I completed a zombie feature film called Project:Eugenics for only $5000. That’s right. It is a full eighty minute zombie feature film with various location changes, more than a dozen actors and some very cool VFX shots. You might wonder how on earth 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 that anyone to build a business model around making feature films for $5K. However, it is possible to run a safe set and also make a good looking movie on the cheap.
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 a lot of 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. Lets say you need an aerial shot of New York and you are shooting in Utah. Some might argue that it costs a lot of money to fly to NY to get the shot. 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 to me because we have no issues using outside music in our films. But we suddenly draw the line at footage?
While I am not implying you should forgo your own camera work for stock footage, I am saying that telling a story (and finishing your feature) is the goal. In my zombie feature, I was able to utilize 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 amazing. 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. If you would like to check it out go to www.ProjectEugenics.com and check out the trailer below.
Bojan Dulabic is a Vancouver filmmaker and content creator at www.FilmmakingToday.com a blog dedicated to empower filmmakers to make their own projects by talking about current low budget filmmaking techniques and gear used today.