No Budget Filmmaking

Indie Filmmaking

[Reblogged in its entirety from Renegade Cinema]

No/Low budget independent filmmaking is a necessity for most filmmakers who want to produce work that will help break them and their friends into the film business, or at least, be recognized by what’s left of the film business. Robert Rodriguez, the king of no budget cinema and the master professor on how to avoid spending money on your indie project even goes as far as to feature a “Ten Minute Film School” on the DVD release of his breakthrough film El Mariachi. The audio commentary in and of itself is one example after another on how to cut costs down to zilch. Although I am a film school graduate, the Rodriguez approach has always been far more helpful and yielded far more positive results. I’m not alone.

There has always been a basic system in place, a journey so to speak, that every filmmaker attempts to traverse: a filmmaker gets a bunch of people together, all with different talents and interests and all of them go out and make a movie. This is one of the hardest activities in the world to engage in because a lot of these kinds of projects are achieved through trial and error and generally go against the grain of society’s normal functions. Those with the knowledge and experience to make life a little easier for these cats only work for financial compensation. More on that later. So let’s say that the movie does find its way to completion. That movie enters the festival circuit and wins a few awards or at the very least gets an honorable mention, which in this day and age is considered an award in and of itself. This recognition is not lost upon distributors and soon the film gets picked up and everyone wins. Sure it’s an outdated, bullshit system that doesn’t really work as much as it used to, but the route is still possible and still attempted by many independent filmmakers.

It would seem that the production culture of some of these smaller films have driven the “professional” and “working” freelance community to the point where there is now an unofficial and unannounced war against these no/low budget filmmakers.  It would seem that, at least in the big cities, anywhere a filmmaker can go to find help with his or her project is being taken over by freelancers who are crying fowl, engaging in vicious attacks against the filmmakers. An example of this is the decreasingly popular website Craigslist,  where both no budget and low budget filmmakers can list their projects and production needs for any and all to respond to. CL even offers the option to list an ad as “Pay” or “No Pay”. It would seem that some of these pay only freelancers are sick and tired of sifting through the hundreds of no-budget calls for crew and the CL website has unofficially developed into a sort of anti-no-budget zone.

New Jersey filmmaker Chris Notarile said, “I believe that while it is improper to abuse or take advantage of free labor, a filmmaker should not be penalized for being resourceful and making a no budget film with willing participants.” Notarile went on to say, “If we just blindly crack down on all no budget productions, the only people we hurt are ourselves and our own community.” Notarile is correct. Without an outlet for filmmakers to inform the community that they are making a project and that they have a need for various talents, the very existence of independent filmmaking is threatened. Of course there are some that would welcome this depletion of projects from the pipeline. Another crewing website,, no longer allows for the listing of No Pay productions at all, unless it’s a short or student film.

Beanie Barnes for, pretentiously wrote an article, labeling independent film as America’s “next Wal-Mart”, arguing that there needs to be less independent film made for the entire film industry to survive. “Anyone who says we need more of this, without offering any solution to make it better, is part of the problem.” Barnes wrote. “Many in the industry still refuse to acknowledge that film is subject to the economic laws of supply and demand.” For Filmmaker Magazine, John Yost tackled the subject of low/no budget indie filmmaking by taking on the no pay aspect, in his article The Microbudget Conversation, Unpaid Crew vs Underpaid Crew. Yost wrote, “It’s amazing how much of a difference even $50/day will make to some of us. Just knowing we’re not working for free goes a long way in making us more likely to give our best effort to some poor, inexperienced, yet passionate filmmaker. ” While there is a sort of wisdom and logic behind this thinking, and a great deal of collective examples of this, across many industries, this is only a fraction of the truth. In my experience and in the experience of others I’ve collaborated with, the animosity from crew members who weren’t my friends previous to the project, were nearly identical in both no pay and low pay productions. The common mentality with these specific crew members who were getting paid x amount a day was that they felt they were getting stiffed, regardless of the amount. They’ll always think you can afford to give them a little more and that’s problematic when there are so many other expenses on these projects than payroll. Going back to some of Robert Rodriguez’s comments on the El Mariachi commentary, “once you start spending money you’ll never stop” and this is absolutely true.

