Filmmaking / Directing : Let's get back to the basics by Michael Audet

Michael Audet

Let's get back to the basics

Does anyone agree with the notion that a group of filmmakers creating weekly content with the prospect of a zero dollar budget is now absolutely possible?

Sam Mann

I would say depending on the circumstances and logistics, anything is possible.

Regina Lee

That's the founding principle and best practices of YouTube, right?

Rick Mowat

I agree with Peter. Zero budget almost always means real dollars - food, hard drives, equipment or software no one in your group has but you're going to need, costume pieces, props, transportation, the list goes on and on and you will spend. It's a matter of how low you can keep it.

JD Hartman

The only way zero budget works is if you own everything already, the "crew" works for free, the locations are yours, a neighbor's, public spaces, etc., everyone including cast buy their own lunch and beverages and of course the town(s) you shoot in don't require permits.

JD Hartman

No, not the best way. Really the only way you can make a "pie-in-the sky" , true zero budget short. If you don't own or can't get "it" or borrow it for free, don't write about it. Even the ridiculous in todays time book: Rebel Without a Crew, Rodriguez had to spend his own money when he shot in his home town in Mexico and he was exceedingly clever.

Elisabeth Meier

Possible with a zero budget I say NO and refer to what Peter wrote. Further, I would say you won't make money by this. If you want to be seen online and spotlight on your films and on yourself as a filmmaker I would recommend Vimeo. The films and trailers posted there really have a better quality and you don't make money there - as far as I know - which keeps away all these people who think YouTube is a gold mine for them if they post an instruction how to knit potholders. Further, and the most I disagree that it's possible to create a weekly content of high level quality and a proper length. So, it's a No from me.

Thomas Bailey

A Zero budget is a false idea... time is money and nothing can be done with 0 time.

Elisabeth Meier

Victor, but these thoughts and searches for alternative ways are time consuming, work once and not permanently for weekly content.

Thomas Bailey

We shot an indie feature this summer for ~ 6k will everyone getting paid. It can be done for cheap – you just have to plan, ask for favors, and plan, plan, plan.

JD Hartman

To the OP, no I don't believe it's possible unless you are shooting something unscripted, in a free location like your living room with friends using: consumer grade video camera; no professional microphones or sound recording; no makeup; no lighting; no editing; etc. You can churn out Utube crap like this guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toAXzBjMeNc H's had several channels, all laughable, some demonstrating quite dangerous techniques.

JD Hartman

@T. Bailey....The Indie feature, is it complete? Did you shop it around, was there a market for it?

JD Hartman

If you have no budget for talent, locations, food, equipment, props, wardrobe, etc., will you have any budget money for festival entries? What exactly are you offering someone (cast and crew alike) when they work on your zero budget project? The ever popular Craigslist good karma and networking?

JD Hartman

@V.G. Maybe you are taking this a little too personally? Okay, your wardrobe statement is spot on, at this level you can expect talent to bring something suitable, with your approval without them going out -of-pocket. If you are casting your project, no need to settle for the less talented, especially with a good storyline and a project with potential to be seen and be good material for a reel. If you are an actor, don't you want to see every project you work on go somewhere, be seen somewhere other than the Internet? Same holds true for crew. You don't want to spend a week or several weekends on a project that never get finished, never shown or entered anywhere. I don't work on shorts just so someone can practice at being a film maker. I expect to gain something from the experience. Just because I already own 20k in lighting, grip and expendables, doesn't mean it costs me nothing to use them on your project. There has to be some sort of give and take. Very bad examples of this abuse exist right now in the NYC portion of Jobs. Feature film offering no pay? Get real people. Lincoln ended slavery long ago. What would I offer, well at least a token payment for their time.

