Print Topic

SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board  /  Contests - Screenwriting and Filmmaking  /  George looking for micro/zero budget features
Posted by: George Willson, December 2nd, 2009, 6:29am
So as I've finished my first feature, and I'm planning my second, I thought I'd reach out to my favorite community for a third and on. I have another feature I planned to make, but it's in rewrites at the moment and I want to make sure I have the material to continue as I have only written a few features that are low budget enough for me to make at my current capacity.

What is ultra low budget? Everything is consciously at a minimum.
--> Very small cast, usually under ten but ideally around 5 or 6. The costuming is usually modern where the cast can just pull stuff out of their closet or the production staff can get it from Wal-Mart/Goodwill.
--> Minimal and simple locations, typically things like houses, open fields, trees, an open road, in a car. Rarely will this involve businesses, major city streets. airplanes, traffic, or "set pieces." It's things that already exist and can be worked with.
--> No CG effects, and minimal physical special effects, if any. Physical effects are the "blood and gore" category, which is why low budget leans to horror. No effects typically indicate a drama, which is why that's the other side of the coin. Some blue/green screen might be possible. I need to work on that.
--> No epic shots. Camels crossing the freeway, space battles, an army of thousands crossing the plains of battle are things that cannot be done without the cash to pay off those who do it. Crowd shots might be possible in a small setting, but really, ultra-low budget should have very few, if any, extras. Vistas are nice, but keep the large, expensive, Lawrence of Arabia shots out of this one.

So what it boils down to is something creative and simple. And yes, I'll read and review pretty much anything in any genre, but it has to fit this criteria. If you give your space epic as a suggestion just to get me to read it, I'll know, and I won't finish it. And no fan fic, please. And if you've read something that isn't yours but it's posted, please let me know. I'll contact the author if I think it'll work for me.

What have I done? Well, I have a link to my IMDB profile in my sig. At the moment, it has one film on it, but I've submitted my short as well, which you can watch here.

If you search for my name on Amazon.com, you'll find four items at this time: a book, two CDs, and a DVD. This means that if I do decide to produce what you suggest, it will at least go that route of being available for sale on DVD, and you'll have an entry on IMDB. Of course, there will be a percentage in the event that sales do happen...

Time frame for this will be when starting when I finish the feature I'm going to work on next, so late next year, probably, at the earliest. I had intended to be on my third feature by now, but it turns out there was a lot about making a movie that I had to learn first... :-p Everything in life is a learning experience, and it's hard to place a time on the first thing you do. I came, I shot, I learned, I screwed it up, I fixed it, I'm ready  to make the next one better than the first one, so when I get to yours, it'll be number three, so I should know what I'm doing by then.

Let the posting begin.
Posted by: James McClung, December 2nd, 2009, 12:25pm; Reply: 1
I wrote my script Night Shift with the intent of it being easy to produce. How easy, I can't say. This one's got less characters and locations than Abattoir which was the script I had produced and that one was done by a college professor. There's essentially one location and only five main characters.

I should note that there are one or two instances which might require a higher budget/more advanced special effects HOWEVER I wrote them in such a way that they can be omitted without any adjustments to the rest of the script. Basically, if a producer had the means to execute them, cool. If not, no problem. They're gone.

I've spent the year on the script and did a massive rewrite months ago so the majority of creative issues have been fixed.

So yeah. Night Shift. If anything, I'll have a better sense of what low-budget is if it doesn't fit your criteria. It's something I'm still trying to work on.
Posted by: ReaperCreeper, December 2nd, 2009, 12:39pm; Reply: 2
A while ago, I began writing a low-budget feature myself. I have not written much, but my self-imposed criteria was basically exactly like yours. I want to learn to work with limitations. So I'll drop you a PM when I finish my first draft if you still need a script by then.

--Julio
Posted by: George Willson, December 2nd, 2009, 1:05pm; Reply: 3
Julio, if I continue doing this, then there probably won't ever NOT be a need unless I just get inundated, so hit me when you're done.

