My name is Chris Foster. When I was 19 years old, I was obsessed with making a feature film. The problem was, I only had two-thousand-dollars. But I didn’t let lack of resources get in my way. I figured out how to keep a safe set, while getting creative. I finished the feature, and I learned a few lessons.
The 5 Lessons I Learned Making A Feature Film For $2,000
I’m not saying I followed the rules of filmmaking. My biggest concern was running a safe set without compromising creativity. And hopefully some of the stuff I learned will prove valuable for you.
1. Expect To Spend Your Entire Budget On Food:
You’re making a feature film for $2,000 which means you can’t pay much. But don’t worry! It makes it a easier on everyone if they aren’t eating pizza everyday. We shot for 30 days over weekends and had great food on set for every one of them. I even had one of my producers tell me that we were eating better food than big budget TV shows he had been working on. It’s not like we were eating steak and lobster, but catering from Chick Fil A, Panda Express, or just grabbing a few subs is better than pizza any day of the week. The morale of your crew should be a top priority.
2. Get On House Arrest:
Write your character on house arrest, or in other words, write the movie so that it costs you nothing to shoot. I shot in a house I had access to, where I wouldn’t have any interruptions, then I put the guy on house arrest so he couldn’t leave. Not only that, but the cast/crew and I were able to stay in the house over the weekend, cutting costs even further. Write something you can shoot for nothing.
3. Decided On Lighting, Audio, Camera, Gear:
If you learn to light a scene, you won’t need a 4k camera. Practice. That’s what short films are for. The more you shoot, and the more you light, the better you’ll get.
Audio is also on of the hardest things when making a feature film. If you’re lucky enough to know a guy who will do it for free, USE THEM, and if not, consider hashing out a bit of your food budget and someone to do it. This is the only role I wish that I had payed for during production. A quick tip that proved indispensable was that we lit an entire scene so that we could shoot a wide shot, and everyone was lit well, then for closeups we would make minor adjustments rather than tearing it all down and lighting for that individual. Stop asking what camera someone used and ask them how they lit their scenes.
4. Learn To Market:
As soon as you begin making a feature film, start documenting every step of the journey. The behind the scenes footage and pictures we had from the 30 days of shooting is all of the marketing material you need to create hype for the film. We used it to start the TETHERED Facebook page, the cast/crew used pictures as their profile pictures, and we even started a BTS series showing the making of the film before it even came out. Whether you have a cameraman dedicated to BTS content, or just have a dedicated camera on set at all times for anyone to pickup and shoot, it’s an invaluable asset to have after filming ends. You’ll have to do all of the marketing yourself, so create a bank of content to use when you’re no longer shooting.
5. Find Free Production Value:
What do you have that other people do not? That old beat up car you’ve had for years is something another filmmaker would kill for. Use people, locations, props, cars, and anything else you can scrounge together. It’s so funny hearing your friends that you grew up with recognizing things in your film. You don’t need money when you use your creativity.
I hope you found this useful, and if you’d like to check out my $2,000 feature film you can go here:
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Chris Foster’s first feature film, a thriller, Tethered (2016), was written at the age of 18, produced and directed on a shoe string budget of $2000 at the age of 19, and post-produced and premiered in Altamonte Springs, Florida at the age of 20. As an entrepreneur, he sees no road blocks as he pursues his craft and promises to change the world through storytelling.
Foster’s approach to storytelling engages the viewer’s senses with his unique cinematography. His use of playful and unusual point of view shots, coupled with engaging scene transitions, allows the viewer to use all of their senses. Writing thoughtful and clever dialogue, he delivers on character development and allows the audience to experience a wide range of emotions.