JD Hartman

@V.G. Re: locations Never for free? Not entirely true, that's where creativity can help. You can reach beyond just using your own home, your friends and relatives, not all towns require film permits. Those that don't just require that you notify them when and where you are shooting on public property. Also no reason the aspiring film maker can't avail themselves of shooting at their friends/relatives places of businesses. Just have to ask, it can happen. Mention the business in the credits. It works, shot a commercial copier company, used their offices and their warehouse on the weekends. Had a town in NJ close down a road for a car chase scene, using a fake police car no less! No cost. There are not isolated examples.

JD Hartman

@Robin Remde Commercial release?? How is submitted to and hopefully being screened in a film festival a commercial release? It's a test of you skills, a quality judgement. If you keep submitting your short and no one accepts them then you're doing something wrong. How else will you know?

Owen Mowatt

Locations, actors, props, staff, there are many things you can get for free. But I agree that there is no such thing as a zero budget film.

JD Hartman

@V.G. Are we talking festival prizes? I'm not talking about submitting to big festivals, I mean the local ones. If you continue to submit your work again and again and it never gets screened (not talking about winning a category), then you're doing something wrong. Festivals are one measure of success.

JD Hartman

@V.G. Sorry, didn't understand at all. I know IFC screens shorts, but I didn't think they paid anything. I don't think and most will agree that shorts don't make anyone money, they are just a calling card of your skills. If a person can't direct a good short, why would I trust them with a big budget feature?

JD Hartman

@Robin R I don't need to "Cool my jets", the zero budget BS train needs to be derailed. I interpret the OP as creating content, something of value to someone else. Not something like, lets get together in my Pops basement or garage and just light and shoot some stuff. You learn by working your way up, learning from classes, books and your peers. Who's going to critique these practice sessions and give corrective feedback? Most people can't recognize their own faults. Bad habits are hard to unlearn. I've worked with too many self-taught that don't even know the proper way to coil a stinger or an audio cable. You want to learn with a discerning bunch of people, get a crew position with an under-grad senior thesis film at a major university with a film major like NYC, Columbia, UCLA, etc.

JD Hartman

@V.G. We've had this discussion before, it's where our experiences differ. I've worked with undergrad film students who already where getting paying works, so what you say isn't the universal truth.

Debbie Croysdale

A film can be purely character based, one location with zero props. Eg All stuck in a lift.etc. If its done zero budget, and the concept is brilliant, it can be pitched to the right sponsors/producers for necessary funding. Never say never. Even if only shooting via phone, think out of the box. "What have we got, the other guys haven't got?" Eg someone may have an uncle with a tame Lion, another might be a qualified parachutist etc etc. and these unique traits can be interwoven into a great script. I agree also, with most of the comments above, everyone needs to muck in.

Debbie Croysdale

@Victor. Right on.

Rick Mowat

That's just amazing!! Exactly what awards were those?

Rick Mowat

Hmmm well that's interesting. See I'm originally from Michigan and I've never heard of AIFF and can't seem to find any mention of it anywhere. What does AIFF stand for and where was it exactly? That's so cool!

Rick Mowat

Just so funny. Gone without a trace! Poof! Seems like you can find anything no matter what on the internet. Don't you agree? So I asked an buddy of mine who has worked frequently with the only festival anyone's ever heard of in Ann Arbor and he never heard of it either. Sure you're not dis-remembering it?

JD Hartman

@V.G. Make it easy, post the link. This had nothing at all to do with the AIVF, that group that had amateur film maker chapter all over the USA, did it?

JD Hartman

@ Peter Fleming, sorry, didn't hijack it either. My posts were on topic about the fallacy of the zero budget fantasy. @V.G. You repeated your opinion of film schools being a waste. You started down that road again. You really come across a bitter person. As if you were cheated out of something......

Whitney Wickham

Yes. It is. But the question is the quality of that content. And what does that content provide? It seems with things like Perescope and Meerkat now we all think we can just produce mindless content easily and people fall for it. My hope would be to continue moving forward telling worthwhile stories but we are so oriented in quickly engaging through social media and other online outlets I think we not only as content creators, but viewers alike, forget quality over quantity.

