After David Bishop’s 5 Reasons Writing Commissions go awry, not to mention last weekend’s Guerilla Filmmaker Masterclass, it seems only right to put no-budget filmmaking under the spotlight! I LOVE Matt’s tongue in cheek list of how to screw up your micro budget film and can even speak from experience on several of these, myself. Enjoy!
The worst offenders are the ones who made it without connections or posh film school stuff. The people who got off their proverbial and literal backsides and just made a film. Ben Wheatley, Nick Whitfield, Steven Sheil … I hate you all*.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Although you writers may think that the ‘get together with your mates, make a micro budget film’ approach to IMDB credits and credibility is daunting, don’t worry! It doesn’t have to be successful.
And to prove it: here are ten steps to a guaranteed micro budget DISASTER. Trust me – this stuff really works:
1) Write something that you hate. You love horror, your producer friend wants a body-swap-rom-com. Doesn’t matter! It’s only six months out of your life and it WILL get made. Possibly. Your lack of passion will NOT show.
2) Don’t agree a creative vision. Logline? Genre? Doesn’t matter. You’re all mates together: when you’re up to draft fifteen and you all want to murder each other, having a logline to refer to will deny you the anger and despair that’s so essential to the creative process.
3) Ignore ‘the rules’. The budget’s low, so go crazy: create a new paradigm without clichés like conflict, character, plot and genre. They’re for losers. And your collaborators, who are busting their guts just as much as you, will be thankful for you giving them something impossible to direct, produce or act.
4) Don’t develop the script. Just get it made! I know for a fact that the makers of Dr Who love to employ scriptwriters with one nonsensical, unwatchable film credit. Having said that, if you REALLY want to scupper your project …
5) Spend three years on it. If it’s good enough for the Hollywood machine … It has to be perfect you understand me? PERFECT! And if your director gets bored of waiting for you, let her take that job with Kudos. You didn’t like her anyway.
6) Do it for money. The Western world has only made three low budget films: Halloween, Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity and all of them made more money than any other film ever. If you just want to make something that’s awesome, that gets some festival screenings and gets you all noticed, then please don’t waste my time.
7) Get carried away. You’ve written a stunning but challenging psychological horror. But your producer can get the water stage at Pinewood for ‘nothing’, and you know someone who can get the crew from the last James Bond to do your post-production. So that ‘ten grand idea’ now has SFX and an underwater fight scene. Just go with it – when it collapses it will make a bigger bang.
8) Put your life on hold. The more you make this your only chance, the more outrageous things you’ll do to get it made. Which could be fun, depending on what you do and how big a sense of shame you have.
9) Be all precious and writerly. Low budget films require a huge amount of collaboration, and sometimes boundaries between traditional roles may get blurred. Yeah right! You’re the writer – your job is to do words and wear smoking jackets. If anyone asks you to drive the actors’ minibus, you are legally to punch them in the face. Legal fact.
10) Don’t learn from the right people. If you ask me the Wheatleys, Meadows and Frazer Lees of this world are blinkered* and obsessed with ‘success’. So don’t read interviews with them, don’t study their films and don’t go to places like LSF, where they do dull things like share their stories and give advice.
*Not really, you’re all great guys. And if any of you are reading this: hi! Hey! Over here! Hello?
BIO: I teach scriptwriting at Salford University and writes scripts for films and shorts. My short films have done pretty well, and I’ve got five features in development with different production companies. Three previous films with different companies collapsed during pre-production, so I speak from experience here.