The other side of this is a much more serious problem. So many filmmakers are not capable of raising what the freelance collective would consider “proper financing” for their projects and some of these worker bees, while incredibly talented, are a bit sociopathic about this reality, insisting that if you can’t pay everyone to help you make the film then you shouldn’t make it at all. This line of thinking is incredibly dangerous, both to film and the art world as a whole. Many filmmakers take their projects very personally and some that I have talked to have no interest in having people on board their projects who’s dedication to the film is only commensurate with the capacity of a paycheck, or exists only when a paycheck exists. No money = no passion is not something that sits right. “You can pay a person to do anything” says one independent filmmaker who asked to remain anonymous, “anything goes, if the price is right. There’s something different about films made by people who are engaged in the project for reasons other than what they can get from it or whether or not it gets picked up.”

While I’ve dedicated my life to the pursuit of understanding and demystifying film through making films and writing about film, I have no intention of surrounding myself with people who’s hearts aren’t in the right place. With that said, I agree with both sides of the aisle because I am both an indie filmmaker and a freelance editor. How do you establish a peaceful balance with both sides when freelance film and video makers and pseudo journalists are rising up against the very existence of no and low budget filmmakers, even going as far as to relabel these cats as “bum filmmaker wannabees”, who also often become the victims of cyber bullying in the very forums where they post ads seeking out collaborators. How do you establish an acceptable balance when the hatred for one-another continues to grow. How do you establish a mutual understanding when these same freelancers are publishing media content like the spiteful and mean spirited video that has been gaining views on YouTube. It’s clear that a peaceful discussion among filmmakers and would be collaborators and service providers is desperately needed. Money is tight but we shouldn’t let that threaten the output of independent cinema. From a personal perspective, if I had waited until I had sufficient funds in place for all of my projects, I’d have no projects at all to speak about and I can safely claim that my truth is the truth for most filmmakers.

Bibliography: Salon | Filmmaker Magazine | Filmmaker Magazine |

[Reblogged in its entirety from Renegade Cinema]

Karl Nussbaum | Night Blooming Flower


Experimental filmmaker and video installation artist Karl Nussbaum’s new short film, NIGHT BLOOMING FLOWER, will be premiering tomorrow at a gala event honoring Thomas Edison’s birthday.

BloomingFlower Main

Night Blooming Flower won the 2nd Prize Jury Citation Award at the 33rd  Black Maria Film Festival, a festival well known for its dedication to the art of the moving image.

The premiere this weekend will be hosted by the West Orange Film Society at the Essex Green AMC Theater in West Orange, NJ. The show is at 2PM.

Filmmaker’s Description of the work: “We often bring flowers to our loved ones in the hospital and then sitting on the night table in the dark, they become the silent witnesses to the changes the patient makes in their transition from life to death.

‘Night Blooming Flower’ is a meditation on death, memory, acceptance and the passage into the world of the dead, specifically the moment of leaving.

Originally presented as a video installation, this circular film is projected onto a Vietnam era silk parachute that gently sways as if breathing.”

Learn more about Karl by visiting his website at:

Paint & Die Happy via Guernica


If all the world were populated by people in the arts, there would probably be no war. has published a wonderful article on New York artist Kathryn Lynch. The article is largely made up of an interview that journalist Haniya Ra conducted with Lynch and published in December. Although not film related, the advice and approach Lynch discusses can easily be applied to independent film.

Lynch says about her work and the city she lives: “I don’t have much to say about the New York art scene, that’s not why I paint. I am interested in the work it takes to make a piece of art, not the world around the art market.” This rings true for me and some of the indie filmmakers I’ve developed a fondness for over the years. I find the people I most get along with feel the same way and it’s alleviating to see that this sentiment exists in artists from other mediums.

