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Old September 5th, 2007, 01:15 AM   #1
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Feature for $5000

I'm shooting my first feature for (hopfully) $5000, and i need some help on were i should spend my money. I have acsess to a canon xha1, and a conon 814 xls (8mm film), and i was hoping on making it all or mostly on 8mm. i own a sennhiser me66 so a microphone is not an issue. i can borrow 2 totas, how much more light do you think i would need? if anybody has some good experience on making super low-budget features, that would be a real help!

Thanks,

--Corwin (15)
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Old September 5th, 2007, 02:16 AM   #2
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1- This is a very broad question!

2- To answer your question in general...
You should first look at what your needs are.

- Do you want to commit your money, time, and life to making a feature? Depending on its scope, it can be a big undertaking especially if you haven't produced a lot of films before. You might want to shoot a trailer or a scene that can stand on its own (as in, a scene that makes sense by itself without needing the rest of the movie).
- Technical needs
- How many locations
- How many shooting days
etc.

3- Make a realistic budget. There tends to be *a lot* of little expenses that add up. You might perhaps look at some template budgets as a starting point (though some of them are for bigger budget productions).

4- Budget for good food. If people are helping you out for free and for long hours, you want to keep everyone's spirits up.

5- Gear-wise, do you have a windsock + boompole for your ME-66? Are you going to be shooting scenes where you can't get the mic very close? (In that case, sound from the boom mic will suck and you may or may not want to use wireless, or find an alternative sound solution. Look find a quiet location that's not echo-ey.)

Audio is important to get right. People will put up with a shoddy picture, but won't put up with shoddy audio.

If you shoot 8mm film, you might need an audio recorder??

6- Lighting:

One approach:
http://www.dalelauner.com/words/NABkeynote.html
*Though there are things you don't have, mainly:
-A very talented DP (David Mullen is in the ASC)
-A budget quite as big
(-Experienced crew; experience and talent make a huge difference!)

But really, you should look at your script. What does it call for artistically?

7- The other thing to ask yourself is whether or not the script is worth producing. Most people can't write a good script, especially if they do not have experience doing it. I sure as hell can't write. But many filmmakers end up spending thousands of dollars on mediocre scripts... and for what?

Some related info...
http://www.tengrandmovie.com/

8- Another approach would be to hold off until you have more experience under you belt.
Enter contests like the one here at dvinfo... there's deadlines to make sure you don't slack, and you can even win a prize (and they're pretty damn good).
dvxuser.com also has contests from time to time
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Old September 7th, 2007, 02:40 PM   #3
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My simple advise- watch Robert Rodridez's 10 minute film school (it's on the EL MARIATCI DVD).

His basic rule - never spend money on anything. Ever. And if you're shooting film of any type $5 k is a very small number - not impossible, but very tough.

john

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Old September 7th, 2007, 03:30 PM   #4
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For 5K, if you stick to HD video, you can put alot more money in front of the camera rather than it in. Film + Processing + Telecine (so you can edit in computer) is expensive...even with 8mm.

Of course, for 5K no matter what, you're going to need to be your own biggest supporter. I'm 5 years into a feature and have found that people working for free have short attention spans.
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Old September 7th, 2007, 06:21 PM   #5
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Quote:
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I'm 5 years into a feature and have found that people working for free have short attention spans.
WOW, and I thought my current two years of just working on our 90 page screenplay was long.
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Old September 7th, 2007, 07:08 PM   #6
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I once had a discussion with a friend about the feasability of making a 'small movie'. All of the usual needs were obvious... put the money where it counts, keep it small, keep it simple, STORY STORY STORY...

"All I need, is a GREAT script, with two characters and a single location, it's got to have FANTASTIC dialogue, and compelling actors..." he murmured.

"You've just described a Broadway play," was my reply.


Seriously. Before you jump into shooting a feature, cut your teeth by shooting a few really fantastic scenes from some really terrific plays. Go ahead and find out what it takes from the TECHNICAL end... casting, scheduling and shooting ONE SCENE from a stage play. Pick something that happens in a living room, so you don't have to scout locations. See if you can find a scene that runs four or five pages.

Then see if you can SHOOT it in a day.

I promise you you will be amazed at what you will be forced to learn in that single day.

IF you decide you love the process... then you have to come up with a simple script, something small, something compelling, something SO good that incredibly talented people will be begging you to work on it for next to nothing.