James, I'll give Night Shift a read. I scrolled through it real quick to have a look at the locations, and I'm initially concerned over the hospital/clinic aspect as well as the frat house. I have some ideas on how to get around actually using a hospital (which would be quite impossible), but I'll read the whole thing to see how conceivable it is. Same deal with a frat house, which I know is usually little more than a big house with extra rooms, but that's a pretty specific type of location. As I said, though, I'll read it through to see how it would work for me. That's the real factor. It may well be low budget, but the real test is whether I can pull it off.
Posted by: Mr. Blonde, December 2nd, 2009, 1:41pm; Reply: 4

Quoted from George Willson
I have some ideas on how to get around actually using a hospital (which would be quite impossible), but I'll read the whole thing to see how conceivable it is.


It's a real shame you don't live near me, George. I actually have a closed-down hospital just a few miles away from me.
Posted by: George Willson, December 2nd, 2009, 1:50pm; Reply: 5

Quoted from Mr. Blonde
It's a real shame you don't live near me, George. I actually have a closed-down hospital just a few miles away from me.


All these abandoned buildings and not a one for me.  :'(
Posted by: James McClung, December 2nd, 2009, 1:53pm; Reply: 6

Quoted from George Willson
Same deal with a frat house, which I know is usually little more than a big house with extra rooms, but that's a pretty specific type of location.


Actually, all the frat houses I went to in college were just really cheap Philadelphia housing. Maybe they've got three rooms upstairs but they were pretty modest. That's what I was going for anyway. Maybe other colleges have nicer establishments. Still, I might just change it to a house party for future reference if it doesn't work for you.

Also, the clinic is meant to be small and bare bones, not like a fully function, or even modestly function, hospital.

In any case, thanks for taking a look.
Posted by: George Willson, December 2nd, 2009, 1:55pm; Reply: 7

Quoted from James McClung


Actually, all the frat houses I went to in college were just really cheap Philadelphia housing. Maybe they've got three rooms upstairs but they were pretty modest. That's what I was going for anyway. Maybe other colleges have nicer establishments. Still, I might just change it to a house party for future reference if it doesn't work for you.

Also, the clinic is meant to be small and bare bones, not like a fully function, or even modestly function, hospital.

In any case, thanks for taking a look.


No, that's good to know. I might also get that out of reading the script. I'll keep it in mind anyway.
Posted by: Scar Tissue Films, December 2nd, 2009, 2:02pm; Reply: 8

Quoted from James McClung
I wrote my script Night Shift with the intent of it being easy to produce. How easy, I can't say. This one's got less characters and locations than Abattoir which was the script I had produced and that one was done by a college professor. There's essentially one location and only five main characters.

I should note that there are one or two instances which might require a higher budget/more advanced special effects HOWEVER I wrote them in such a way that they can be omitted without any adjustments to the rest of the script. Basically, if a producer had the means to execute them, cool. If not, no problem. They're gone.

I've spent the year on the script and did a massive rewrite months ago so the majority of creative issues have been fixed.

So yeah. Night Shift. If anything, I'll have a better sense of what low-budget is if it doesn't fit your criteria. It's something I'm still trying to work on.



If I may interject slightly (Good luck with your projects btw George).

That's a pretty complicated thing. The term low-budget is realtive and varies from country to country. $20M for an action film is low budget.  ;D

Anyway, for me "low budget" denotes a significant, if relatively small (in Hollywood terms) amount of money. Realistically between 10 million and say 250,000 (for a feature).

You then get micro-budget which is probably below 250,000, but can be as little as a few thousand.

And then no or zero-budget, which is self explanatory.

It's difficult to define what it is and it's also problematical writing for it, because what is unattainable to one person is not to another.

With CGI now being available to the masses, there are people who can create epic battle scenes for nothing. There was an extraordinary film made by three british guys that was a re-enactment of the omaha beach landings. There were hundreds of characters on screen and all of them were just digital copies of the three people who made it.