I urge everyone to read the full interview as Lynch gives us pearl after pearl on why she paints and will continue to paint with or without the common interpretation of success. The article is titled “Paint & Die Happy” and can be read here.

Movie One-Sheets


Star WarsThe past few months I’ve been looking for an artist to whip up a specific kind of movie poster for THE SPACESHIP.  I have a very specific concept in mind and have been working tirelessly to figure out how to communicate this idea to whomever ends up with the task of creating this poster.  In the process I have been researching other movie poster designs, mainly from classic movies that we all love and know but also from movies I can guarantee most of you have never heard of. Included in this article are some of my favorite movie posters.  The style I tend to gravitate towards is the hand drawn adventure/comic book cover where you have a mesh of characters all piled onto the canvas together.  The idea in and of itself just screams…. FUN!!!! Of course some of these aren’t actual one-sheet posters, but dvd covers, the quality of which, from time to time, can surpass the poster that was used during a film’s theatrical run.

Thanks and have a great weekend everyone.


NeverendingAWESOME Flick!Maine Prison System

Crystal Skull




Anakin wasn't that bad.

Marty's Back!

Of all the gin joints...

The CIA did it.id4shutterisland

The Sonnet Project / Shakespeare Exchange


The Sonnet Project, produced by the Shakespeare Exchange in New York, is a project that requires filmmakers to contribute pro-bono work on a relatively large scale.  It has been attracting many filmmakers, including me, and has been underway for a few months now.  The project works like this: a filmmaker selects one of Shakespeare’s sonnets and creates an experimental short film out of that sonnet. The film is shot in a specific NYC location, chosen by the Shakespeare Exchange and features an actor approved by the Shakespeare Exchange, more specifically by the project’s producer, Ross Williams. Why would a filmmaker participate in this program? Let’s just say, for the sake of art and the chance to network with people in the theater community.  At least, that’s why I chose to take on this project.  I created a short film for Sonnet 21.


So is it not with me as with that Muse
Stirr’d by a painted beauty to his verse,
Who heaven itself for ornament doth use
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse
Making a couplement of proud compare,
With sun and moon, with earth and sea’s rich gems,
With April’s first-born flowers, and all things rare
That heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems.
O’ let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my love is as fair
As any mother’s child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fix’d in heaven’s air:
Let them say more than like of hearsay well;
I will not praise that purpose not to sell.

The sonnet was recited by a Shakespearian trained actor (named redacted), who I had two previous collaborations with: Lipstick Lies, my short film that dealt lightly with a shift in parallel dimensions and my upcoming feature The Spaceship which deals with… well, you know, spaceships and New York real estate. We were required by the Shakespeare Exchange to film the experimental short at a specific NYC Location: Gracie Mansion. A date was set this past spring for the shoot and the actor and I ventured uptown to Gracie Mansion where we started to set up for the shoot. Keep in mind that in New York, video and filming doesn’t require a permit as long as you don’t assert control over a public area. It is also not illegal to film anything in New York (building, people or other) as long as you film from public property, in this case, a city owned park. The Security Guards at Gracie Mansion had their own ideas about filming laws and essentially threatened us into keeping our filming of the location to a minimal. They even went as far as to threaten to confiscate my camera gear if they felt I was being intrusive. With that, the actor and I made the shoot as quick as possible, keeping the mansion framed in the backdrop, but not going as far as to film the location by itself or from close-up angles.  We took about 15 takes of the actor reciting the sonnet in various character voices and then called it quits when Parks Authority vehicles started showing up.  We managed to get in one great take in an authentic Shakespearean dialect.  Keep in mind too that my camera gear on this project was a canon HDSLR, a handheld microphone and a small tripod.  At the time of production and still, at the time I write, none of this gear legally requires a permit to utilize on city property.