JD Hartman

Are you asking for me to compile a daily budget for this project? If so, I'm the wrong person to ask, not a film school grad., never worked on or a saw a budgetary breakdown for a feature, music video or short. Born a technician, worked as a real world electrician, moved into the world of film and video. All I know is from my own difficult, life's lessons. I know that deferred pay means no pay once investors, expenses and above the line people are paid. I know that no film project will ever pay below-the-line crew "points". I know everything usually takes longer than the script breakdown says it should. I know the crew that shoots a trailer is rarely the same crew picked for the feature. Based on a 10 hour day, the least would be $200 and I'd have an time and a half OT clause after 10 and double time after 14, in writing.

Whitney Wickham

It also comes down to the story we are trying to covey. Sometimes less is more right? You are right- we don't need millions or even thousands to make great works, but it is when we produce mindless content, producing to produce that we devalue ourselves quickly and over time. We should always ask ourselves what are we making and why. If the answer is, "because it seemed like a good way to kill time," that may not be enough to make the content worth the time spent.

Whitney Wickham

@peterfleming I couldn't agree more about deferred pay! It is hard enough to get a copy. Don't stuff me on $20 too. ;)

JD Hartman

@Peter Fleming O.T. clauses, there always the people that insist the shoot is simple, quick, minimal setups, won't take more xx hours and they want ultra low. Ten hours later you're on scene 3 take Marvin....., because the Director and Producer aren't satisfied. You've got to cover you ass with people like that. Especially with the inexperienced Directors and Producers.

JD Hartman

A good example of abuse, a.k.a. indentured servitude is posted right now in the NYC, NY jobs section. No pay for a feature? Should I bring a bag lunch as well as my tools, lighting and grip equipment? Bet that above the line people and investors will be compensated if the completed film is sold.

JD Hartman

Why is crap like this allowed here?

JD Hartman

Crap like the no-pay feature that's crewing up posted in "Jobs".

Elisabeth Meier

No, they offer a "job" with no payment which for me then actually is voluntary work and no "job" as a job includes a payment. If you apply they ask you to do the complete writing based on any strange idea they will deliver then (if you agree) and they will sell the script and offer to share 50/50 of what they'll get by their sale and then they will make the film. This is a true and the answer you mostly when you apply to these no paid jobs. Just to make one thing clear - there's nothing wrong to work for free if a student needs a short script, but how will you know these guys are really students and so I think even they could offer at least a low payment and value my work, time and energy.

Ekat Rin

Lack of dollars increases creativity if you are a true creator! Thus, why not?

Elisabeth Meier

Why not? Because the writer creates and writes the film and by this s/he is the actual filmmaker. The director will later be the one who brings the film to festivals and gets awards, money and what ever. The writer will hardly be known afterwards. Hence, I think the writer should be valued by getting paid - and in a proper way depending on the budget. I am supporting student film makers with free screenplays, so please don't get me wrong, but so called job offers should include a payment. Without payment it is no job but volunteer work.

Ekat Rin

"The writer is not the filmmaker. The director and producer is/are. Unless the writer is also the director and such." Absolutely agree! The writer is just a tool, necessary in the process.

Elisabeth Meier

What I meant is that the writer is the actual creator. He is the first who has the complete film with all details in mind. What Victor said, without him there wouldn't be a film and nobody would have a job. The director makes the film but actually he has only to follow the screenplay. This is why I think the writer shouldn't be asked to work for free in a so called "job offer" because a job stands for paid work. It's like the composer and the conductor. You will always call a concert a "Mozart concert for clarinet", played by xy and directed by yz - and never say it's a "Nicholas Harnoncourt Concert" because he directed it - just to give an example.

