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Old March 6th, 2010, 11:59 AM   #1
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How to make a high budget film on next-to-nothing

After winning the Best Film award we have decided to celebrate by releasing a 7 episode series of high definition 'How to Make a Next-to-Nothing Budget Feature Film' video blogs in the weeks leading up to the presentation of the award on April 24th, 2010.

Each video explores in total 40 vital factors involved in low budget film production by means of interviews with key members of cast and crew, excerpts from the film itself and behind-the-scenes footage and photographs...

YouTube: YouTube - How to Make a Next-to-Nothing Budget Feature Film -Episode 01 [HD]
Visit the official blog at The Recipe to Ambleton Delight

All the best,
Dan
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Old March 6th, 2010, 12:59 PM   #2
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"We learned the hard way--so you don't have to." :)

This is so well done! Using your experience with your feature to demonstrate and motivate others--very useful for those who are starting out, or for those who have crashed and burned.

Thanks for sharing with everyone here. I look forward to watching the entire series!

Edit: Also looking forward to spending some time on your blog. Looks great!
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Old March 6th, 2010, 02:24 PM   #3
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Nice work, looking forward to seeing more!!
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Old March 6th, 2010, 02:24 PM   #4
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Thanks Lorinda, glad you found it interesting and more importantly practical. There's so much we learned the hard way, that during film school nobody told us about!

The video itself does not allow much time to explore it all in detail, but the blog does, so hope it can help others make their projects a reality. There's some great stuff on the video coming up too, so enjoy!
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Old March 8th, 2010, 10:52 AM   #5
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Wow - Incredible Timing!

I came back to DVinfo after a lengthy absence because I'm deciding whether to embark on a no-budget movie-making effort myself, and was about to start a thread to ask opinions as to its viability. Now I see I'll have to delay posting that thread...

...to spend several hours reading your movie blog.

I'll say it again: Wow, incredible timing.

I've only read/seen two things on your site so far: Your very first post, where I believe you state your budget was 6000 pounds, which is almost identical to my own ($10K); and secondly, your Trailer, which elicited the following immediate response:

"Wow, if this movie can look this good for 6000 pounds, maybe there's hope!"

[Note second "Wow" of post.]

In any case, thanks for sharing.

Now, on to the Tips!

Steve

P.S. BTW, a second impression of the Trailer was something I've heard American directors say about working with British casts: "Wow, can EVERYBODY in England act??"

[Third "Wow"!]
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Old March 8th, 2010, 08:27 PM   #6
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Steven,

They simply take acting more seriously in Britain than we do in America. I tell American directors not to cast models and they're all under the impression that no attractive women can act. They're also scared to death to work with actors that have more experience than they do, so they cast people with even less on set experience and wind up with unwatchable performances in their labor of love. Leave the inexperienced actors to the experienced directors.

Every year, universities in America turn out thousands of incredibly well-trained talented actors. Every year, indie films insist on casting people who cannot act because they are terrified that "theatre actors" are going to "over-act". It's just nonsense. What a formal acting background gives you is tools so that you're not just randomly grabbing a performance. Tell a trained actor to make it smaller or make it more specific, and they'll know what you mean.

Just don't do it. When you cast, look for people with theatre degrees. The short cut to putting together a cast than can act, is hiring people who are Equity because you'll rarely see a bad actor with an Equity card. It does happen, but not often. On the other hand, extras with no ability whatsoever, can finagle their way in to SAG so a SAG membership is meaningless to me in terms of talent or professionalism.

There is no reason why a $10k film can't look and feel like a half million dollar project. Just think your way through script so that you can afford to shoot it correctly. Rehearse your actors and make sure everyone is off-book and knows their scenes inside and out before you shoot ( I tell everyone that they must be off book two weeks before we shoot). get a few takes of your master shot and don't worry about perfection - worry about getting coverage. Then, hire an editor who is experienced at cutting features and who knows how to fix the problems that arose on the set.
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Old March 9th, 2010, 02:01 AM   #7
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Lori, I agree with all of the points you made, particularly regarding British actors--the vast majority of the ones I've worked with not only have the good chops that come from theater work, they are hard working and rarely caught up in the trappings--they just focus in and get it done.

