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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Screenwriting Discussion    Writing Opportunities and Call for Scripts  ›  Micro Budget Scripts
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MarkRenshaw
Posted: November 15th, 2018, 10:19am Report to Moderator
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If you go to Inktip, Stage32 or any site which requests scripts, even here on Simply Scripts as per the post below this one, the most common request is for single or minimal locations, few actors, little or no FX.

I can understand why. Costs. But letís break this down.

1  - How many, great micro-budget, single location feature films are there? Donít get me wrong, they do exist and some of them are amazing, but considering this is the most common script request out there in independent filmmaking circles, there should be a steady stream of entertaining single location, micro- budget movies that make headlines. There are not. Try and name some off the top of your head. I can think of a handful.

2 Ė You have to be a pretty incredible writer to pull off such a script. Youíll have to include brilliant characters with amazing, engaging dialogue because they are not going to be doing much action. This means great actors to pull this off. Think Phone Booth with Colin Farrel. But hereís the quandary, pretty incredible writers and great actors are going to be out of the budget reach of these directors. For example, Phone Booth cost $13 million to produce.

3 Ė Writing such scripts is hard and I can imagine a lot of them are quite similar. I suspect a big chunk of them are horror. The less options you have when writing, the more similar the results.  I bet the reject pile is full of such stuff.

My suggestion.  Why not take a script you (you as in the director or producer) really like, regardless of the number of locations, FX etc. and approach the writer to see if it can be scaled back in such a way that the core story is still there yet the budget is achievable? I think if writers hold back and think budget too much when writing, the story suffers. I think if a writer deliberately tries to write a story set in one location, they restrict their abilities. Iím not saying write massive robots fighting each other, be sensible for sure. If thereís a wedding in the script for example, donít have it in a massive cathedral with a royal guard, a simple registrarís office will do.  But donít try to set the whole story in a registrarís office simply because you are trying to write a one location script in the hopes this will improve the chances of it getting produced. That should never be the motivation for writing. If you have an AMAZING idea for a story set in a registrarís office, then go for it, but not the other way around, if you get what I mean?

Iíve ended up going through my suggested process a few times now for my shorts and in my opinion, the scripts end up much better. I optioned one such scripts back in March. it was first script I ever submitted to Simply Scripts in fact! This surprised me as it has multiple locations all over the world, an alien planet and the Earth explodes! Plus, the script was basic, I never really tried to do anything with it.  However, the director loved the concept. Weíve spent months working on it together a point now where the entire story is set and told in a bar. Filming begins in December. No guarantees it will be any good of course, but I think the script is in the best condition it can be and it can be shot on a really low budget. If Iíd tried to do this the other way around and deliberately write a script set in a bar Ė I donít think it would have been as good and I donít believe it would have caught his eye.

Food for thought and just my opinion, feel free to disagree or comment of course! Itís just I see a lot of bloggers and so called script experts out there recommending writing micro-budget scripts to get yourself produced and I donít think the answer is as simple as that, for the reasons stated above.

-Mark


For more of my scripts, stories, produced movies and the ocassional blog, check out my new website. CLICK
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GM
Posted: November 15th, 2018, 10:37am Report to Moderator
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I concur. When I write now, I usually keep budget in mind since I usually imagine Iím directing this. Lol. I only found one guy on SS that we made something ( a web series). Unfortunately, I havenít found another director or producer whose motivated as I am to make something happen. I consider myself pretty reasonable lol. Usually the line of communication ends from the other side though.

Iím planning to next year to make a short with the SS contact or get something together.


Gabe




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Matthew Taylor
Posted: November 15th, 2018, 10:52am Report to Moderator
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I never write with budget in mind.

In fact I don't write with anything in mind except to enjoy the story unfolding before me.

But then again, my motivations for writing are purely enjoyment - I have my career outside of writing, so I'm just in it for the hobby.

Many excellent shorts I have read are single location with minimal cast - but obviously a short benefits from being contained. So writing one of these with a budget in mind in order to get those credits makes sense

But a feature? Nah - Writing a feature takes up all of your time, energy, blood and sweat, you get so emotionally involved in it, why would you wan't to stifle the creativity in order for a cheap producer with no budget to hack it out?



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FrankM
Posted: November 15th, 2018, 11:17am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from MarkRenshaw
This surprised me as it has multiple locations all over the world, an alien planet and the Earth explodes!


The hardest part is getting clearance from the local film office for the explosives

I tried to write one of my stories with budget in mind (Timmy) and the feedback revolved around "Why does all this interesting-sounding stuff happen off-screen?" It needs a fairly thorough re-write, or just give up and morph it into a feature with a non-micro budget.

