that, no. Whether I had made a feature film or not, I would still have had that stuff. Because I just wanted to make movies. I just got to a point where I could sit on my arse all day waiting for money or I could just go and do it.


See the real truth is that no budget filmmaking is resource based. It's about writing around what you already have. If you want a tank in your movie, but don't have one or have access to one, leave it out. Maybe someone you know has a range rover that you can mount some guns made of toilet paper rolls on. Ok maybe not that, but you get the picture. Work with what you have, with who you have and with where you have.

Our cast were all local, we shot out of hours ( about 6 hours a night) so people just brought thier own snacks. Our locations were all local so there was very little travel involved, it was all just a matter of using what we had accessible.

The Original 'Cleaver' from Clowning Around
It's same when it comes to gear. In this day and age everyone has some form of camera and editing facility on thier laptop, on thier phone, on their tablet, or know someone who does. Just use what you have, don't have film lights, use work lights or bed side lamps or whatever, just go out and do it and play to your strengths. With Creepsville we had what we needed to do it, then ironically the Univerisity allowed us to borrow some old gear after hours during the summer holidays, however the old gear was still better than our current gear and so we went with that, but the lesson remains the same. If you look for excuses you'll find them forever. The irony is, if you look for other ways, you'll find them forever too.

MJ

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