Found it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRS9cpOMYv0

All of that is shot on a DVX100 which you can pick up for almost nothing and can be created on home computers. Kind of sickening if you don't know how to do it, but the limit these days is really only your imagination and time.
Posted by: ReaperCreeper, December 2nd, 2009, 2:03pm; Reply: 9
Speaking about locations, which specific locations can you afford? Because the script I am working on is set on a rural town of around 500 people. Do you have access to rural locations?

I would appreciate it if you gave us a list of locations you can afford, so as to not overcomplicate things. Example: would you prefer urban/middle-class areas?

--Julio
Posted by: George Willson, December 2nd, 2009, 2:47pm; Reply: 10

Quoted from ReaperCreeper
Speaking about locations, which specific locations can you afford? Because the script I am working on is set on a rural town of around 500 people. Do you have access to rural locations?

I would appreciate it if you gave us a list of locations you can afford, so as to not overcomplicate things. Example: would you prefer urban/middle-class areas?

--Julio


Decadence is, as usual, spot on, and I should really define my guidelines a little more specifically. Actually, my guidelines are roughly what I put in my original post. And really, what I'm doing would be referred to as zero budget, since I am making these on a budget of next to nothing. My last feature cost me $30, because I included the cost of the tapes I recorded on and what I spent for parts to build my camera stabilizer rig. I borrowed and begged for everything else that I didn't already own. Everyone on the project worked for a hopeful back end and a credit.

That's the plan for my next one as well. I can make it on next to nothing because the effects are simple, the locations are minimal, and the cast is small. What can I get ahold of for locations? Houses are pretty easy. My hometown requires no film permits (yeah, I checked), so I have all the public parks and roadways are available to me. One of these parks is a wooded area a couple blocks from my house, so lots of trees. Cars are a plenty. Beyond that, it's all about imagination. I wouldn't rule anything out, necessarily, as long as the cast is small.

With your rural town, it's hard to say. I'd have to read it. If it's a town of 500, but a true cast of 3, then my town has a very varied landscape to it where I could actually shoot in a piece of it and make it look like a rural town of 500, where it's actually a city of 90,000. It's not about reality. It's about creativity.

For instance, I probably can't get a clinic for James' script, but what can I get that would look like a clinic? I have some ideas.

There is a lot of subjectivity when it comes to budgeting a script. A major studio might spend $40,000,000 on something that a smaller studio could do for $40,000. It is all about networking and creativity. Maybe the smaller studio is doing physical effects and live action where the major studio is going for all CG effects.

But the easiest gauge for keeping it at a near zero budget is small scale. Small number of people in very, very few locations with almost no destruction or effects. These things aren't off limits. They're just minimized. There are a lot of stories that can be told in this range, and until I can prove that I can do a lot with a little, no one will trust me with a lot. So I'm starting with simplicity and going from there.

Does that answer the questions?
Posted by: ReaperCreeper, December 2nd, 2009, 4:31pm; Reply: 11
Got it.

I was planning on writing a Horror/Thriller script similar to The Bad Seed. Not in plot or even tone, but in the same style where you never actually see what is happening. I think movies are too action-oriented nowadays. The Bad Seed scared the shit out of me without showing ANY violence whatsoever, and that's what I am aiming at. A minimal amount of violence (or none at all), instead relying on mood and tension. This script is only on the treatment stage.

My other script, the one I was talking about earlier, is more of a mystery story. I think it could meet your criteria quite well. I'll send it to you when I finish it.

--Julio
Posted by: W, December 2nd, 2009, 7:08pm; Reply: 12

Quoted from George Willson

--> Minimal and simple locations, typically things like houses, open fields, trees, an open road, in a car. Rarely will this involve businesses, major city streets. airplanes, traffic, or "set pieces." It's things that already exist and can be worked with.


I did write a feature that may fit within these guidelines based on what you wrote.

It's a fake documentary kinda so it may not be what you want to do but I figured I'd throw it out there.
Posted by: George Willson, December 2nd, 2009, 9:04pm; Reply: 13
I'm open to any genre, Wesley and the Single Letter Name. Is that one "Famous, Rich & Beautiful"?
Posted by: W, December 3rd, 2009, 9:47am; Reply: 14

Quoted from George Willson
I'm open to any genre, Wesley and the Single Letter Name. Is that one "Famous, Rich & Beautiful"?


