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D.I.Y. Microbudget Filmmaking

Ken Hegan
- The Voice of Treason

“I never ask people for permission to make a film. Instead, I present them with the fact that I’m making a film. If they’re wise, they’ll get in on it early.” -
Francis Ford Coppola

Thanks to digital video (DV) equipment and the Web, you can write, finance, direct, shoot, edit, and distribute your own low-cost CLERKS or BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.

Follow these steps to transform yourself into a microbudget auteur:
#1) LEARN FROM THE GIANTS
Study 700 movies and 800 scripts. Examine character arcs, scene construction, conflict, and plot twists. You’ll find hundreds of screenplays, from ALIEN to WITHNAIL AND I, at http://www.script-o-rama.com/
#2) WRITE YOUR AMAZING SCRIPT
Then rewrite it 17 times. Don’t stop until it’s original, doesn’t suck, and you believe every scene. It’s a ‘low dough show’, so delete crowds, explosions, expensive costumes, children, dogs, and Jim Carrey. A terrific resource is Charles Deemer’s Screenwriters and Playwrights Home Page: http://www.teleport.com/~cdeemer/scrwriter.html.
#3) RAISE SOME MONEY
Try family, friends, grants, limited partnerships, casino heists, and mail order fraud. How much cash will you need? Whatever you can get. Collect dozens of credit cards---preferably not your own.
#4) RESEARCH YOUR SHOOT
Billed as “the headquarters of the digital filmmaking revolution,” www.nextwavefilms.com offers The ABC’s of No-Budget Filmmaking, post-production financing, plus marketing and distribution strategies. Next Wave wants to “free filmmakers from the belief that they must have the permission, approval, or resources of 3rd parties to make their films.”
#5) FIND A GREAT CAST
Cast well and you’re 90% closer to a strong film. Select the best, most versatile actors you can afford. For advice on actors and casting, Judith Weston’s book, Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film and Television, is available at www.mwp.com.
#6) RECRUIT A SMALL REBEL CREW
Think energy, talent, and commitment. Check references because you should NEVER work with assholes.
#7) SECURE LOCATIONS
Before production, scout your locations for sound, light, outlets, and toilets at the same time and day (or night) you’ll be shooting. Bring your Director of Photography, Boom Operator, Assistant Director, and your versatile Production Designer/First Aid Attendant/Caterer.
#8) CREATE STORYBOARDS and a SHOT LIST
Study Steven Katz’s book, Film Directing, Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen www.mwp.com #9) EQUIP THYSELF Canon’s XL1, www.canondv.com is the preferred mini-DV camera for the microbudget revolution. Use the XL1 to shoot auditions, rehearsals, location scouts, and your entire film. Approx. cost: $6,000.
#10) SHOOT YOUR MASTERPIECE
Gather actors, crew, and camera in the same place. Make everyone comfortable, then aim the camera at the actors. Remember three things: 1) You’re not paying anyone, so feed ‘em well. 2) Get someone to snap good publicity photos on location. 3) Besides death or (maybe) jail, nothing is more important than what happens between “Action” and “Cut.”
#11) EDIT YOUR MASTERPIECE
Apple’s Power Mac G4 (approx. $6,000 with a 17” monitor) is the best home movie studio for power, speed, memory, and its iMovie 2 video editing software. Or install Apple’s Final Cut Pro ($999) to professionally mix your sound, effects, music, and titles (www.apple.com).
#12) SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION
When your film’s done, show the world. Make VHS copies and an eye-popping poster. Enter video/film festivals found at http://www.filmfestivals.com/index.shtml
Woo distributors. In January, for example, Hollywood’s power brokers flock to Sundance to party, ski, and maybe even see your movie. You can also try Slamdance, Slamdunk, or Slumdance, which all screen in Park City, Utah at the same time. Come February, Berlin is the epicentre of the film festival circuit. March brings the Amnesty International Film Festival to Amsterdam for films about Human Rights. And in April, New Mexico hosts the Taos Talking Picture Festival. If your film wins Best Feature in Taos, they give you five acres of land.
#13) ONLINE DISTRIBUTION
If traditional distributors overlook your genius this time, sell your film directly to indie fans via www.reeluniverse.com. Regardless of where you show your film, learn how to talk about it with the same passion you devoted to it during its creation.
#14) WRITE YOUR NEXT AMAZING SCRIPT
Find the time and flex your writing muscles. Soon you’ll be unstoppable.

© Ken Hegan
Copyright © 2002 Voice Of Treason Productions Inc.
Ken Hegan is famous in Vancouver for many short and funny films and writes for several Canadian Magazines.
Also Published in Pursuit magazine
http://www.voiceoftreason.net

More movie stuff in Reviews

Make your own movie? If in Vancouver this August go to
WWW.REELFASTFILMS.COM for the 48Hour Film Festival
Starts August 16th Get a team together NOW

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