Then ask yourself why you don't simply produce the script as a play.
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Old September 7th, 2007, 09:36 PM   #7
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I've not read all the advice above however i do know by experiece that unexpected things happen and you have to be able to just fix them with initiative. we made a feature for £10,000 ($20,000) and it turned into a joke, that budget is ludacris when you think about equipment food travel lodgings for 30 people over a 2 week period but that is the challenge. The film was never finnished but we learened a lot from it, we learned the thing they don't teach you at film school and thats the s##t that happens and how to fix it on the spot. We have all the shooting equipment and post facilities we need but it means nothing unless you can pay for the people you need to make the film good enough to be in with any kind of a chance.

Story is obviously key but having now shot two features and a promo for the third (the 4 min promo its self cost about your $5000) the thing i hate the most is bad acting, it will kill your film no matter how good your filming is or the story, the only way to get good actors is to pay for them unless you find a diamond in the rough which trust me is 1 in 2 or 3 hundred, im sick of using bad actors so with this promo we are hoping to atract some private investment and then match it with scottish screen in the sum of £100,000 (about $200,000) we already have a rich guy interested in putting in £50,000 , even with £100,000 i'm struggling to pay for a six week shoot with 30 people.

not only do you have to be accomplished filmmakers with a great script, you also have to know the path you are taking and the right people that are gonna take you down it,. Busiess is business and making films is a business like anything else.

By the way i'm not a pessimist, im a total optamist, i just realise what im up against.

Andy.
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Last edited by Andy Graham; September 8th, 2007 at 07:09 AM.
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Old September 8th, 2007, 08:14 PM   #8
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to answer your question well...

we'd need more information. Have you shot other shorts before? 8mm isn't a production medium - why are you thinking about using it? Do you have a DP onboard? If you have hired a DP, what is he/she bringing to the table and how much are they charging you? If you're doing the lighting, how much experience do you have? How long of a shoot are you planning? How many actors per day? How many locations and are you paying for them? Do you mean two Tota light kits? Or Tota lights? How are you planning on handling post? What large city are you near? And lastly, and most importantly, is this your personal money or someone else's?

I've made several ultra-low budget features although all of them a little bit higher than what you're planning here. You can do this and you can do it well.

My one preliminary word of advice is this - with an ultra-low budget feature, no one is looking at the technical aspects. What you're going to sell them on is a great script, great acting, great directing and great editing - you should be able to have all of those things.

Anyway, give me more info and i can help you quite a lot.
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Old September 8th, 2007, 08:30 PM   #9
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Corwin,

I just re-read your post, and I see that the number 15 follows your name in parenthesis. (15) Also, that you are in Palo Alto, just down the penninsula from me.

Is this your age?

If so, it's an ambtious project for a young person. Certainly it's possible to shoot a 'feature length' video for 5,000 dollars. But as most have said, we need more information on your background, experience and contacts before we can offer you specific advice.
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Old September 9th, 2007, 05:23 AM   #10
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Ok if we're answering questions well......heaven forbid, (by the way just a quick question for you Lori, how do you find being a lowbudget filmmaker in LA? in Scotland there is nothing like the amount of filmmakers or even a real industry so we tend to get access to places for free and people bend over backwards to accommidate, but in LA filmmaking must be such a common thing,over there every waitor is an actor and there's so many filmmakers do you every struggle to be taken seriously? or is it the oposite and everyone helps incase your the next tarentino? iv always wondered about it)

Anyway.

The most important thing when shooting a low budget feature is preperation, you need to have every aspect worked out before you get to the location like places and times, how people are getting there, how long it will take you to set up your gear and things like food for the actors (important). You also need to know exactly what you are shooting, turning up and winging it is not a good thing to do, it takes twice as long.

With regards to your actual question about where best to spend your $5000 you have to make sure you have a viable production workflow which will take you from pre production through to final product. This means for a very basic film you need 1) a camera 2)sound equipment 3)an edit suit. With those three basic things you can make a film.

You say you have access to a canon XHA1, my advice is use it over the 8mm it will save you time and money and give you a better result not to mention the editting process will be a lot easier with the HDV camera.

You have access to what i'm assuming is two lamps, we shot ours with two 800w red heads, granted it wasn't the best lighting but we did it. The more lights you have the more creative you can be.

You have an ME66, its a decent mic we use the same, do you have anything to plug it into? if you use the XHA1 it has XLR inputs so you can go directly to camera, if you go with the 8mm you'll need a DAT recorder which is expensive.