Yeah, I did post it but that version seems to have cut off some dialogue at the bottom of each page as far as I could tell so after a few tests it's gotta be something wrong with my FD.
Posted by: George Willson, December 3rd, 2009, 10:24am; Reply: 15

Quoted from W


Yeah, I did post it but that version seems to have cut off some dialogue at the bottom of each page as far as I could tell so after a few tests it's gotta be something wrong with my FD.


You can send me the fdr file. I have Final Draft, so I can read it.
Posted by: Niles_Crane (Guest), December 7th, 2009, 4:19pm; Reply: 16
Hi George,

Don't know if you'd be interested, but way back in the 1990s I wrote a feature screenplay that might suit your needs. It's a psychological drama, very closed down, claustrophobic and intense. It only has two principal characters.

I started out writing plays, so this sort of set up is very familiar to me.

It would need work - apart from anything else, it does not exist in electronic format.

Although I am British the script is not location specific - no one has to get on a London bus as a major plot point or anything. :)

If you think you'd be interested, let me know and I'll dust it off. I may even have some other suitable scripts tucked away in the vaults.
Posted by: George Willson, December 7th, 2009, 4:58pm; Reply: 17
I would actually be very interested, Niles. I wrote stage stuff prior to movies, and some of the stuff I'm shooting first started as stage works that I adapted. If you don't mind typing it up, I'd love to have a look. The email address in my profile is legit and working. If it does need any work, we can either touch base, or if you want to let me just fix whatever, I can do that as well.
Posted by: George Willson, December 8th, 2009, 6:50am; Reply: 18
Incidentally, everyone, my call for these zero budget scripts isn't a temporary one. You actually have time to write one (in more than a month) if you wish. Here's what I basically have available to me (at the moment, though it could change):

Broken Arrow requires no film permit to shoot in any public areas. This means parks, roads (though they told me to let them know if I needed a street shut down...duh...though that was interesting how easily THEY said it), and pretty much anywhere else that is publicly accessible in Broken Arrow, Ok. If you can see it from Google Maps, you can shoot there. One of these parks is rather heavily wooded and has a interesting little bridge over a creek. I have friends, of course, so houses are available. These are all pretty much middle class homes of 3 or 4 bedrooms. And of course, there's lots of fun to be had in cars and trucks.

The set parameters involve using whatever is there with minimal reorganization. "Run-down" ironically is not really an option in most cases. You just go with the standard house furniture layout, and it'll work.

For people, most everyone I work with is willing to work unpaid or with the distant hope that if the film sells, they get something afterward. These are all usually mid-20's to mid-30's age range. You'll want to keep the number as low as possible, so try and forego the crowd scenes, please.

For effects, I know how to do a lot of physical and camera effects at this point, but I have no idea how to do anything CG. Hence, I'm really old school at this point. I'm up for anything clever here though, if you have an idea. There's a lot of things that can be done effect-wise with some clever manipulation of the camera and backgrounds. So you can use your imagination as much as you want here...as long as it doesn't involve dinosaurs or other completely imaginary and giant creatures.

Miscellaneous parameters would be no nudity, please. Sure, a lot of them are uncommonly comfortable stripping down, but that's asking a lot of what amounts to volunteers. Undergarments, if you need to, but I'd rather just keep everyone's clothes on. As you may have noticed, I'm not a huge fan of profanity, but you write what works for you.

There you go. If you'd like to have a go at writing something that fits those parameters, there's a chance I might shoot it. I can't guarantee that, but there's a chance. There's plenty of time, nonetheless. I don't need anything next week. If you would rather wait and see if I improve after my last feature, feel free. Watch the credits populate without you.

I just figured that since I want to keep shooting stuff, I would go to my 2nd family here and give everyone the chance that no one in Hollywood wants to. I've proven that I can a) shoot something and b) get within six degrees of Kevin Bacon on IMDB. No, I'm not guaranteeing a worldwide distribution deal. Buy since it'll be publicly available, anyone can pick it up. Of course, there are always film festivals, etc. We'll see.

