While at Hampshire I happened to be part of many arguments among student filmmakers that were about production value and budgets. Students try to raise a lot of money for their Div III film projects in order to rent expensive cameras like the RED Epic or other Hollywood cameras. They also try to rent as much professional equipment as possible. All of that quickly adds up to thousands of dollars for items that do not necessarily make a film better.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not underestimate the impact that a good camera will have on your final product. It can make it look gorgeous, but the visual quality is not what makes it interesting. I wish I could shoot on RED, but renting an expensive camera is not my priority. What is my priority? Getting interesting locations, cool costumes and fascinating props, these are all things that audiences can see and appreciate more than a camera that shoots in 5K resolution.
Over the summer I shot a feature length film that was two hours long and involved seventy people in different roles and only cost 500 dollars. First thing I did was to look around me and see what was available to me for free. It’s amazing how many things you can get for free. There was an abandoned military compound that looked like an abandoned city, two abandoned factories, plenty of mountains, rivers and creeks as well as my old neighborhood where I used to hang out as a kid. I knew I could use the neighborhood because everyone knew me and wouldn’t mind if I was shooting a film with fake guns and a lot of loud people. So I decided to write a story that takes place in a somehow post apocalyptic world so that I could use all of those fascinating locations.
Furthermore, I had tons of actors who were ready to act for free but were all in their late teens and early to mid twenties. Since I wanted my film to look serious, I decided not to have young actors play older characters. Instead, I wrote a film that takes place in a world where people don’t live past their late twenties. I am also an action movie fan, so I wanted to include that in my film. I wanted realistic looking weapons. I didn’t want to pay for them, so I looked online and found an airsoft store in my city. I contacted them and explained my situation. They agreed to help and they provided me with multiple airsoft guns and gear that would otherwise have cost me $2,000. Furthermore, I wanted my actors to wear realistic action costumes like cargo pants and boots. T-shirts were not thathard to find, but good cargo pants and boots can be pricy. I asked around and I got a bit lucky because the mother of one of my actresses owned a clothing warehouse. She was kind enough to lend us cargo pants and other costumes that would have otherwise cost more than a thousand dollars. I also wanted a motorcycle chase scene. Pretty crazy, right? Well not really…I visited a local motorcycle club and talked to them about the needs of the movie and they were more than happy to help. So there I had it, a motorcycle chase scene with realistic guns and in a cool location. I also didn’t have any lights available, so most of the film takes place outside and during the day.
Of course lack of proper equipment can create all sorts of problems and there were shots that were overexposed or a bit shaky, but hey, we managed to produce a feature length action film for nothing.
Here’s the trailer.
[youtube width=”525″ height=”444″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaDj-x2IcP0[/youtube]
The official screening of the film took place in early April with a Q&A on cheap filmmaking techniques.
– Michail Charalampidis F09