Nothing else I've written to date seems within reach of students, though going forward it depends on what these producers mean by "minimal" FX.

Does a green-screen count as "minimal" if the characters on the two sets don't physically interact (example, the Marine's de-activating their stealth suits in Timmy)?


Family feature: Who Wants to Be a Princess?
Sci-Fi short trilogy: Timmy
Horror anthology/feature: Glass House
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jayrex
Posted: November 15th, 2018, 4:07pm Report to Moderator
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Well said Mark.

I've noticed this request a lot.  Especially on sites like Reddit.

There is a fine line to balance a great story with a budget friendly script.

I'd also say there's also the director/producer.  If they can make what appears to be an expensive script cost effective.  This'll go a long way.

Recently I wrote a script that was set in a warehouse.  Two actors, one location.  But where do you find such a location?  Sites like this: http://www.filmlocations.co.uk/ .  There's a ton of websites.  And this site has eight warehouses.  Using another website that had London locations, the guy who was making my script called the warehouses to find out what he could do.  He managed to get one for free but it was for Sunday morning.  It wasn't advertised as free but he got it.  So I guess there's some haggling and persuasion involved.

JT



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AnthonyCawood
Posted: November 15th, 2018, 4:31pm Report to Moderator
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I think there's a number of ways to slice and dice this...

1) As a writer, it can be a good exercise to see if you can write a decent micro-budget script with all the constraints Mark mentions... but it's not easy.
2) If you do have one (or two) in your portfolio then you have something to respond to these type of requests with, and open a dialogue with the producer.
3) If you see these type of requests on Inktip etc then you could try and respond with a normal script and explain how you can tailor it to the producer's budget requirements.
4) Understand what costs a lot to film, e.g. night shoots (due to lighting), effects shots, stunts, large crowds (usually) etc and try and avoid these.
5) In most circumstances, these requests are from inexperienced producers/directors who want to make something as a calling card, I genuinely don't think they see themselves making Phone Booth or Buried...

There are hundreds of very low budget movies made every year and sometimes one will break out - they're hoping it's them, and I'm hoping it's with one of my scripts!



Anthony Cawood - Award winning screenwriter
Available Short screenplays - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/short-scripts
Available Feature screenplays - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/feature-film-scripts/
Screenwriting articles - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/articles
IMDB Link - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6495672/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
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jayrex
Posted: November 15th, 2018, 4:38pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from AnthonyCawood
I think there's a number of ways to slice and dice this...

1) As a writer, it can be a good exercise to see if you can write a decent micro-budget script with all the constraints Mark mentions... but it's not easy.
2) If you do have one (or two) in your portfolio then you have something to respond to these type of requests with, and open a dialogue with the producer.
3) If you see these type of requests on Inktip etc then you could try and respond with a normal script and explain how you can tailor it to the producer's budget requirements.
4) Understand what costs a lot to film, e.g. night shoots (due to lighting), effects shots, stunts, large crowds (usually) etc and try and avoid these.
5) In most circumstances, these requests are from inexperienced producers/directors who want to make something as a calling card, I genuinely don't think they see themselves making Phone Booth or Buried...

There are hundreds of very low budget movies made every year and sometimes one will break out - they're hoping it's them, and I'm hoping it's with one of my scripts!



Your number 5 is typical.  I would imagine they wish to use this micro budget scripts for practice.

Number 1, it is a great writing exercise.  It's tough but we can do it.  Especially the SS crew.

I recommend using something like WordPress.  You can tag the scripts using such words as micro budget.  Then update the menu's so that people can select such a requirement.


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pauljwilliams9
Posted: November 15th, 2018, 7:44pm Report to Moderator
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Great topic.

I've seen these calls for scripts with single locations, minimal actors, no SFX, etc. for years now. I think it's a sign of the times. We live in a world where making a great-looking movie is as accessible as ever: from the cinematography to the editing; what was only available to "professionals" in the past is now available at a fraction of the cost it used to be to everyone else.

With all this equipment and knowledge in hand, producers/directors don't have the money for a "normal" script to produce; something that's remained a constant throughout time, I suppose, so hence a film shot in one accessible location, one or two (probably unpaid) actors, and no effects.

Yeah, there are some shining examples, both critically and commercially, of these type of movies over time: from "Clerks" to "The Disappearance of Alice Creed" to "The Purge" (to name only a few).

