The Great No-Budget Producers

So, since I don't know where to start... I'm just going to throw this bomb out and see what happens. A few years back I wrote/directed and "produced" my first feature. To my surprise, it was immediately picked up by a small company for national distribution. That was all great, we didn't spend crap to make it, about $5,000-ish and we got that back +. Still, I hate and I'm terrified of the producer role. Most of the talk on here is targeted at those trying to make it big in film and join the Hollywood elite, I'm not interested in that... I want to be in a position where I can make $10,000 to $50,000 films and consistently get them made, distributed, and profit a bit from them so we can make another. I know there are people on here who are experts in this very area... That's who I want to hear from. Let me be clear, I don't mean people with an opinion... I mean the producers that do it on a regular basis. I'm not meaning to seem rude or overly direct, but these guys seem to be as rare as freakin' unicorns. You can find class after class from people telling you how to produce the Hollywood way, but I want to hear from people who produce for the VOD and Blue Ray Market. Don't let me down guys.

Thanks

Richard "RB" Botto

Zack Ward, Franco Sama, Brad Hibbs Wyman and Tyler Gillett are some people you might want to look up here, Bill. The first 3 have taught some of the most popular webinars we've ever had here on Stage 32, but they also hang around these forums.

Dan MaxXx

attend American Film Market in Santa Monica, CA. Lots of low budget filmmakers doing what you want To do. Talk to a sales agent, research the genre and the Buyers.

It's easy to make profit with a $5 to $10K finished feature.

I would buy your finished film for $5K cash. Dont care what genre. Or story. Just make sure the picture is at least 80mins, the image is in focus and the audio is good. Actually, I want a $5K horror movie.

Bill Houser

Richard & Dan, thanks for the comments. I'll dig deeper. Dan let's talk! The $5,000 film is very possible here in Missouri. And you'd likely be surprised with the result.

Thanks, Bill

Erik A. Jacobson

Yes, you'll actually find a few people on this site who make no-budgeters. I've taken the Mark Twain tour through your city. It has some nice shoot sites, particularly along the river.

Doug Nelson

Bill, put me in the loop if you get together with Dan.

Dan MaxXx

My $5K cash offer is for any filmmaker with a finished movie of at least 80-minutes, shot on HD resolution. Any genre except for Porn & documentaries. Narrative stories.
The movie has to be in focus, have good audio.
Output your finished movie onto HD master tapes. I need 2 HD tape versions, one "dirty" and one "clean" and all the audio (dialogue, music, sound efxs) have to be on separate tracks. Talk to a post-production professional if you don't know.

Get it done to broadcast specs and I will buy your movie. Not interested in investing or producing. I am just buying finished films. You get $5K dollars and walk away.

Vitaly Kozlov

Here you go, Bill. You got a cash buyer already. Make it for 1K and sell to Dan for 5K. Very good in and out deal. If Dan would not buy it I will hook you up with SAs at AFM in November who would distribute pieces like that. Yes, the best genre - horror, thrillers, action.

Doug Nelson

Dan - interesting. Unless this is just a provocative hobby, how you plan to get your money back so you can do it again. You got some distribution plan up your sleeve?

Dan MaxXx

Im gonna sell the film at AFM for $10K, worldwide global distribution. There is plenty of meat on the bone for Sales Agents to make some
Scratch. Just need a fancy movie poster and a decent trailer.

Vitaly Kozlov

Dan did you ever sell feature fillms like that (5K) at the film markets? Are you looking at the strait out sale deal with SAs or want to go through the distribution channels (its 18 months recoupment plan and a lot of things to know and you'll be screwed anyway ) It's not as easy as you think both ways. Good Poster will cost you 1500 and trailer another 1K or 2K. So it's 7-8K for the movie and you'll make 2K maybe. Is it really worth it?

Dan MaxXx

I can do my own movie poster. I have photoshop and I have final cut Pro, and access to an Avid Edit Bay for free. (Just have to edit at night from 12am to 5am when the Bosses are sleeping).

