budget Budget Questions

Over on YouTube, I've been watching the channel Film Courage for a couple years, mostly regarding screenwriting. Recently I discovered Film Courage's videos interviewing J Horton, who has directed and produced several movies very fast and very low cost.

He has a playlist of videos that are called "Moviemaking on the Cheap" here:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6ix-dksV_xet65zsNRMQOR0iJcrhNoJK
(Oddly, some videos are listed two or three times in the playlist. 🙄🤔🙄)

I'm wondering what you think of the budget range he mentions ($20,000-$60,000) and his speedy 3-camera production method.
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
I got this when I clicked on the link:
Screenshot 2022-11-19 at 4.58.25 PM.png

But I WILL say that I recently watched a movie on Netflix called Copenhagen, which had a reported budget of $80,000 in 2014. I thought it was pretty good before I saw the budget, and great when I realized how little they (reportedly) spent :)

Copenhagen
 
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From what I've noted, the lower the budget is, the stronger the psychological structure of the film needs to be. In example, horror thrives at lower budgets because the tension is the main factor in it's entertainment, and that relies a lot less on cost affected elements such as performance caliber and digital post. Another aspect to think about is how much you can do with sound vs visual in a particular design. Sound work can be perfected exponentially cheaper than video work, so again with horror, it's way cheaper to scare an audience with a wav file than it is to scare them with a house collapsing in a lightning storm.

Having a film that centers around kids is vastly less expensive as well, and you see many family films succeeding financially partially for this reason. Kids aren't held to the same standards by audiences, and they don't typically charge 30k a day. Your best actors at low budget are people who are actually very good, but are just getting started in the industry, and prioritize credits over large up front payments. I'm not going to go do a giant research bender right now, but for example it's fairly common for actors early in their careers to take relatively small payments for films. 10k, 20k, that kind of thing. The most simplistic and effective way to pick an actor is to simply put a bunch of them in a room for a while, and see which one your eyes stay glued to. A big part of a director's job is keeping the audience focused on whatever part of the screen we want them to be looking at, and that aspect is on autopilot most of the time if you can simply select a riveting lead. If there are 2 people on screen, and the audience doesn't automatically pay more attention to the correct one, at least one of the departments is getting the job wrong. A surprising amount of this is done with barn doors on light poles. Anyway, I digress.

Lastly, when shooting live action on such a budget, be aware that outcomes do have a ceiling, and make sure you can visualize a product that is effective despite that ceiling.
 
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I got this when I clicked on the link:
View attachment 2891
But I WILL say that I recently watched a movie on Netflix called Copenhagen, which had a reported budget of $80,000 in 2014. I thought it was pretty good before I saw the budget, and great when I realized how little they (reportedly) spent :)

Copenhagen
Oops, that's weird. I guess you could search for "Film Courage" and "J Horton." J Horton has his own YouTube channel too, but I like best his interviews by Film Courage.
 
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