Last week, Problogger issued a challenge to all bloggers everywhere: post a "Top 5" list and maybe win $1001. I didn't really think I'd win the random drawing (and I didn't), but it was a good exercise for me. As it turns out, "Five Things I Hate About Microbudget Movies" became the most popular post in this blog's short history, and was linked to from six or seven other blogs. It seems that list struck some kind of nerve.
Granted, it's always easier to be negative than positive, and one comment I received from da weave wondered what I liked about microbudget stuff. In an effort to be fair (and to respond to any reader), here is that list. I should point out that while the last list focused on the watching of low budget stuff, this time it's all about the making.
No one is expecting your project to be very good. The world is full of naysayers, and they all want you to fail. What a wonderful feeling it is to blow people away with something you made on a shoestring. I have the exact same reaction when I come across a movie that has no business being good (mainly due to budget), but is anyway. It's a wonderful surprise and makes me want to create the same reaction in others. My favorite comment from someone who has seen my past work is always: "what are you working on next?"
Personally Funded Films
I don't think filmmakers should have to be financiers as well. Spending months and months trying to secure a "real" budget is time that should be spent in some aspect of production. If you provide your own budget, not only will you feel empowered, but your spending will be wiser, and you won't have an investor breathing down your neck because "they should have a say". Financial autonomy means creative freedom and accountability to yourself, not Uncle Steve.
Gear That Levels The Playfield
When Sony introduced the VX1000 camera in the mid-1990s, it was a sign that the low budget digital video revolution was here. This was the first high quality prosumer camera with a digital output, that meant exporting footage with no quality loss. The camera was an "affordable" $3500 that raised the bar for what video-for-less could look like. Other cams followed, as did mics, flash recorders, lights, NLEs, etc. A tool is only as good as the craftsman that wields it, and these tools can give us all equal footing with professionals (who use them as well!).
Quality Folks That Work (Temporarily) For Free
Movies aren't created in a vacuum, and the more talent you surround yourself with, the better your film will turn out. Lots of these people will help you just because they believe in your script (they do, don't they?) and give you input that never occurred to you. Network and get to know who these people are, then convince them to participate in your project. Just remember to feed everyone, and pay them whenever it is you get paid. And give them more work.
Permit? What's A Permit?
A great perk for us guerrilla types is that we will shoot anywhere, with little fear of reprisal. If you have a very small crew (or just yourself and the actors), you can get some great location stuff by just showing up and shooting. Many DV cameras look just like camcorders, and draw little attention. When people do approach you (and you choose not to run), you can always hide under the guise of "it's a student film". Just be aware that if you want to distribute for profit, it's always a good idea to have a location release. No microbudget person can afford a lawyer.
There's your positive karma. Now get out there and make something great!