Filmmaking / Directing : Question about micro budget films. by Tyree Salazar

Question about micro budget films.

I always hear on podcasts and filmmaker stories about “oh I made this feature for 2,000.” Or something like that and I’ve always been curious of how the hell do they get that done? Like especially with all of the post production and legal costs and E and O insurance and deliverables like that stuff racks up quick. I wish more people talked about the business and legal side of filmmaking lol

David Trotti

I can give you a few numbers from a $50K film I did which was released domestically and in multiple territories and passed all QC with all required deliverables. We spent about $45K on the actual production. Production Insurance was $1800. E&O was $1000. Post was all done using Adobe Premiere Pro CC on a Mac to deliver in ProRes 422, so we spent maybe $300 on drives and $100 for software (2 months of Adobe CC at $50/month). Sound Post was about $1200. Music Licensing was around $1000. We did all the editing, color timing and file rendering ourselves. We needed to have the post sound done by someone who knew what they were doing because we needed separate audio tracks for the international deals.

I'd say you can certainly make a movie for $2K (if it's an all-volunteer effort and the camera and equipment is free). But like you said, there are other costs that crop up later. Though sometimes your distributor will pick up things like E&O and deliverables, against your end of the profits of course.

Christopher Poet

Glad I saw this post. David Trotti Insightful but thank you for sharing none the less.

Constance York

I did a documentary with $5000, but I did everything, except post sound, myself and I had my one phenomenal song donated to the cause.

Tyree Salazar

Hi Constance! I’d love to ask have you found distribution for your film? And if so what was the legal work you had to do and did it cost you to get it ready for distribution if so?

Royce Allen Dudley

It's smoke and mirrors. Micro budget films have unpaid values of human time and other resources not listed in budget columns. And anything as you suggest with deliverables like E/O insurance, transcription, subtitles, DCP... it's a lot of money. Take the El Mariachi myth that was one of 3 films that started the modern indie scene almost 30 years ago. It "cost" $7,000. But half a million went into it for post to get an approved answer print. Today, the $7000 number can be closer to zero because no negative or lab... but the half million, those things still exist. The lowest budget regularly distributed VOD features cost in the hundreds of thousands if they look and sound like anything people want to watch. Horror is an exception; there are niche markets within horror that accept $2000 movies. They are usually unwatchable to most people.

Dan MaxXx

Barry Jenkins made his first feature for $15,000. Filmmaker Rima Das directed, edited, shot, wrote, produced (one person crew) "Village Rockstars" for $10,000. Took her 4 years to finish. Everybody who works or wants to work in Show Business paid their dues with sweat and hustle. Nobody great started with money or connections. They grind their way to the top of their craft.

Constance York

Tyree Salazar, I didn't try to find distribution. Because it is on PTSD in the Fire Department, I uploaded it to Youtube in order to get it out to as many people as possible as soon as possible. Everyone I interviewed gave me permission to use it. I did two previous ones on the Detroit Fire Department - also on Youtube, so it's part of the series. Between all three, they have about 720,000 views. Youtube works for my docs, because they are a bit rough and look and sound better on the small screen.

Scott Sawitz

It's possible with a whole bunch of things.

1. Small cast

When you have 2- 3 actors it's easy to crank out scenes if you have the right cast.

2. One location

One location makes it way easier.

3. Skeleton crew

You don't need 40 people if you're willing to do the work yourself. A sound guy, 1-2 camera guys and a director willing to get his hands dirty.

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