Lots of things between the cracks in the last paragraph--I'd add that to make a $10K film look like half a million will generally take an experienced cinematographer, production designer and costume designer--or if not experienced, naturally gifted and resourceful! While a good editor can whip a badly covered scene into the best possible shape, there's not as much you can do in post to save bad lighting or laissez-faire sets. And of course, the most carefully written dialogue (another "must have!") won't come off if the sound is dodgy.

For those who are all entering into this together with a minimum of experience, it's all about planning and testing...the more thought every production head puts in ahead of time, the smoother the shoot.
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Old March 9th, 2010, 10:23 AM   #8
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Followup to "Wow"

Lori: I enjoyed reading your post.

FYI, the (paraphrased) quote I used about British actors came from director Ang Lee on the commentary track of "SENSE AND SENSIBILITY" which, IMO, is the finest British period/costume movie ever made (high praise from an American who has become a sucker for these types of pics, watching every Austen adaptation on "Masterpiece Classic" and getting worried about having his male parts repossessed!). As for hiring good actors, believe me, if I decide to pull the trigger on this production, I'll be THRILLED to have experienced people sign up. I care about the final product, not my ego.

Charles: Thanks, too, for your comments.

I don't, however, want to Shanghai this thread and turn it into something it didn't start out to be (and besides, I'll soon post my own thread seeking advice on my own movie), so I'm going to turn the discussion back to Dan Parkes and "AMBLETON DELIGHT".

Having now read the entirety of Dan's blog, I can recommend it highly. The same care that obviously went into the making of his award-winning film has been given to the useful Tips he and his production team have written.

However, and if I may, Dan, there was one moment of "Ah-ha!" for me. It's the fact that you own/operate your own production business, and had access - and experience - with some pretty expensive equipment that I don't believe factored into your 6000 pound budget (such as a $5000+ HD camera and 35mm lenses). Of course, this explains why your movie looks so good, but it definitely caused my $10K budget to shrivel up a bit!

But to end on an "up" note, I'll say this this (which should be music to your ears): The website, the trailer, the award, the blog - all have conspired to make me very interested in now actually seeing your movie.

And isn't that what it's really all about?

Steve
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Old March 17th, 2010, 07:08 PM   #9
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Steven -just want to apologise for the very late reply to your post. But it wasn't for the lack of trying -my account was disabled due to my posting similar information in different areas of the site that I thought would find this video series helpful but it was apparently considered 'spamming'.... lesson learned!

Anyway, thanks for your feedback and glad you have enjoyed the blog so far. In regard to your "Ah ha!" moment, the equipment we used was not exactly "pretty expensive" -the camera itself we bought as part of a package deal that was very reasonable -the lenses were Minoltas which the camera operator already had, and it was edited on a home PC, so it is certainly within many people's grasp. But to provide figures, if we had hired the kit for the 12 days of shooting the final budget would have been about 10,000, which was in fact our original starting budget.

But then again I firmly believe it is not a case of what you have but what you do with it. I filmed a feature in Japan on a handycam which many have enjoyed without thinking about what it was shot on... !

By the way episode 2 is now on-line.... YouTube - How to Make a Next-to-Nothing Budget Feature Film -Episode 02 [HD]
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Old April 16th, 2010, 01:35 PM   #10
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I was watching Marat/Sade last night - the feature film version of The Royal Shakespeare Company's groundbreaking production of that play. Holy moly, what a piece of work. Now the RSC is the finest theatre company in the world and these are the best actors living. Even so, what struck me is the level of charisma on display. This is something indie filmmakers frequently pay no attention to and it's something American actors frequently don't understand either. With only a couple of exception, the actors in that production are working class actors and yet, they display staggering levels of charisma, and it's that charisma that makes that intellectually dense piece so accessible. All kudos to Peter Brooks' incisive and inventive directing as well.
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