Back in 2006, a buddy of mine had an idea. He loved horror movies, he knew someone with a camera, and he had been writing horror-themed stories since he was a teenager. He’d also been acting in theater productions around the region, and figured he could get a few people together for a weekend here and there.
And that’s exactly what he did. He turned one of his stories into a script. He pulled a few folks together. He started filming.
Many people do this sort of home-grown filming now, but at that time, in the wee early years of Youtube, it was a new phenomenon. I got on board during the filming of that no-budget movie, and took on the editing process on a laptop in my dining room because I had a basic editing program and (extremely minimal) editing experience.
Our 4th and 5th films under Big Biting Productions, and the two that got us attention
If we’d read a book about making movies, Steve Hudgins and I never would have had the nerve to do such a thing. We didn’t live anywhere near LA -- in fact, the nearest city, Nashville, is 100 miles away. We didn’t know any other filmmakers. We just wanted to try.
And so we did. We edited that first movie, got some help creating the master, burned 100 DVDs, and held a viewing for people who were involved in the making of The 3rd Floor.
And we were hooked. Is it a very good movie? Well, no. But it does have all the pieces that a cheesy horror movie needs. And more importantly, we learned from it.
We teamed up after that and made 10 more movies in the next 9 years, and learned more with each one.
The production company technically belongs to Steve, and I blame him for the name, Big Biting Pig Productions. It’s one thing we did right, though – you might not remember our full name if you hear it once, but the concrete image sticks better than an abstract phrase. And that’s what we were going for.
Big Biting Pig Productions was born out of the burst of creativity we felt from that first project, and now we have 10 features streaming on various platforms, plus a book about our movie-making experiences: Cheapskate Movie Makers: How We Made 10 Horror Movies in 9 Years With Nearly Zero Budget.
So how did we do it? We just dove in. We kept asking ourselves what’s the next step, and then the next step, and we dealt with them one at a time.
If we had thought about too many steps in advance, we would have been petrified. We didn’t follow anyone else’s method at the beginning; we just gathered the basics –camera and sound, actors, basic editing equipment – and got started. All of that was much more available in 2006 than it had ever been before.
We made a movie. And another.
Before we knew it, we had fans and distribution and a reputation. Our movies have been mentioned in Maxim Magazine and HorrorHound Magazine, we won Filmmaker of the Year at Fright Night Film Festival in 2013, and we continue to get questions about our “next project” from the many fans we’ve met at events.
Below is the list of essential qualities that helped us get movies made in the middle of the country with almost no money:
It can be easy to get discouraged, especially when you don’t know what you don’t know. A little bit of stubbornness through the first years of making movies helped get us past the stage where other people might have given up.
At the same time, it’s really important to be flexible and willing to learn. It can be hard to hear the negative criticism, but we also knew it could make our work better in the future. Any publicity, even negative, got new eyes on our work. We embraced it. We got better. We kept making movies. We found a distributor. Did the criticism stop? Of course not! But we had enough fans to know we were onto something.
All the expensive equipment in the world won’t make a stinker of a story into a good movie. As Steve and I are both writers, we already had the most important element of a movie -- the understanding of storytelling. Everything else is craft, which can be learned.
A few practical essentials as well:
We literally started with an inexpensive camera and a lower-end editing suite. Eventually we added a mic and boom pole, some inexpensive lights, and a monopod. We supplemented this with stuff we already had on hand, and over the years scaled up. But people still find our first Big Biting Pig movie, Maniac on the Loose quite watchable, and parts of it were filmed with just one crewperson -- the camera operator.
This is something we learned by the fourth film, but it would have helped if we’d done this from the start. Once we began asking people to donate their time, we realized we could only stay on track if we had a complete schedule ready up front. Holding auditions, casting from that, and then scheduling our entire movie shoot over several weeks is how we managed not to lose actors along the way. Did we have to reschedule sometimes? Sure! But by having an end date and filming dates scheduled, we let people know we were serious and counting on them.
We found out early on that if we ever wanted to try to get our movies on a platform, we would need releases about nearly everything or risk getting sued. The people, the crew, the images, the locations, the music -- having rights to everything prevented lots of headaches down the road.
On the set of Spirit Stalkers, a favorite of Big Biting Pig fans.
...and lagniappe (which means “bonus” if you aren’t familiar)
Having a partner in this crazy endeavor turned out well for Steve and me, and we got better at it over the years. We have different skill sets, and learned to listen to each other to get the best final product.
One smart thing we did was to maintain separate production companies and join up for individual projects. That way, we didn’t have to be in a legally binding relationship that would need to be dissolved if something went wrong. Steve founded Big Biting Pig Productions, which produces horror (both movies and books). I founded PJ’s Productions, which produces all my other creative projects (screenplays, and novels as well as video projects).
There are many advantages to filming outside of LA, especially in these times where almost everything can be done remotely. It takes a little ingenuity to get everything done, but it can be done.
We are proof.
PJ WOODSIDE has been involved in story-making her whole life, as a writer, actress, director, and video editor. She has won awards across disciplines ranging from acting to video editing. She wrote and directed the movies Frances Stein, Lucid, The Creepy Doll, and Widow and has appeared in all 10 of the Big Biting Pig movies!
PJ has a number of projects under development, including a female demon screenplay, a female buddy comedy, a COVID romantic comedy, and a novel, Ravine, which is making the rounds with agents. You can learn more about her work here.
STEVE HUDGINS is the founder of Big Biting Productions. He wrote and directed the movies Maniac on the Loose, GoatSucker, Hell is Full, Spirit Stalkers, The Caretakers and It Lives in the Attic.
Friday the 13th writer Victor Miller calls Steve Hudgins a "Horror Meister to reckon with."Steve is currently writing novelizations of his screenplays. You can find more about Steve’s books here.
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