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Could you shoot a feature film with less than 5k?

I don't really gamble, so I didn't go so far as betting but someone has set me a challenge. It started with the old film school debate.

Anon: Film grads can't make films for 5k.
Me: What? I did.
Anon: Yeah, but you're not like a film grad. You had to write essays. You did joint honours with French. You study history in your spare time. You trained to be a secretary and a hairdresser. You worked in a factory, as admin, and on the phones. And, a lot of your team never went to film school...
Me: What about a team of all film grads? or all media grads...
Anon: If you can find them, then...

Anyway, here's the conclusion. Would a team of only history grads make a better feature with 5k than a team of film grads? What about a team of math grads, business grads, technical college attendees or non-grads?

So, could you get a watchable, feature length fiction film "in the can" for five k? (Good sound needs to be recorded on set, there's no budget for adr, but might be a budget for music or editing at the studio.)

This is a theoretical question at the moment, but there may be a contest in the works. A team of film grads vs a team of grads from another discipline (preferably from the same school.) vs a team of people with something else in common (say, hairdressers who left school at 16.)

If no team of film grads even respond, but non-film grads respond, I lose. If only film grads respond to the question, I win. If both respond... well, we'll see.

Then, how would you choose a team to represent each school? Would we ask for a schedule/budget and storyboard, or have others from the demographic vote for representatives? Would we have them do the same script, to show that the finished product isn't being judged on story? Or, is choosing a script an essential part of the process? Would guaranteed distribution of successful films be an incentive, or make it more difficult to come in at such a low budget?
We'll see.

And, how would we insure that the teams didn't cheat?

Happy Shooting,
* PS, a couple of locals who may be on this list are acting weird. Wassup? Can I help?

  • Goodness, I guess it depends on where you draw the boundaries. Do you hire lighting and camera packages in that price? Does it include insurance, legals, etc? Consumables? Interesting thought experiment, this should be fun :)

    1 year ago
  • Thanks Paddy.
    It's everything in the shooting budget, so, yes, lighting, camera, would be counted. Shoot it on a phone, using natural light if you have to. 13 films have done that and gotten to the cinemas. Your crew will probably be tiny.

    Insurance for a feature can be found for less than 400 quid (especially if the budget is that low, and you don't shoot near water.) So, yes, that's included too.

    Yes, includes legals, consumables. If the contracts deviate from any standard employment contracts that you can buy in a book or online, then they'd have to be altered by the team (film grads, history grads, etc.) And, any cost of buying ready-made contracts needs to be included.

    And yes, it is possible to make a film for that budget and has been done.

    1 year ago
    • Anyone who is hired for the film grad team, even for an hour, needs to be a film grad. Even the taxi/Uber driver to get people on the set. Likewise for the other teams, they all need similar backgrounds.

      1 year ago
  • Tangerine was shot on a phone but had a $100K budget.

    Can you do it? Yes. All you need is an amazing one person single take single location script where you are the actor talking to a fixed camera and you can do it for completely free.

    Hmmm, Plato's Cave. Crew of 2 (Director and MUA) and cast of three illuminating each other with phone torches and filming each other with phones and a script very loosely based on Waiting for Godot. Doable. Well, no one said this had to be a commercial movie....:-)

    1 year ago
  • Okay, so it looks like I have two "nos" from non-film grads. (That's how I read 'no one said this had to be a commercial movie.') Feature film implies not only length, but even more so commercial distribution.

    Thanks for adding in the budget of Tangerine, Marlom. A thing to consider with script pitch. Once was also 100k, and over five years ago, so it would cost more today.

    I read so many pitches that, well, obviously the writer doesn't know how much things cost. Either that, or like me, they feel funny about calling something "high budget" when it's 100th the price of a superhero film. Read this, "low budget" category is cheaper than a film shot on a phone! We need more budget categories, please.

    (If we want to attract quality producers, we need to show films that are realistically budgeted.)

    As for one person scripts, I haven't seen many feature lengths (except for one-woman shows and stand up comedians, which are more stage-y anyway.) but, half hour I remember an episode of one foot in the grave and Mr Bean. You really need an amazing actor to pull it off, and lots of rehearsal time. (And, remember, if we need to book a place for rehearsal, that needs to be in the budget.)

