Sunday, December 9, 2012

Love with a Small Pricetag

I was recently interviewed on a talk radio show called Una Voz de un Mundo. (One Voice, One World). During the interview, one of the hosts from another show called in and eventually the conversation turned toward why I was asking for so little with my goal on the indiegogo campaign for Predatory Moon.

As it turned out, this guy had done some film-making in California, so it is understandable why he was so hesitant to believe that a feature length creature film could be done with so little money. Of course, listeners who aren't familiar with the trade might assume that low budget means little quality.

Psycho Chicks Anonymous, the first feature film that my company produced, was made for around $2,500. That's it.

We had about 30 days to shoot it and the majority of it was shot by using different rooms in the same residential house. For the larger "party" scenes, we used a very large room and painted each half in a different color scheme so that it looked like two different places. when we ran out of rooms, interior locations were created by setting up flats in a large storage shed. Furniture, set dressings, and props were borrowed from crew members. Many local businesses donated supplies to the project, including the aforementioned wall paint. The cast and crew were volunteers and not affiliated with any unions. With just a few exceptions, most of the actors were not needed for more than two days during shooting. The majority of the budget was spent on feeding the cast and crew.

Of course, Psycho Chicks Anonymous was never destined for large-scale distribution. It was an original comedy with a script that was written around existing resources. It had a couple theatrical showing in Florida, then went up for sale on DVD as a self-distribution film. And honestly, at the time we didn't have the connections to get it any further than that.

Fast forward a couple years later.

Much has changed. I've met a lot of very talented people while working on other micro-budget films. I have a lot more resources than I did when we made Psycho Chicks Anonymous, including access to much better camera and sound equipment. I have people on the crew who are skilled in promoting and have distribution connections.

But some things are still very much the same. The script for Predatory Moon was written with a lot of per-existing resources in mind. It will be shot on privately-owned locations. It will be a non-union production using a cast and crew of volunteers who see it as being a project worthy of their time.

This might sound impossible for Hollywood, but in the Florida small independent film community it is actually quite common. For us, it's usually not about the big paychecks, red carpets, or all the glitter. It's all about the love we have for the craft and the desire to share our stories on film.

Whenever the thought that we might exceed our expectations for funding Predatory Moon on our indiegogo campaign comes up, I usually bring up my desire to compensate the cast and crew for their hard work. It may surprise some people to learn that every time I've mentioned this, the response is "No, put the extra money into the production!"

This seems strange, doesn't it?. I mean, who in their right mind would turn down getting paid for a job well done?

People who want the film to be the best that it can be, that's who. People who recognize that it could lead to bigger projects down the road. People who care more about producing a good film than getting a paycheck.

But no one has dreams of grandeur here. We all know that the chances of our small-budget production winning the Hollywood distribution lottery (as seen in films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity) are very slim. All we really hope for is that Predatory Moon will be a good film and attract enough attention to open the doors for financing and resources for us to do larger projects.

That's not to say that I wouldn't love it if Predatory Moon made a ton of money. That would just remove finding the financing for my next film from my concern and also mean that I could pay my cast and crew a decent salary on it. I know several film-makers who feel the same way about their projects. It's sort of an un-written rule that you hire your friends (people you've worked well with in the past) when you've secured a project that has a paycheck involved.

On this tier of film-making, there are no first-class accommodations nor fancy catered lunches. There are no unions strong-arming productions into very expensive and often unnecessary conditions, nor are their people being forced to join a union in order to be allowed to work on the film. There are no crew members lounging beside the water cooler because their contracts say they can't lend a hand with anything outside their job descriptions. There are very few directors pulling their hair out because the producers are meddling with their vision for the sake of marketability.

On this tier of film-making, there is a great deal of creativity to make up for the lack of expensive resources. There are often many novice actors and crew members who are cutting their film-making teeth and pouring their hearts into the projects. It's hard work, but it is indeed a labor of love.

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