I sold a movie for $$$$ to the queen of home videos, Tanya York of York Entertainment. Got a whole check in less than 2 months. Didn't do anything but make a phone call and got my commission. There are a few sharks who buy completed movies. Or I'll just sell to an Entertainment Lawyer, let him worry about the paperwork. Just cut me a check and I'll be moving on. $5K for a horror movie, edited on HD Master tapes with clean & dirty audio tracks? Maybe too much? $3K to the filmmakers? I want to be fair :) . Heck, I spend about $3K a year on my writing and I am making 0 dollars.

Vitaly Kozlov

Okay. I never deal with that type of material. I'll ask my SA buddies around. And were did you see fair numbers in this biz? It's all about how much you can squeeze out of it.

Doug Nelson

Dan - sounds a little risky to me. $2K return on $5K is a 40% equity return rate - even Vegas can't match that.

Vitaly Kozlov

Agree with Doug on that.

Dan MaxXx

Vitaly

Yeah these movies are shit. But they make money for filmmakers who can do it for cheap. It's like flipping used cars. Nothing glamorous.

Vitaly Kozlov

Dan, I guess it's possible to operate on that scale too. i just don't know that market and the players. And the water is too shallow and dirty for me. I used to flip movies for Eastern Europe in 90s. 30-50 titles every year. I would buy movie rights for 5-30 million budget movies for my territories for 10-50K each and would re-sale them in 2-3 months period to one or two big local distributors. My profit was always double or triple. I guess doing 5K movies is the same principle. I never bother myself to explore all the territories. The moment my target price is achieved with the major buyer I would dump that title and move on with a different one. I did that year after year. Now I am a sucker. I produce.

Bill Houser

Dan... I'll be private messaging you in a sec.

Erik A. Jacobson

I'm a bit skeptical of $5k films, even when someone writes/directs/edits it all themselves. Can't attach name talent, for sure. But there are sometimes exceptions to that in horror and family films.

In the $40K to $100K range, however, there have been some VERY profitable films made recently, using limited locations, small crews, B-level actor cameos, and unique scripts.


Vitaly Kozlov

Erik, I have the same doubts. 100K budget films with lots of value built in (should look like 1mill in order to be salable) it can be very successful. Take 'Blue ruins' for example. Made for 100K (on IMDB listed for 1mill - a lie!) I would not produce 5K movies with my name on it or invest. But who knows maybe its a "gold if you don't mind to deal with all the issues of producing that type of material and then selling it.

Bill Houser

Thanks for all the comments guys... Erik, your last comment is dead on. I'd love to pretty much just stay in the $50K range and do everything I can myself. However, finding investors in the mid-west is difficult. So I've had to fall back to self-funding. The big reason I made this post was to get advice on how I might jump up into that $50k range.

Oh and it's not just write/direct/edit... It's write/direct/edit/SPFX makeup/VFX/composer, and of course catering. One thing, you learn a lot.

Ignore the video quality (bad youtube compression) this is a scene form the C-Grade slasher I was talking about in the original post.

https://youtu.be/XHtoycDfal8

Erik A. Jacobson

The best way to raise film money, of course, is to have a successful ROI track record on your past films, whether $5K or whatever. Doctors, dentists, attorneys, almost anyone will take a flyer on a guy who can make them $$$$, at least until your latest flick bombs. Guys like Vitaly and Dan M on this site can give you great advice, because they've been in the trenches, but raising funds is pretty much up to you. I've been very fortunate to have made ten small micros (five were kids Muppet-type films @ $12K each, only one a feature, most targeted at the educational market) which all did gang-buster business, so ROI is a huge plus for me. It takes hard work and lots of networking, Bill, but you're already well on your way!

Bill Houser

Thanks Erik... My wife is a puppeteer, maybe I'm looking the wrong direction. Ha!

Bill Houser

A lot of my problem was not really wanting to go deep into the business side of things, and I missed some awesome opportunities because of it. When we were making our first feature I shot David Latt from The Asylum an email, and to my surprise he called me and talked for an hour. A couple years later he sent me an invite to their studio anniversary party and I didn't go... Bad call.