    Single take is not really a movie, unless it's a tv movie with multiple cameras. When you show theatre in the cinemas (broadcast or recorded), they call those experiences or event screenings, rather than films. Single location might be (Dinner with Andre.)

    And, webinars don't count either. (Single person, talking to a camera, that's a webinar.)

    1 year ago
    • You misread my commercial comment. I basically think you CAN shoot a feature for 5K, by showing that, if you had the perfect script - i.e. one that worked within all the parameters laid out, you can actually shoot a feature for free.

      But as a writer, I was also observing that it's a very had ask to come up with something compelling that fits those parameters. Though Locke gave it a damned good go.

      1 year ago
  • I'm struggling to appreciate the point. Not being fixated on the accomplishments of academia I'd be more interested to discover the real world comparisons of the formally educated 'film grad' and the uncertificated, in any discipline at all, self taught film maker?

    I've seen stuff made for literally nothing by school kids that although significantly lacking in technical refinement can be more compelling than some other things made with low budgets that major on using the proverbial 'Haynes Manual' text book of how to make a film. There's a subjective opinion issue in this. Who picks the judges? What's the criteria? Style or substance?

    The democratisation of opportunity provided by cheaper smart technologies is opening up the profession to a whole new sector of the community who are likely to refresh things somewhat.

    Notice how often films slated by those assumed to be qualified to judge nevertheless succeed with real audiences.

    To coin a pun, it's all a bit academic.

    1 year ago
    • John, you bring up a point that taste is individual. Judging art is always open to bias.

      Also, energy, passion, or whatever those kids have can beat technical expertise.

      Some of my favourite filmmakers went to film school, but I struggle to find a film post 1972 that has either all film grads or all non grads (Tarantino uses film grads as editors and in other roles, Spielberg for Cinematographers and other roles, and so on.)

      The participants would have to be non-celebrities (at least those in front of the camera), so the judges wouldn't know their background. They may have to go under pseudonyms too.

      So, I guess I have three non-yeses (perhaps not outright nos) from non-film grads, no responses here from film grads, but one on another network which was equally non-committal. (And could be, perhaps, also read as a no.)

      Anyway, thanks for all the feedback.

      1 year ago
  • Can you shoot a feature for less than £5k? Yes, no doubt about it. Here's a great example of a feature film shot on a £5k budget.

    More details about the producing & directing:

    1 year ago
  • Absolutely can and have both produced one and worked as DoP on one. Never say never with regards to who has the potential, but what really made it possible we’re the technical knowhow and planning/ scheduling. I suspect a folmschool grad would shine on those fronts over a non film school grad. Knowing sound lights technical solutions ... both the films I worked on were shot in 5 & 10 days respectively that depended heavily on understanding real world fast paced shooting. Both budgets were more about travel & subsistence with contracts that meant no one would be exploited if the films make money. Distribution, that’s always gonna be tough to make a profit because the budget is reducing possibilities.

    1 year ago
  • I'm an engineering Grad, produced (amongst other things) a 15 min drama that cost £800 (shot on location over 2 days and everybody but me got paid) single camera, owned by operator, cast of 2; multiply by 8 gives a 2 hr film for £6400, but there would be savings to be made, as we also had time to walk miles in high hills. If we could do it, anyone can.

    1 year ago
    • Thanks for your contribution, that comment really made me think about how I'll explain finance needs to engineers.

      11 months ago
  • Depends entirely on script, contacts, and what people get paid - no budget for post sound/ music would be a mistake though. ADR is a tiny consideration but decent dialogue edit/ sound design, appropriate music and mix...

    1 year ago
  • Following on from Mark's example, this is a great article from nofilmschool about shooting a feature for 7$k - roughly £5k Definitely possible...

    1 year ago
  • Thanks everyone.

    I had some scripts in mind, but I've also been looking at script pitch for possible scripts for this project.

    Tried to put up an ad looking for a director, put it was pulled down. Before it was pulled down, two directors replied (both film grads.)

    Maybe it's best to find writer-directors, as most microbudget films are done by writer-directors. Or, start with a treatment.

    11 months ago