How They Did It: Making Movies Under $10K

In this installment of DIY Monday, moviemaker Eric Kochmer explains how to make a movie for less than $10,000.

I’m an actor who decided three years ago that I wanted to direct a feature film. To that end, I started hanging out with film collective, We Make Movies, which helped me gain insight and advice on how to make my movie, as well as secure talent and tools for the actual film. In the summer of 2012, I was able to shoot what is now the feature film Way Down In Chinatown for less than $10,000. Principal photography was shot in eight days, including reshoots, and there were two days of B-roll. Starting in August of 2011, I began the age-old process of “beg, borrow and steal.” This is how I did it:

1. Organic Development: I developed the script and set up the production simultaneously driving toward the shoot over an eight month period. Things would change in the script from week to week and rewrites happened even while we were shooting (sometimes on the day of a particular scene).

2. Actors: I found actors from the beginning of the process who wanted to work on interesting and imaginative material. I went with talent over “type.”

3. Crew: As with the actors, I found like-minded people. I went with talent and enthusiasm over experience.

4. Funding: The little money we raised came from an Indiegogo campaign, which was run by an actress in the film with a lot of production and marketing experience. We created the fundraising campaign as we went into pre-production. Most of the money we had was spent on food and paying small stipends to the lead and supporting actors and crew.

5. Production Insurance: An actor/producer friend bought an annual policy, which he offered to the production at an extremely discounted rate in exchange for a producing credit and my services as a rep for him to acquire other productions throughout the year.

6. Locations and Location Scouting: I asked anyone I knew, or could get into contact with, if I could shoot for free… and I didn’t stop until I had locations I wanted that were free.

7. SAG New Media Contract: By using this contract, I was required to premiere my project online in the form of clips, episodes or teasers. I was able to defer pay to SAG actors, but I paid them a small, daily per diem, so they were happy but the production wouldn’t go broke.

8. Production Design/Makeup Design/Costume Design: We came up with very simple but super stylish schemes – inventive but not bank-breaking.

9. Equipment: I asked my crew to supply as much of their own equipment, or things they could borrow.

10. Shot List: Knowing exactly what we needed allowed us to eliminate a lot of excess coverage. I also used some primitive storyboards to explain so-me of the more complex images.

11. Shooting Strategy: We thought out every single set-up in order to avoid long lapses in shooting.

12. Food: Lots of coffee and lots of sugar. It wasn’t healthy but it worked.

13. 12-Hour Turnarounds: We shot at lightning speed so having time to rest in between was essential.

14. Attitudes: Anyone who didn’t love the project, or who didn’t come with a positive frame of mind, I literally chased away.

The bottom line here is not letting limitations limit potential. Using imagination can make up for a lack of resources and time. Try to use the most out of what you have and always be grateful for those who help.

For more information on We Make Movies go here. For information on how to subscribe to MovieMaker Magazine click here.

1 Comment

  1. gi winters

    July 9, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Ive made films for $3000-! One called Psycho=Path mania was a 27 actor ensemble piece that will be in distribution, including Red Box on Halloween!!

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