Vitaly Kozlov

Bill, you want to break into higher budget film you have to put your own skin in the game. Even if you would make tons of 5-10K movies and get ROIs it doesn't mean you will get a red carpet into 100-200K features. 99 percent you will stay on that bottom level. BC you never worked with SAG level actors, production was on a low level, distribution if any was limited and so on. Bottom line... your first feature film(100-200K ULB) - you have to finance it yourself, my friend and the only help you can expect is from your friends and family. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, if they are not your friends, are not gonna help you. There is no dumb money anymore. I know it doesn't sounds too optimistic but that's the way it is. If your first ULB film will do well, meaning will get a solid distribution deal and a proven ROI then and only then you are ready to climb into 500-1 mill range and so on. On that level if you team up with the right people with viable IMDB credits you can expect some help with financings. That is the pattern. And don't worry about parties and lunches. That is 99 percent BS and a waste of time. And not opportunities!!!!!

Bill Houser

I'm lucky enough to want to be a bottom feeder. I have another career. I want to hit and stay in that $20K to $50K range. Really would be happy if I could get things consistently made at half that. Not chasing fame or stars... just want to make my movies.

Vitaly Kozlov

Actually I am taking it back. There are some opportunities at the parties. You might also meet some desperate actresses or actors looking for a quick entry into the biz too. If you slip them a right business card (with producer or President on it) and you are a smooth operator you might survive for a duration of this party and the following night. Just don't drive to those parties in your car. Get a rental. When you'll be asked what car do you drive tell them anything you want, your car for them was in an accident and now is in the bodyshop. Good luck at the parties. Cannes next week and AFM in November.

Vitaly Kozlov

Bill, my suggestions were for people who want to fly and not just to crawl. Bottom feeding has its own advantages. Your friends and family AKA your investors and consumers will see your visual stories. And with a persistence and smarts you'll be on your way.

Dan MaxXx

Vitaly

That's so Hollywood! One time I was invited to a bbq Malibu house party; the home owner hired private Valet. Was so embarrassed driving up in my shitty Audi A4 sedan, next to $150K benz, Maserati's, Ferrari's, Bentley's... The Valet guys refused to park my car! Pfft!

Dan MaxXx

Vitaly is correct. It's an entire new ballgame and learning curve to work with SAG actors and Union Crews. Like comparing a local beauty pageant to Miss Universe contest.

My first feature, "All or Nothing" (available for rent/purchase on Amazon), I was working with a professional Casting Director, SAG Actors, and union crew. I had a semi-retired ASC cinematographer (Isidore Mankofsky. He shot The Jazz Singer starrin Neil Diamond) volunteer his time and helped us break down shooting schedule and location scouting.

It's a huge leap from Film School to working with seasoned Talent and Crew. Trial by error/fire. Experience does matter and learn from mistakes.
But if you're happy making $20-$50K movies and can make profit, keep doing it. It's a fun hobby.

Doug Nelson

Vitaly. It's difficult to soar like an Eagle when you're surrounded by Turkeys. (But there is some scratch in the barn yard.)

Vitaly Kozlov

  I was there, I've done all those crazy parties. Speaking of the cars and the  beginning of my career... I had a decent 3 year old car, Buick something, still it was not welcomed on a parking lot too, I was parking "that junk" how they called it two-three blocks away and walked. Hollywood is a different animal for sure and very similar to stock market.  If you don't have a thick skin and you are not ruthless enough you are not gonna make it. 90 percent of producers, CEOs, execs, all there decision makers were rude and cut throat people. But if you decided and still want to be there you have to be sharp, learn fast and all the time accommodating. Yes, your body and sole. My vision on 20-50K movies - it's a waste from the business point of view. Expensive but definitely fun hobby. 

Vitaly Kozlov

Doug, it's all in the mind how far you want to go and willing to push. Some Turkeys would become Eagles. I consider myself Turkey too but the difference is I know I can fly, I see my wings. I tested them already on a small feature film and I am satisfied with the experience and the results. By the way, my SA leaving for Cannes this weekend with that creature in a cage where it's going to premier with world wide sales and hopefully be out of the captivity.

Vitaly Kozlov

By the way recognizing which Turkey can fly is an important skill. I've done it in the past when I was picking up right movie titles for the successful distribution and I think I can do it when it comes to film producing. If I see that other Turkey with the talent and with the right "intentions" and what he/she brings to the table and is willing to go distance, I will become a part of the flight. I will make that flight possible and secure. I still have that fire inside and resources when it comes to flying high.