Ekat Rin

A writer and a director are like the nature and a sculptor. If the nature does not provide a sculptor with marble, a sculptor is useless, but yet, it's a sculptor who creates a sculpture. As for paid work... Does anyone force a writer to take an unpaid job? It's market! If no one takes an unpaid job, no one will offer it.

Elisabeth Meier

Ekaterina, we were talking in this lounge about no budget films produced in weekly content. Hence, the no payment stuff is related to this thread. Thanks for your understanding.

JD Hartman

IMHO, based on the post made by Peter Fleming (checklist), it's not possible to produce weekly content with any "value" other than to the filmaker(s). You can have a weekly filming practice session of a scene from a script, but that will get old real quick. Even that is asking a lot from your volunteers, HMU buys/uses their own supplies, camera op with their own camera/lens package, sound guy with his own equipment, Gaffer/Grip with their own equipment and expendables, DIT/Editor spends his "free" time downloading and cutting takes together for review, etc., etc. Sounds like you might be looking for a group like this: https://www.stage32.com/meetups/363/Meet-crew-discuss-projects-and-make-...

Elisabeth Meier

JD, exactly. Even if you have all this you won't be able to do it weekly - at least not with results in proper quality. Also, the link you added is a unique project of a short film made by a meet up group. One film, no weekly content like Michael asked for in his post here.

JD Hartman

EM: yes posting the meetup group link was a shot in the dark, a local group that produces "stuff" on a semi regular basis, but not weekly. I question the desire of the original poster, what benefit to creating weekly content?

Royce Allen Dudley

Creation of non budgeted work is not only possible today but its everywhere, and a superb exercise for people to investigate most any job in front of or behind the lens.... then pursue and develop a craft they find a passion for. An amateur hobby has almost always cost money ( building miniature models, collecting coins ) so "no budget" is relative. The team needs lunch, the footage needs a hard drive. Can this work be high quality, even professional ? Entirely dependent on whose hands deliver it from idea to birth. Then there's the issue of no budget/ micro budget /low budget. It's important for people to quantify what they mean by that to others. To some, "no budget" is $25,000 and to others it'seems large, medium or low. SAG defines films under $200,000 to be Ultra Low Budget. Then there is the view that work for free is an equity investment of value, so even a weeknd project that cost zero cash could ( or should ) be valued as if everything cost cash. So much misunderstanding so often among people in the indie realm deals with one word : budget.

Elisabeth Meier

JD, yes, so do I. It can only be about exercising the process like a rehearsal that you do again and again.

Oliver Orme-Lynch

100%. We've all got smartphones, laptops and amazing ideas. Nothing can stop us now!!

Oliver Orme-Lynch

@Peter this is true, but we all have to start somewhere. Also you can make a pretty good project these days for almost zero money. Most people have a friend with a 5d and access to premier.

Oliver Orme-Lynch

Also even talented people make crap art sometimes. Lets be honest here eh...

JD Hartman

Are the 5D and the lenses stolen? Is the copy of Premier bootleg? If neither are true, then a portion of acquisition cost becomes part of the cost of shooting. There is no free lunch, even with Guerrilla shooting. Sooner or later you are going to end up in court paying a fine or wishing that you had a permit at a moment when the appearance of the Police would be a blessing and not a curse.

Royce Allen Dudley

At least in L.A., most competent rising independents all budget for: insurances ( several kinds ) permits, all things SAG, craft services and catering at a minimum. You cannot plan around the unknown future, and at least in the lack of insurance realm, you can end your career before it launches... and it's uber selfish not to provide for basics of cast and crew needs, even if unpaid. Your reputation as a professional starts on your amateur day 1.

Rachel Ann Mullins

I did the first feature length movie for these guys that had a similar opperation called 5 second films. I would say its plausable.

Royce Allen Dudley

Victor, I agree... you should be doing it all yourself, 99% of the time. Cheers.