I, too, have found it difficult to tackle this type of story. While I generally write "lower" budget movies (both consciously, but more unconsciously), my location and character count can become bloated. With short-scripts, it's the opposite, as I think shorts work best detailing a moment in time as opposed to abbreviating a lot of plot down to ten or so pages.

So, with all that said, I actually do have a story or two in my head that would meet these restrictions. I just gotta get around to writing them...

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Sandra Elstree.
Posted: November 15th, 2018, 9:54pm Report to Moderator
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What if the Hokey Pokey, IS what it's all about?

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Thank you, Mark, for this post.

The fact of cost never really hit home to me years ago. I guess I'm just one of those who prefers la-la land to the real world.

But even still, I'm working to try and be real in terms of budget. I'm so economical on the home front, why wouldn't that mirror itself in a script?

But years ago, I was naive, but good naive I'd say.

I'm very thankful to RayW for providing me with this when I'd written Payer Fedris - A Gothic Dream Tax

Locations & Sets  -   EXT olden village barber shop c. 1700 (presumably European), EXT castle on the mountain (matte), INT farm cottage, INT Izabiza castle accounting room and crawl-able pit room.

INT Payer's room,

Toll booth w/ iron gate.

INT castle library,

INT Penny's bed chamber. INT. Penny's kitchen, INT TV room

Actors -  MARY (30s), BOY/LITTLE PAYER (4), LAVAL (-), TOWN CRIER (-), TEEN PAYER (16), DOCTOR (50s), GLONDE (17), TROPHY WIFE (30s), two friends (double as masked guards), TOLL GUARD (-), PENNY (16/35), Ed (40s), TARA (40s), BARBER (-)

Costumes  -  period raggy dress and boy clothes, fine doublet w/ ruffles and cape, ridiculous town crier outfit, teen payer's shorts, doctor's black suit w/ wool cap, floral shirt, apron, whimsical dress for payer and 2 friends, masked guard outfits x 2, toll guard outfit, Penny Ed & Tarra's zombie outfits, Laval's blue robe, Barber's outfit

Props  -  carriage (no horses), coins, swinging barbershop sign, school bag,  Paper, Pencil, Eraser, Hot Dog, accounting desk and chair, perfume atomizer, parchment document, hexagonal glasses, dream meter bracelet, gold coins x 8, piggy bank, oversize playing cards, whiskey bottle, shiny cut flash, chicken leg, passport, wood stove, wood, faux fire inside, comb, growing hair, book, golden spectacles, salty hair wig, chest, dress shirt, silver comb, gothic deak chair, Penny's bed, oversize chains, pot O' gruel, wooden spoon, smoky mirror, bag of "coins", "PERIODIC TABLE OF

MIZTAKES" textbook, TV, fat suit for Penny, barber's scissors, barber's chair
Audio FX  -  horse whinnying and cobblestone steps, small and big rusty hinge squeak, discordant organ music, whimsical sounds & music, tape recording fast forward, coins into piggy bank, heavenly song, pair of marching bootsteps, dragging heavy chain, general spooky sounds, wind howls, thunder claps

Visual FX -  thick clouds swirl to reveal then hide castle, Laval disappearing in mist, displays on meter, triple time Glonde's accounting, bats fluttering from castle

Other  -  fogger w/ gallons of juice, assorted colored gels;  SFX MUA for Mary's agedness + Payers lifelessness + Glonde + Trophy wife + friends + toll guard + Laval's aging + zombie Ed/Tara/Payer + Penny fat-to-thin; stunt coordinator and fall pads, cardboard sheets x 2, dry ice, lights for lightning

Comments  -  Wow. Very... Cat-in-the-Hat-ish! Rather expensive to shoot for a short, though. And I'm kicking this back down to PG-13. I wish I had the budget to shoot this Dali-esque Fellini-fest! The magical whimseyness just appeals to my inner absurdity. The colors! The sets! The costumes! The dialog and OVER. THE. TOP! over-acting would be a blast for everyone involved to shoot.
Fisheye lens shots galore!

I don't think the audience would have the slightest idea of WTH they just saw, but the sparkle-dust I'd slather all over everyone and everything would be sure to leave a magical impression.

Sometime in the next few weeks I hope to catch THE FALL at my county library. I think it will be a visual blast (same director as the upcoming IMMORTALS) and think this story would provide the same.
GL & GB!

Thanks Ray. Thanks Mark. Thanks everyone on Simplyscripts for your help and dedication!

Sandra



A known mistake is better than an unknown truth.
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OscarM
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I've come to write more and more of this, partly because I'm a filmmaker myself and I need to write stuff that's easy for me to make, but also because plenty of pros have told me that this is the easiest kind of script to sell/get produced.