Doug Nelson

Vitaly - I said "difficult"; not impossible. But now, this old bird flies a little a little lower and slower. Yes I've breathed that high altitude rarefied air and a lot more of that brown air along the LA 405 when I was cruzin in my Maserati Sebring. It was fun, I'm glad I did it, I learned a lot but I certainly don't want to do it again.

Vitaly Kozlov

Some of the "slower" birds had those days. I had 5 cars and two full time chauffeurs, spent 1K on launches at some power meetings, signed million dollar checks on a spot. And it was fun too. Now looking back, I would not do most of the things that I did in the past. We were all young and stupid, Doug.

Bill Houser

Glad to say none of what you guys are talking about is even remotely interesting to me. Success for me would be making the B movies I want to make, being able to pay all the bills, and getting to wear a T-shirt to work everyday. I'm a child of the direct to VHS movies of the 80s, and that type of genre market is where I want to snuggle into now.

Really just missing the contacts for the sales/distribution.

Vitaly Kozlov

Bill, that train with VHS and DVDs of 80s and 90s is long gone. You are living in the past, pal. Taking in consideration a present film market conditions, it will be mission impossible to pay those bills. Save that t-shirt for the weekend dreams! Buy a badge for AFM in November (3 days badge $299), fly to LA (another 300), stay in the hotel near by (another 150) and walk the sales floors and discover that truth for yourself. The whole trip on budget will be $1K. You will save tons of $$$, save your family a future nice vacation and be in check with realities.

Dan MaxXx

Bill

Just buy a plane ticket, sleep at a LA Hostel for $50 a night, go to AFM at Loews Hotel in Santa Monica, hang out at poolside, meet Vitaly, buy him 2 drinks, borrow his Badge for 2 hours, walk upstairs to suites and meet & greet buyers/Sellers. Dont need a stinkin badge if you hustle. You can volunteer to work at AFM, bring a suit and smooze afterhours, bribe a guard to let you walk the suites.

Vitaly Kozlov

It takes 2 drinks and a lunch to get me going, Bill and give up my badge for 2 hours with my face on it. Hanging in the lobby is another great idea for Bill.

Vitaly Kozlov

About bribing the guards.... Every sales floor at AFM (5 levels) has a different set of guards. Each floor would be 20 bucks to bribe. I think it cheaper to pay for the badge. And it's better if SA would see his name than mine. Just a thought.

Bill Houser

How about I just get out there and then you each buy me two drinks.

Vitaly Kozlov

I like that third world bargaining. And you gonna make us an offer we can't refuse?

Catherine Monari

following.......

Vitaly Kozlov

Thinking....

Doug Nelson

Napping...

Stanley N. Lozowski

Greets from New York, Bill,
I produce in different cities and in many countries using all the NEW MEDIA styles and techniques. Hollywood and almost all the film schools still teach OLD MEDIA and so, every one else still uses the OLD MEDIA styles and techniques. I understand even Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are using some of the new media ideas I blogged about in 2007. I'm interested in speaking with you. Write me at: filmtiq@gmail

Vitaly Kozlov

Love teachers and bloggers without solid credits. Boy, they can talk and promise a pie in the sky.

Dan MaxXx

yep, I guess teachers teach... and Spielberg & Lucas are global household names

Heather Hale

Awesome! Congrats!

James Smith

Cool discussion, but that's not No-Budget - that's $5K. We shot www.DoSomethingJake.com on $0, nothing! #ComingSoon https://dosomethingjake.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/extreme-uk-guerrilla-fi...

Vitaly Kozlov

James, I looked through your trailer and other links. Your film looks good. And when its going to be in a can let's see how far you can go with it. Because one thing is to make a film with no cast (and it looks like you did a great job achieving that goal) and another get attention of distributors and buyers. What is your distribution plan, James? Directly to VOD? Selling it off your web site? Without festival exposure and major wins at Tier 1 festivals it will be a challenge even to get on the platforms. I would love to hear your ideas about that.

