How to Make a Zombie Feature for $5000

I completed a zombie feature film Project: Eugenics for only $5000. That’s right. It is an eighty-minute zombie feature film with various location changes, more than a dozen actors, and some very cool VFX shots. You might wonder how I made an entire feature for that kind of money when most indie trailers cost more.

The truth is, making a zombie feature it’s not easy. And I do not recommend anyone build a business model around making feature films for $5K. However, running a safe set and creating a good-looking movie on the cheap is possible.

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Don’t Make Your  Zombie Feature Alone

You have heard it many times. Indie filmmakers wear many hats. And I am here to reaffirm this. When you make a low-budget zombie feature, you need to ask yourself: “Can I do this job myself, or do I have to pay someone to do it?” The answer depends on your skills. The more you know, the more money you save.

But even with all the skills in the world, filmmaking is collaborative. So don’t be afraid to ask people for help. It’s okay to admit: “I’m making a zombie feature. I don’t have much money, but I am passionate about filmmaking and will create something awesome with your help.”

That sort of transparency allowed me to attract passionate zombie feature collaborators. Some were pros, and others were not. My wife helped me produce the film, and some other friends and family helped me find locations and complete other tasks. Everybody on set was very enthusiastic about the process.

Leverage Stock Footage For Your Zombie Feature

One way to save lots of money while increasing the production value of your zombie feature is by utilizing stock footage. Let’s say you need an aerial shot of New York, and you are shooting in Utah. Some might argue that flying to NY costs much money to get the picture. Stock footage can provide the shot without the expense of production.

Many filmmakers shy away from stock footage because they believe it is shameful to utilize moving images produced by others. This is funny because we have no issues using outside music in our films. But we suddenly draw the line at footage?

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While I am not implying you should forgo your camera work for stock footage, I am saying that telling a story (and finishing your feature) is the goal. In my zombie feature, I utilized stock footage for the opening aerial shots, my establishing shots, and some of the POVs.

Utilize After Effects For Zombie Feature VFX

If your movie has VFX shots and you know your way around After Effects (or have a filmmaker friend who does), check out Video Copilot. The software has a plugin called Element 3D, which allows you to import 3D objects into After Effects and animate them. For this zombie feature, I purchased Element 3D and a few 3D model packages, such as JetStrike, which includes different types of jets, planes, and drones.

The results were terrific. Here’s an image below where I was able to composite stock footage from VideoBlocks of an empty hangar populated with the drones from Video Copilot. On the bonus features of my film, I go into more depth on how I did many of the VFX shots.

While your zombie feature may require completely different elements, it’s a good habit to always think of creative ways to cut costs without compromising production value while making sure to run a safe set! If you’re interested, Project: Eugenics is out now and available.

Bojan Dulabic is a filmmaker and runs Filmmaking Today.

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