I have to say that I think it has helped me become a better screenwriter because I have to pay more attention at how to do more with less. It is difficult but I like the challenge. It has let me be more focused on the moment and the characters. I was in London in the summer and went to a lot of plays and that has given me a lot of inspiration for writing these kinds of scripts. Like often you don't get to see any other sets but a living room or a dining room, but you're still taken on something that feels like a roller coaster ride. That's beautiful to me, and if the stage can do that, surely cinema can as well.

That said, I'm not married to the idea. If I see a script of mine needs a bit of "opening up", by having to add another character or showing more locations then that's what I do. But I try to get as much mileage as I can out of my limitations until it becomes obvious that it's working against the script.
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MarkRenshaw
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Quoted from OscarM
I've come to write more and more of this, partly because I'm a filmmaker myself and I need to write stuff that's easy for me to make, but also because plenty of pros have told me that this is the easiest kind of script to sell/get produced.

I have to say that I think it has helped me become a better screenwriter because I have to pay more attention at how to do more with less. It is difficult but I like the challenge. It has let me be more focused on the moment and the characters. I was in London in the summer and went to a lot of plays and that has given me a lot of inspiration for writing these kinds of scripts. Like often you don't get to see any other sets but a living room or a dining room, but you're still taken on something that feels like a roller coaster ride. That's beautiful to me, and if the stage can do that, surely cinema can as well.

That said, I'm not married to the idea. If I see a script of mine needs a bit of "opening up", by having to add another character or showing more locations then that's what I do. But I try to get as much mileage as I can out of my limitations until it becomes obvious that it's working against the script.



That's a great point and worth highlighting. Writing low budget scripts is great practice. It forces you to think beyond the page, helps you learn about production costs etc. I don't advise writers to avoid low-budget scripts at all. In fact, if you want to get into writing for the stage or audio (which is a booming industry these days) then go for it.

I'm just saying don't force yourself to write a micro budget script all the time. Write some without holding back or open some up so they are low to medium budget. Be flexible, be daring.


For more of my scripts, stories, produced movies and the ocassional blog, check out my new website. CLICK
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pale yellow
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I have written two "contained" thrillers BECAUSE these seem to be so sought after. However, I learned a LOT from both of these scripts...

In The Bunker.. I had a helicopter and a train and a huge ending with cops, helicopters etc... I was lucky to sell this one for a grand... because I had written it out of budget sort of. The people who bought it found it here... and asked to rewrite it per their budget... I agreed and they added their name on the credits... But it's ok... I learned a lot from it.

The other contained one I wrote.. DEADLINE.. I had it optioned once for 4K but that didn't work out (cowriting disagreement) BUT this one I really frigged the budget thing up... because 95% of the thing is on a MOVING train! Do you know how much it costs to even rent one subway car for a day??? What was I thinking??? LOL Live and learn right.... this one is still on the market and I believe that dang train is what's stopping it from moving... I could maybe rewrite it in a different location and maybe I will.. but have already rewritten this one like twice and I despise rewrites.

I really want to sell scripts. So I do chase what the market is asking for... right now I have a lot of 'girl in peril' or 'girl action' or 'girl thriller' wants.... my job is ending in February and I will get back to writing...

I work best if I know what someone WANTS. Then I can go concoct a rough outline and if they love it .. I know I'm not wasting time writing the script. I wish I had more writing opportunities like that. Working on one now called Little Mule for Hawk9 to take a look... not finished yet though.


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FrankM
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Quoted from pale yellow
95% of the thing is on a MOVING train! Do you know how much it costs to even rent one subway car for a day???


At least it's not on a rocket ship.


Family feature: Who Wants to Be a Princess?
Sci-Fi short trilogy: Timmy
Horror anthology/feature: Glass House
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pale yellow
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Quoted from FrankM


At least it's not on a rocket ship.


Yeah true!

Another thing about MICRO BUDGET scripts... usually they come with a MICRO BUDGET price tag too for the writer... I feel like most of my script sales have been like garage sale prices! Not really complaining.. just saying.. the filmmaker that does not have money to spend on the film... is not going to have much to spend buying the script...


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OscarM
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Mark:
Yeah, we pretty much agree. Again, I try to start as small as possible but if I see that it's better to open things up, then that's what I go for instead. Personally, I seem to mostly write for a relatively low budget even when not on purpose so it's not such a stretch, but there's a difference between writing something small with a lot of locations and characters (An "El Mariachi", I guess) , and something small with very few locations and characters (A "Resolution" or "Buried".)
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