microbudget movies and civility

I get frustrated when I hear people talk about movies that "only cost $30 million," or kids who need $2 million to make their first dream feature, or movies where no one gets paid 'cause the budget is only 100 grand. We all know that movies are the most expensive and commercial art form we have, and this causes folks to talk foolishly about low- vs. high-budgets. LA is full of people who have never had more than 10 grand in their possession all at once, talking about how they're not gonna make the film for less than $1 million. It's insanity!

Really, you can make a feature film (and when I say film, of course, I mean video) for "only" a few tens of thousands of dollars. How many tens you need depends on a lot of common-sense factors like where it is shot, who is in it, how pretty you want the picture to be, and how much of it you are making on your home computer.

$100,000 is a huge, life-changing amount of money, unless you are totally fiscally irresponsible. It should be discussed respectfully. For 100K I could comfortably make 2 good flicks about people talking, or maybe 1 with spaceships and a rock concert.

For me the beautiful thing about moviemaking in this era is that it is equalized by the convenience of digital cameras/gadgets. Once you get your actors, your crew, and a camera together in the same room, there is no question of budget; it's simply, how good a scene can you shoot with what you have? Of course, it's VERY VERY DIFFICULT to get all those things together in the same room, because of the logistics of life and schedules and paying people. But once you do, it's on; skill and dedication are the only factors that matter.

It also bugs me when people seem to be overly concerned with getting paid enough to tell their own stories: I've produced all my own stuff, including about a dozen stage plays and rock musicals, various shorts and videos, feature films. Although some of these productions turned a profit, it was never enough to fund the next project. I pay to make my art; I work double shifts at regular crummy jobs so there can be enough money to pay for crew and equipment....and, OK, the gratuitous musical numbers that I'm very fond of. Of course, all of these productions have at some point been assisted and co-funded by the generosity and artistic patronage of people like yourself, but I've always been the principal investor, 'cause I like to believe that's what an artist should do.

No one on these projects ever gets paid a lot, and that makes it doubly difficult to make the art; but there is a happy medium where people are willing to do it anyway for the love and the intangibles. It's a gamble, fer sure, 'cause some of these indie productions are truly scammy and exploitative; but some of them are done truly 'cause there's no other way to do it. And those are the experiences you can't get even if you had $30 million dollars.

Along those lines, here's a concert vid from my old theater company ERP; we specialized in rock musicals, camaRADerie, and Doing Things That Are Not Traditionally Considered Good Ideas.