Bill Houser

James,

Looks great. Good luck, can't wait to see the film. I would say the no-budget thing about our first feature as well, but it's more accurate to say it was shot out-of-pocket. We had the gear, and we bummed for the locations, etc. Still, when we sat down and really looked at what went into it all we had spent roughly $3,500 to $5,000. $1K on DVDs we had made to try to market it to distributors that we didn't need because it was picked up by the first one. I still have 600 DVDs in the basement, the distributor made their own.

Dan MaxXx

Obviously no one here is talking bout Art or Oscars.
It is just product to put on shelves and fill airtime in some part of the world.

Chris Leonard

An informative and entertaining thread... thanks for posting everyone.

Doug Nelson

Dan M -Actually I'm thinkin' of shooting for an Oscar in the live action short category.

Stanley N. Lozowski

All the best, Bill, We will soon be shooting a film that can easily be nominated to win Oscars. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - I plan everything out very accurately with each of my directors. I work mostly with no/lo/zero/micro budgets in different countries. The last feature I was responsible for was completed in Pakistan. - - - - - - - - - - - - - -NAI MANZILAIN (MY PATH or MY DESTINATION) was directed by one of my students in Pakistan who had no job and had never in his life even directed a short film. Zain wrote me and told me he wanted to be a famous director- - - - -like Alfred Hitchcock nut he had nothing except the desire to be a famous director. He couldn’t believe he could produce and direct a feature movie without owning a camcorder, without hiring people, without a script and with zero money. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - I understand 60 million people have seen his zero budgeted feature and now that it's being shown in India and Bangladesh, that number can easily swell to a hundreds of millions. The film is in Urdu and Zain had 30-40 people working under him including two teachers. The head of his school called him into his office to learn how he knew what to do and he couldn't believe an old man in New York taught him everything he needed to know; everything he had to do and how to do it over the Internet and on Skype. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Zain's wish has come true and NO, he's not Alfred Hitchcock; he's something a whole lot better to all those in his country. He is now famous in Pakistan and he was so excited to call me two weeks ago to tell me he is now working with Sarmad Khoosat, one of the best new media Pakistani actor/writer/directors. The best English subtitled version of NAI MANZILAIN was uploaded to youTube: goo.gl/b8MJR3 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Those who insist of working with Old Media systems and techniques must first learn that they need to have something unique. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Decades ago, the only project similar to ours was filmed in Prague and it was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and it won eight Oscars. In 1985, Laurence Olivier presented “AMADEUS” with the Best Picture Oscar® at the 57th Academy Awards. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -There is nothing on the market today like our “LISZT AND CHOPIN IN PARIS” which will be produced in 3D with 8k UHD Ultra High Definition TV resolution Dolby TrueHD 7.1 ATMOS sound and five “A” list Hollywood stars. Locations have been scouted and selected with shooting schedules completed and shooting will start later this summer at Pinewood Studios in London, Babelsburg in Berlin, Cinecitta in Rome, St. Petersburg, and of course, Paris.Put a million+ of your own money into completing pre-production as Mr. Mask did and this is what you will have: http://adobe.ly/2bGJnEB - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -And you'll also have a hundred million waiting for you to shoot. I have two more mega-projects waiting to happen and NO, I do not finance them; I network with serious filmmakers, actors, DPs, writers, musicians, entrepreneurs and producers. - - - - - - - - - - - - - --I'm a film and television teacher and after I was forced to retire in 2002, I worked out all the New Media production problems when I spent seven years writing 5000+ blogs about how New is different from Old Media.

Heather Hale

The DVD and Blue Ray market may be a unicorn soon, too, following in the path of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video stores... and soon Red Box.

Netflix and Amazon and all the OTT (Internet) subscription, ad-supported (AVOD) and free video platforms are revolutionizing our industry. So, stay focused on the VOD arena, to be sure. You can give it away - first episode - and hope people will sign up or PPV, there's Patreon - and many other similar platforms, aggregators who'll bundle yours with other genres, you can do this yourself on your own ecommerce site - or partner with Hulu or others.

The opportunities are burgeoning.

GOOD LUCK!

JD Hartman

That's funny HH, I don't see any Red Box rental machines disappearing in my area. There are still vast areas of the US and the world not wired in any way to support streaming services.

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