You have your camera and audio now you need to be able to edit it, if you don't have an edit suit or access to one you'll need to buy one. If you are shooting HDV you'll need a half decent amount of RAM, currently i'm using a G5 Quad with 1.2 terabites and 2gig Ram, you won't need all that storage space but i reccommend getting at least 2gig Ram. The basic macbook pro laptop is £1200 (about $2433) and final cut pro edit software is £849 ($1722).
If you are buying the edit suit it puts you over budget by $155 and thats not thinking about money you'll need for food and travel etc. You can look around for other cheaper editting options.

As i said that is as basic as it gets, it can be done well as Lori said but you need to have your ideas worked out and tested, i watched the bourne ultimatum which looked like it was all shot handheld and it looked absolutely amazing so it can be done.

If you are 15 you face many other problems like the fact you cant drive, people may not take you seriously, you won't have a contingency fund for when the production goes over budget and your parents may not be happy about you putting in the 18 hour shifts that a feature film requires unless you are doing it on weekends in which case it will take you about 10 years. You also have school to think about.

Hope this helps.

Andy.
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Last edited by Andy Graham; September 9th, 2007 at 06:14 AM.
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Old September 9th, 2007, 12:27 PM   #11
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LA is an incredible mixed bag. There are so many businesses that will simply say "no" to you without any thought whatsoever. I needed to shoot a scene in a hotel room the other day - a ratty hotel room. Crew of less than 10, no dialogue, one actor handling a gun in front of a mirror. I live very near (ahem) a ratty section of town. Right down the street from me is a hotel called The Silver Saddle that has a giant horse on top - what could be more cinematic than a giant plastic horse, right? They wanted $5k for the afternoon - I have no idea why. You get that everywhere you go. And then you walk into other places, and they just open the door and let you shoot. Industry professionals tend to be willing to give you really great breaks on their prices - so that part is golden. A few years ago, I was shooting a scene on the side streets of Venice where a group of people are simply walking down the street. We're not interrupting anyone's life in anyway whatsoever. The sidewalks are open. we're parked in a parking lot so street parking is available. No screaming. Not blood. Just your basic walk and talk Two different local residents came out and demanded to see our permit - and were threatening to shut us down if we didn't have them - just because they could. We were obviously professionals and everyone was well behaved. Cranky people.

I get to get out of LA a bit for the next production. I'm looking forward to that.
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Old September 9th, 2007, 03:12 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Lori Starfelt View Post
LA is an incredible mixed bag. There are so many businesses that will simply say "no" to you without any thought whatsoever. I needed to shoot a scene in a hotel room the other day - a ratty hotel room. Crew of less than 10, no dialogue, one actor handling a gun in front of a mirror. I live very near (ahem) a ratty section of town. Right down the street from me is a hotel called The Silver Saddle that has a giant horse on top - what could be more cinematic than a giant plastic horse, right? They wanted $5k for the afternoon - I have no idea why.
Because they knew (or thought they knew) that's what Universal would have paid them for the afternoon.
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...Two different local residents came out and demanded to see our permit - and were threatening to shut us down if we didn't have them - just because they could. We were obviously professionals and everyone was well behaved.....
And did you have the permits? I think the perception is that "professionals" always would have.
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Old September 9th, 2007, 03:36 PM   #13
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5k thats completely insane, we had a steadicam shot walking through edinburgh airport and there apparently is a 300 charge for it but with a little smooth talking from our producer they were happy to wave the fee and they even gave us our own airport reprisentitive who took us round and let us into the checkin desks.

As far as permits go we contact the edinburgh film counsil who get us into counsil buildings like the local court etc and they give us codes so we can park on yellow lines, all they ask is you have your public liability insurance in place which we do, they don't give you a printed permit so anyone wanting one would have to call the council. Then we contact the police if there are any guns or fights in the street.

People over here are really happy to help.

andy.
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Old September 9th, 2007, 04:49 PM   #14
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Yes, of course, we had our permits. We're professionals and we're very good at what we do. We're considerate. We're quiet. We're doing an adaptation of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. Everyone is a grown up. We're working with a Sony F-900 - not a cheap camera.

And that's my point - in LA, even when there is nothing to object to, certain local residents go out of their way to shut even non-intrusive productions down. We were shooting up Los Feliz at a massive estate. The guy across the street who has produced a few pictures for Disney kept calling the police on us. His first gambit was that he knew we didn't have permits - that failed. So then he was bitching about the generator but we were clearly way within city noise laws.
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Old September 10th, 2007, 08:55 PM   #15
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8MM? Choose that over a Canon A1? ...and you want to save money? I don't understand.
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