If you have any questions, of course, you can PM me or post to the thread.
Posted by: slabstaa (Guest), December 9th, 2009, 10:56pm; Reply: 19
Well I'll be damned.  I'll be able to whip you up something, easily, just for shits and giggles.  I don't expect to get anything out of it but I'd like to help, man.  I could fit your parameters, definitely.
Posted by: George Willson, December 10th, 2009, 6:32am; Reply: 20
Well, I'd be interested to see what you can come up with. However, I'm not sure that "shits and giggles" is the right frame of mind. You'll want to come up with something that you'd be proud to see made, not something that you'd hide every time someone mentions it and try to explain it away as "just something."

You'll have to note that part of my criteria is that I will like it. If you send me something goofy, I'll make you rewrite it. :P
Posted by: steven8, December 10th, 2009, 6:35am; Reply: 21

Quoted from George Willson
Well, I'd be interested to see what you can come up with. However, I'm not sure that "shits and giggles" is the right frame of mind. You'll want to come up with something that you'd be proud to see made, not something that you'd hide every time someone mentions it and try to explain it away as "just something."

You'll have to note that part of my criteria is that I will like it. If you send me something goofy, I'll make you rewrite it. :P


I'd listen to him.  It looks like he's got a gun. . . .

Posted by: slabstaa (Guest), December 10th, 2009, 1:36pm; Reply: 22

Quoted from George Willson
Well, I'd be interested to see what you can come up with. However, I'm not sure that "shits and giggles" is the right frame of mind. You'll want to come up with something that you'd be proud to see made, not something that you'd hide every time someone mentions it and try to explain it away as "just something."

You'll have to note that part of my criteria is that I will like it. If you send me something goofy, I'll make you rewrite it. :P



When I said shits and giggles, I meant as in hey I'll do it just to see it made to film, and wouldn't want nothing in return but my name somewhere in the titles.

Posted by: George Willson, December 10th, 2009, 2:09pm; Reply: 23

Quoted from slabstaa
When I said shits and giggles, I meant as in hey I'll do it just to see it made to film, and wouldn't want nothing in return but my name somewhere in the titles.


That's a given. Of course, I wrote into everyone's contract with the last one a percentage in the miracle that it does sell any number of copies at some point. I would continue to promise a payout to anyone involved if and when I actually receive some myself...
Posted by: CindyLKeller, December 10th, 2009, 7:59pm; Reply: 24
George,

You can use 'A Song In My Heart' if you'd like. The producer who was interested in it, well, he sort of faded away...

There are street signs, road signs, but you can work with them, take them out completely if you'd like to.

I still think it is a money maker, not only because I wrote it, but because it leaves people  feeling happy.

Anyway, let me know.
Cindy
Posted by: slabstaa (Guest), December 10th, 2009, 10:14pm; Reply: 25
Question, George.  What's your movie soundtracks usually like? haha
Posted by: George Willson, December 11th, 2009, 7:02am; Reply: 26
Slabby, you can listen to music I've written at http://www.myspace.com/georgewillsonmusic. I used the songs Something Left to Believe In, Tenderness, Morning Chill, Don't Leave Me Now, and Heaven or Hell Makes No Difference Tonight in the soundtrack. Most of the incidental music was just instrumental arrangements of parts of those songs, and mostly played on piano. That should given you an idea. You can, of course, hear 30 second samples of all the songs on the actual soundtrack at Amazon.com.

Cindy, I'll look at it.
Posted by: slabstaa (Guest), December 11th, 2009, 2:38pm; Reply: 27
No Rolling Stones or Bad Company, eh?
Posted by: George Willson, December 11th, 2009, 5:28pm; Reply: 28
Like I could afford them... I'm so cheap, I write the music myself.
Posted by: slabstaa (Guest), December 12th, 2009, 5:35pm; Reply: 29
LOL jeez.  Well, I'm boiling up some ideas.  I'll see what I can do.  I'd really like to get something to ya.
Print page generated: November 18th, 2019, 2:39am