Royce Allen Dudley

DIY alone works if you do not have a budget and won't collaborate. If you have a budget, you DIY like Kubrick; your way, with hundreds of tools called cast and crew. The frustration you touch on is a direct result of digital maturing ... now that filmmaking is democratized, no one "needs" money or others, so with no barrier to entry there is also no heirarchy... everyone is at the same level. The new filmmaking skill that matters is collaborative leadership... with or without $.

Elisabeth Meier

I just would like to remember you all that the question of this thread was not only whether it is possible to make a zero budget film or not, but whether it is possible to create a weekly content this way or not. To me this means weekly development and writing of a proper story PLUS the complete filming process - and I still doubt that this is possible on a certain level. People who produce such weekly zero budget contents usually then post stuff like average youtube video producers.

Royce Allen Dudley

If you pay for nothing, do it all yourself and place zero monetary value on your time... sure it's possible. Happens all the time. Some people even get views.

JD Hartman

The question still unanswered by the O.P., what's the purpose, the expected gain of producing weekly content?

JD Hartman

But were not just talking about an individual, spouting their pearls of wisdom on a YouTube soapbox. The OP stated a group of filmmakers producing weekly content, if there is no plan, no end game, why then?

JD Hartman

I guess I'm looking for some sort of valid , logical answer as to why a group of people would put in a weekly effort. What does the group gain as a whole, other than practice session in front of a web audience? If you're trying to create a weekly web show or be recognized as a YouTube partner, I think you need a to monetize that effort otherwise you're probably wasting everyone's time and money. Channel owners that are YouTube partners do make make money, but I couldn't tell you how much.

Rick Mowat

Peter you are absolutely correct! Victor I've stood by and watched you bloviate on numerous topics you know little to nothing about (don't even get me started on your "actors are cattle philosophy") but this bit about Youtube is so egregiously wrong that I want to try and undo the misinformation you've spouted in case others might have actually taken you seriously. I want to give back in a positive light and trust me Youtube is going to be the way for many, many creative people. So this is for them. Enormous amounts of money have been made on Youtube and largely by people you've never heard of - PewdiePie, Piano Guys, Bluecollection and Jenna Marbles. All of those people and their respective channels earn in the multi - millions annually and yes they are the aberrations. But there are 1000s perhaps 10s of 1000s earning a very good $100K per year salaries with a lot less viewers than Lady Gaga gets. In fact, many of the lesser earning channels are doing it full time and even have a large staff. The hot categories currently are how to videos, fashion, music (did you know Youtube is a far bigger music purveyor than itunes?) pranks and countless others. More? > Did you know Youtube uploads 300 hours of content every minute > They just launched Youtube Red last week which is a premium pay channel. They are going after Netflix with all kinds of scripted shows and yes films, which they are financing. And they are looking first at successful Youtubers and taking them to the A level. That's happening right now. It's not a promise. And if you think Netflix is cash rich, well they're the poor cousin to Youtube / Google. My prediction is that they will equal if not overtake Netflix in 5-7 years. > I know personally several individuals that have gone from zero videos to $15,000 a month in less than a year! Still think this is for losers? I don't! Is it easy? NO! Nothing good ever is but it's totally doable and in the end you have to get a lot of subscribers. That's where the money is. But when you reach a certain threshold not only will Youtube get involved and push your success but advertisers and branding companies will show up all over the place wanting to pay you money to display their goods and services. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. And yes I'm launching the first of several Youtube channels in the coming months. Stay tuned. And the most amazing thing in my opinion is that this whole thing is still in its infancy!

Rick Mowat

Amen Peter Fleming. Amen.

JD Hartman

@Peter Fleming Overthinking this? Maybe, maybe not.... your not some junior high or high school kid fooling around with Dad's video camera.... If a group is creating weekly content there has to be a purpose and an end goal. It has to benefit everybody on the team otherwise it's just one or more people exploiting the time and talents of the rest of the group for their own gain.

JD Hartman

Sorry to detour this thread further with my above comment about ethical behavior. It's sadly lacking in this industry.

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