View Full Version : make it or mail it

07-27-2004, 08:56 PM
I just polished off a thriller/horror purposely written to have low budget requirements. I could easily rewrite it to take place entirely in and around one house with a cast of eight characters. A small time indie director I know said he would help me film it if I decide to go that route. I told him I wanted to give selling it an honest shot before going DIY.

Recently he contacted me back and recommended just shooting it because you skip a whole step in the process. It got me thinking because a couple other people I know have said this is the profitable way to go. It would be a pain in the ass because I don’t have any resources, but then again I don’t need much except actors, a house, and equipment (he already has the equipment). Has anyone here ever gone the guerilla film route? Is it worth doing? I don’t know much of anything about the business side of no-budget filmmaking or what I can expect to come from it.

Lyle Estevan
07-27-2004, 11:41 PM
It depends on your expectations. If you make it for the joy of making it and don't expect Harvey Weinstein to deliver it from obscurity and distribute to multiplexes throughout the land, you're in good shape.

In all likelihood, the best you can expect is a good calling card for your skills as a writer/director and make some fans who can help you. The vast majority of films made without distribution already in place never find a home, even on the DVD shelf, much less your local multiplex. The rare ones that do make it usually have a recognizable face or some incredible hook that the buyers just can't say no to.

That said, yeah, it's worth doing. Your chances of getting the film made are 100% as opposed to the 0.0000001% chance you have if you try to sell the script. So what if nobody sees it? If you're lucky you'll get to attend all kinds of fabulous festivals and say, "Hey, look what I did!" to people all over the country or perhaps even, the world. If you're even luckier, a manager or agent might see it and take you on. But nobody's going to buy it. Trust me.

There are tons of great books on no-budget film-making. Get them out of the library because you're going to need every penny you can spare.

07-28-2004, 11:09 AM
When I was in film school, an average student short cost in the neighborhood of 50K and that with equipment in place and everything. When you're saying it won't cost much you're forgetting that even the cheapest of films has a budget. Permits have to be obtained, crew has to be fed, fees have to be payed. And if you cut corners you are always sacrificing the quality and killing you chances to find a distributor. Festival route is also not cheap. And in the end, your chances of ever seeing your film on the screen are still the same as your chances of selling a screenplay. So, if you're broke, I really wouldn't recommend it.

07-28-2004, 12:05 PM
was purchased prior to distribution, remade, released, and then led to subsequent films for Wes Anderson & co.

The problem for you is that, if you make and distribute the film, you'd probably eliminate the market for it. But if you make a deal with the guy who wants to direct it to give it a chance to try to sell it to distributors prior to trying to distribute it via home video, you'd still have a chance to turn this scrip into something bigger.

And studios will be very impressed that you actually made something and that people were willing to invest in it. (If it's bad, nothing will save it -- but you're definitely moving it up the ladder if you make it.)

Another thing to consider is that you can definitely do both. If your director friend is trying to talk you out of sending it out, maybe he knows it's good.

So long as you don't sell it outright to your friend (ie, if you retain the film rights in the screenplay) you can try to sell it even though it's being made into a movie. Of course, if it gets sold for a lot of money, you'd probably want to pay your friend his costs (or whatever you agree to pay him) in the even that you do sell the exclusive film rights to someone else at some later point.

donald gregory
07-30-2004, 01:27 PM
If it's any good, it sounds like the perfect script to shoot on a low to no budget.

Just make sure if your buddy actually has some talent before go with him to shoot it.

07-30-2004, 08:44 PM
shoot it. shoot it. shoot it.

don't even think twice. shoot one. write four more. from what I read on your post, you can make that bad boy for well under 50k. 50k is absurd. I'm sorry, but if you're smart and you research and you do your homework, you can make something that looks great for less money then you would ever think (i'm doing it now)

the only way it can hurt you is financially. if, by making the film that means you're living out of your smelly car for six months then that's a decision you have to make. to some, it's worth it.

those people that tell you it's a waste of time have no idea what they're talking about. you have to try everything you can to get ahead. to break in. handing an agent/manager/producer/director a script along with a dvd of a film you wrote that was made is a valuable thing.

one very important aspect of this whole shabang is --- trust the people you're working with.

and put everything in writing before you shoot.

08-01-2004, 08:11 PM
Don't confuse a festival film with a Direct to video genre pic. This is horror, there is a never ending demand for this genre. Don't plan on getting rich but if it's at all watchable and has the right elements you should be able to cover your costs or even turn a little profit. BEWARE of the scum bag bottom feeding foreign sales distributors who will prey on the naive.

08-01-2004, 09:50 PM
As Lloyd Kaufman of Troma says, "Anything with t1ts and blood is marketable." And he's been making money on indie films since the sixties.

I would say definitely make it, but keep your monetary expectations low. Remember that the vast majority of films that make it Sundance, the Holy Grail of festivals, don't find significant distribution.

That said, the internet is opening up lots of opportunity in self-distribution. Landmark Cinemas is switching all their theaters to digital projectors, which will make it possible (if unlikely) to self-finance a theatrical distribution.

This is the best time in history to be an independent filmmaker, go for it!

08-02-2004, 08:37 AM
Thanks to everyone for their help.