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Old June 27th, 2004, 04:10 AM   #1
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Can I make a GOOD Documentary for under $10,000

So far my path to starting my documentary has been through many highs and lows. And today i just found another reason to be low. Two films that really inspired me to make a documenatary were Roger & Me and SuperSize Me. I love the satire angle and the fact that you can take the most serious of a subject and make people laugh, from a perspectivly cheap manner.

Now this is where i hit my low. S.S.M was made for (what they consider cheap) $65,000! Really, that grass root project spent that much cash. They didn't even use film. If i heard right it was shot with a pd170.
My true inspiration, Roger & Me, cost an astonishing $250,000.00! What. You think i'm kidding. No, I just heard it on CNN . Where did the money go? Holy Cow. Ok, he did use film and stuff like that, but how and where did he rake up a bill that high? I understand he likely paid for the music, but does archive footage cost money as well? I just watched that movie today and i can't for the life of me see where most of the money went (i'm assuming music/archive and legal).

So i want to make my docu., but can it be done for $10,000 ? I want it to be presentable and my goal is to enter it in film festivals. I have almost all my equipment so i'm fine in that regard. I need to find out where do all these films blow there load (so to speak). And i guess i'm going to need some grant money if making one is this expensive - where do you go about getting that, anyone have a good link? Have you seen a nationaly successful docu made for cheap?

As always, like to hear from all angles and views (like I have a choice :)
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Old June 27th, 2004, 06:55 AM   #2
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I just shot a documentry for nothing yesterday. It's not what you spend it's how much creativity you put into it. (and technical skill)

Don't worry about it so much - just shoot it.

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Old June 27th, 2004, 07:03 AM   #3
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Don't believe in the propaganda.

No, I am not against the two doc's you mentioned, but I doubt the non-political sides of them that had been publisized. They are probably big-money operations to start with, using "masquarading as small-timer" to get publicity.

The same way I doubt the Democratic Party is for the "little guy", which of course is even less so for the Republicans.

Remember, when these guys say stuff in public, they are not under oath... :-)

BTW, Andy Dufrain, how was Mexico?
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Old June 27th, 2004, 01:42 PM   #4
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So you're telling me that S.S.E was possibly a puppet for a bigger company? I heard that he used all his own money to finance the film.

Mexico? I may be going in a couple months, but how did you know. I don't recall i ever said it here.
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Old June 27th, 2004, 02:24 PM   #5
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Oh, don't tell me you believe everything they say. :-)

Who knows what's true. Sometimes even Hollywood stars get conned by their very own lies. Remember that saying "don't believe in your own propaganda"?

Of course, you are the same guy trying to get people to believe your real name is "Andy Dufrain"... :-)
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Old June 27th, 2004, 09:00 PM   #6
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Supersize Me had a number of expensive animated segments, likely the bulk of the budget; also, budgets on documentaries are stuffed with overhead: office space, internet access bills, phone bills, cell phone bills, and the crew probably milked the budget for travel, meals, and the like sundry expenses. (There's even a line early in the film with Spurlock holding up a taxi receipt, saying, "These cab fares are really going to add up." Think he means from his own pocket?) Add to that bills from three doctors, a nutritionist, and a physical fitness expert, and it's easy to see where the money went. (It wasn't just a bunch of $2.29 Big Macs.)

Many good documentaries are produced every year for under $10,000. Not all of them have the high-concept hook and comedic execution of a Spurlock or Moore film, so most of the best ones end up at film festivals or on television, rather than being the hit of Sundance or Cannes and subsequently enjoying nationwide release.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 03:32 PM   #7
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Just watch the credits at the end. You have to remeber that ALL of those people are on the payroll.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 03:41 PM   #8
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And if they are shooting in 35mm or 16mm a lot of cost is in processing film. If you shoot dv and your film gets picked up by a distributor, they will pay for the transfer to film.

Not that it was a documentary, but El Mariachi was filmed for 7k.

Keep the faith.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 07:49 PM   #9
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Mariachi was NOT filmed for 7k.

Urban myth my friend.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 08:08 PM   #10
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That's funny, because that's about the price Rodruigez quotes in Rebel Without A Crew...

Or do you mean that the FINAL version, including blow up to 35mm, sound, re-editing, etc... cost more than $7000.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 08:33 PM   #11
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Nope,

Rodriguez also admiitted the price on his credit card was that low, but he also got thousands of "in kind" services for free from UT, and others.

So the rough cut, that no one ever sees, before it was "fixed" was closer to a hundred thousand.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 09:48 PM   #12
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IMHO, free services still count as free.
If he was only $7k out of pocket, then IMHO he made it for $7k. Free still counts as free in my book.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 10:24 PM   #13
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Check your book... defered payments cost you. His credit card loan was defered, his payments to his actors and vendors were defered. If you think defaulting on any defered payment is a good idea, you won't be in business long. They all have to be paid sooner or later.

Check out some of his earliest inteviews in the Houston Chronicle. The credit card story starts out at "under five grand not counting other deferred expenses".

So if I use my credit card, taking out a five grand loan, convince people and vendors to go in on the deal, and paying them a huge percentage for the risk if/when it goes through. It goes through and I pay people the three hundred thousand I owe them out of my profits...

(Of course, if it doesn't go through, I declare bankruptcy and nobody gets paid, including the credit card company... but that's another story)

Did it still cost "Only five grand" to make. Or did I leverage five grand into several hundred thousand?

This is a very, very important distinction that lost of people don't understand.

(File this under the "No such thing as a free lunch" menu)
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Old October 7th, 2004, 12:03 AM   #14
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I think that a documentary costs as much as you have. If you have 10K, you'll spend 10K. If you have 100K, believe me ... you'll find a way to spend 100K. I know that I could!

In fact, I'm sure that SSM would have turned out pretty much the same, had he spent only half that amount.
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Old October 7th, 2004, 12:34 AM   #15
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All good points about Rodriquez. I think in today's circumstances a film maker can make a dv documentary for 10k up to the point of distribution. If the film is chosen for distribution then more money will be required in terms of transferring to film and advertising but that money will be supplied by the distributor.
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