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Independent filmmaker Edward Burns (Brothers McMullen, She's the One) recently posted the following info about his new film, "Newlyweds", on twitter:
"Newlyweds shooting budget. 5k for actors, 2k insurance, 2k food and drink. 9k in the can. That's how to make an indiefilm."
Amen to that, Ed. $9,000 for a feature-length film is remarkably low. The thing I find most impressive about his "mini-model" is his ability to stick to his guns. If you've been following WatchMeMakeaMovie for any length of time now, you'll know how I feel about the importance of indie filmmakers writing around resources they have at their disposal. If you have a dog, make a movie about your dog. If your parents have an amazing apartment, shoot a movie that takes place in that amazing apartment. But things have a tendency to change when you move into pre-production, more people come on board, more ideas come into your head about the script, and you begin to dream bigger than you originally had. It becomes a challenge to keep the movie within the confines of what you have available.
When I wrote Passing Harold Blumenthal, I thought I had written something with deliberately flexible/cheap/free locations. After all, the feature was expanded from two different shorts I had already done where all our locations were free! But now, as my crew and I scout locations, I'm thinking, "Wow. I don't have any of these locations at my disposal! Why did I write myself into this headache?" We are now having to be extra savvy with where/how we seek out some of these locations. All the while, I'm going through potential rewrites in my head to circumvent the need for locations we couldn't possibly afford.
But I think there may be another, more optimistic way to look at this. If we do stick to what I wrote and manage to secure these few tricky locations, it will be a major win for our film. Huge production value will be added, and the world of the film will be fleshed out that much more. It's at least worth trying to have our cake and eat it, too. Especially if the end-result is some on-screen deliciousness.
To continue with the metaphor, I still don't want my eyes to be bigger than my stomach. I have a very clear idea of what I want this film to be in terms of scale and scope. Sticking to my guns on financial and logistical limitations shouldn't cost my movie an ounce of quality in the final cut. I suppose there never is a way until you find a way. Bravo, Mr. Burns.