It took me a few weeks to edit, mainly because of my production of The Spaceship. When I finally got around to delivering the final cut, I didn’t hear from the producer of the Sonnet Project, Ross, for a good part of the summer. Last night he e-mailed me to ask that I re-film it or at the very least, re-edit it with more b-roll shots of Gracie Mansion. He made sure to include a snarky little sentence at the end of his e-mail: “can you create a new edit that adheres more accurately to the expectations of the project?” Well, the answer is no, not unless the Shakespeare Exchange is willing to send a producer, with permits, to take care of the business end of filming in what the City of New York clearly perceives to be a sensitive location. Hear me out: I have no problem producing film or video on a pro-bono basis – I hate HATE HATE money, especially when it concerns an artistic endeavor like this. I think it has destroyed film, theater and other forms of art, and has even been responsible for the constant near collapsing of my current feature film project.  Therefore,  I am more than willing to play ball and not ask for ‘nor expect compensation for any of the experimental film work that I do – but I will not produce a single frame if that means risking confiscation of my gear. I’m okay too with the producing organization setting specific guidelines, but if they’re going to be picky about such guidelines, they need to provide the artists providing these pro-bono services and works of art with the resources necessary to stick with these guidelines. In this case, they should have sent us permits and a representative equipped to deal with any security or police that might try to shut the production down.

That is all I have to report. Unfortunately it’s not the happy result I had hoped for when I started this adventure with the Sonnet Project. The most I wanted was a completed short film on their website that I could post a link to.  It would have been a simple and rewarding entry on Film Anthropology.  Instead it has become a warning to artists and filmmakers to be careful about who you offer your free time to, or at the very least, ask more questions “what if this happens, or that” etc.



Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop


MET - Faking ItOn January 27th, the “Faking It” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art comes to a close. The exhibited explores the manipulation of photography, before the use of the extremely popular computer program: Adobe Photoshop.  In an exhibition made possible by Adobe, we get a glimpse of published and unpublished images that were manipulated using chemical or other physical means, that in the times these images were created, the techniques were considered revolutionary.  Sample after sample, we begin to realize that everything we think is new in post-production are quite ancient (some effects even dating back to the beginning of photography in the 19th century).  For example, the replacing of dull/bland skies with deep, partly cloudy skies, were a commonplace practice, specifically in the publishing industry.  Old photography technology often blew out the sky to nothing more than a white glare, so cumulus clouds had to be timed in later, in an extensive post-production process.  In a series of photographs to advertise dish sets, we see that the “bling” had been added by hand to make the china more alluring to high priced buyers.  There are a lot of examples of the “Applied Coloring” technique, where photos were quite literally colored by hand, in the same way old motion pictures were.

Filip Dujardin METNear the exhibit, in a completely separate gallery, is the The Joyce and Robert Menschel Hall for Modern Photography, which also has a concentration of “faked” photography. The content of this exhibition is rolling, as it is dedicated to showing work created after 1960 (and there’s always work being created after 1960).  One work I gravitated towards was an image created by photographer Filip Dujardin, who used the free program Google Sketchup, to create a photo-realistic image of a fictional building.  The fact that an image created using Google Sketchup is displayed at the MET is a sign of good times to come.

The MET writes on their website for the exhibit: Over the past two decades, digital technology has made us all more keenly aware of the malleability of the photographic image, and many lament a loss of faith in the testimony of the camera. What we have gained, however, is a fresh perspective on the history of the medium and its complex relationship to visual truth. Through today’s eyes, we can see that the old adage “the camera never lies” has always been photography’s supreme fiction. I couldn’t agree more.


Follow Us December 5th | Future of Film 2012


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Hey everyone,

This is a friendly reminder to follow our activity on December 5th (this Wednesday) as we’ll be Tweeting, Facebooking and Blogging the topics of the day, live from the FUTURE OF FILM SUMMIT in Beverly Hills, California.  Trending topics will be marked with the hashtag #futurefilm.

This is relevant to all filmmakers whether you work in Hollywood or on the Indie Scene | the Future of Film affects all of us. The annual event is hosted/produced by Variety and Digital Media Wire.