Make your own Oscar contender on a low budget
Feb 2nd 2010 3:00PM
Updated Feb 2nd 2010 3:05PM
WalletPop has the experts for you. Todd and Brad Barnes won the Best of Next award for directing the top low-budget film at the recent Sundance Film Festival. The brothers' screwball comedy "Homewrecker" follows a jailbird locksmith on work release who falls for a troublemaking ditz.
"Homewrecker is an example of what two manic brothers with little money and a lot of imagination can produce," said the Hollywood Reporter.
Todd Barnes wouldn't reveal the exact budget for "Homewrecker," but did tell WalletPop that they made it for less than $240,000, allowing the production to hire Screen Actors Guild talent at a discounted, $100-a-day rate. The Next category consisted of films that cost less than $500,000. For perspective, the average 2010 Sundance film cost $1 million, according to the New York Times, while the average studio movie passed the $106 million mark in 2007, the last time those figures were made available, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Here are tips to make your award winner on the cheap. If you're feeling optimistic, write an acceptance speech while you're at it.
1. Set a start date and stick to it. Todd Barnes said there are always financial difficulties to manage, but there's nothing like a hard deadline to make you tackle them sooner. After funding for another project disappeared, the brothers decided on June 25 to begin shooting "Homewrecker" on July 27. No matter what.
2.Tailor the script to free locations with easy access. The brothers, shooting in Brooklyn, N.Y., where they live, and Manhattan, paid for just one site. The rest was shot in an apartment, an accommodating cafe and the streets.
3. Work with what you already have. Do not try to procure anything that doesn't belong to someone you know. That gets expensive. For example, in a 9/11-based short the duo made for Showtime in 2002 called "Engine Trouble," the brothers had access to a firetruck through a pal and wrote the story around it, Barnes explained.
4. Work quickly. The brothers aimed to shoot eight script pages a day (that's eight minutes of screen time), a brisk pace for feature moviemaking. The more days you shoot, the more days you're paying the crew and actors if they're not volunteers.
5. While this might seem counter intuitive, Todd Barnes recommended feeding the crew better than stale bagels and pizza everyday. They'll respond to the intense workload with more energy and enthusiasm, he said. A better payoff for the few extra bucks spent.
6. Don't be shy about reaching out for funding. " 'Homewrecker' was a truly independent movie," Barnes said. "All the money came from family and friends." Find those willing to share in an adventure, Barnes advised. You'd be surprised who will donate when it comes to the lure of the movie business. The brothers hit the jackpot when Todd contacted a kindergarten friend who now works as a currency trader in Singapore. The friend made his own contribution and got others in the financial world to pitch in.
7. School yourself in new-media distribution in the likelihood that you don't land a theatrical release deal. Todd and Brad's award perhaps enhanced their chances for some kind of cinema, cable or straight-to-DVD deal, but nothing is sure in show business. Todd said they would consider anything that helps them pay back their investors. "I have no problem with a kid watching on an iPhone," Todd said. "There are lots of avenues. Money can come back incrementally."