Is it really possible to make a film for $1,000?

Nothing is entirely impossible, but it is very, very difficult. And while you may be able to shoot a film for $1000, you’d need access to crew, and (perhaps more importantly) equipment. Do you already own a camera? A video editing system (software)? Do you own good sound equipment? Do you have lights?

What’s your goal? Are you going to try and market your movie? Sell it on Ebay? What will make people want to watch it? Do you have a compelling story in mind?

What about actors? Can you get your locations for free? How long will you shoot for? What about food for the crew and cast?

In order to make a film for $1000 you need to:

  1. Have a script that can be shot in relatively few locations (1 if possible), and have a limited number of speaking roles.
  2. Have access to or own your own equipment, including a camera (4K cinema if possible), sound recording equipment (boom, and digital recorder), lights and grip equipment.
  3. Have access to a professional , or at least capable, crew that’s willing to work for nothing, or close to nothing.
  4. Have access to an ENTERTAINMENT Attorney who will work for little or no money. They will review contracts with crew, talent, and make sure you are protected.
  5. Have a location that you can use for free or close to free.
  6. Find a local restaurant or business that will donate food for the shoot for free (or utilize a chunk of your $1000 for food on the set). This includes meals and craft services (that’s the snack table - a film crew, like an army does well on a full stomach).
  7. Get your props and set decorations donated for free or close to it.
  8. Have a cast that’s willing to rehearse for free.
  9. Have the patience to prepare FULLY before attempting to shoot a frame of picture.
  10. Have a clear plan for POST PRODUCTION. Who will edit, who will sound design, who will color correct the finished product, and how will you pay for your deliverables.
  11. Marketing and distribution plan. You MAY find a distributor who will take your film on. If they like it enough they may even offer you a small advance, but you don’t want to count on that. You need to think about how the film will be seen, and by whom. Is it going direct to streaming? Will you try monetizing on Youtube? Or do you have higher ambitions? If you were going to market it yourself, who would you target as your audience? Families? Children? Millennials? Baby Boomers? What about your film will appeal to them?
  12. The fewer days you shoot the less money you spend. Taking time in prep, and rehearsal can save your bacon when you shoot. (For comparison Paranormal Activity was shot - not posted, but shot - for $15,000 on a 5 day schedule - BUT Oren Peli WORKED FOR MONTHS on the shots, and with the actors before shooting virtually around the clock for 5 days). Dov Simens talks about the “no budget” shoot in his 2 day film school and suggests that you basically shoot something a kin to a play where you do master shot, over and an occasional close up, but shoot it all in one or two days.

If you don’t have the ability to do all of the above within your budget, then you would in all likelihood fail. Making a film, under the best of circumstances with all the funds you need can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned professional.

The fact that you have never attempted anything like this doesn’t mean you can’t, but I suspect that there’s more to it than you fully understand. If you decide to do it, be prepared for it to be $1000 lesson, and not as an investment. If it does find an audience let that be a very pleasant upside.

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