Q & A - How to Produce a Low-Budget Film
Q – What is this book about?
A – The title essentially explains much of what the book is about. Primarily it describes how to produce a low-budget feature film, without any previous film experience and the important part is to accomplish it without any of your money. Lots of people talk about making films with other people’s money, but I explain it as a step-by-step guide from concept to final execution, including finding the money, and securing distribution and world sales. It’s very comprehensive and a useful tool for any filmmaker. I also warn about things to avoid and to look out for.
Q – Why are you qualified to write this book?
A – The reason is simple, I produced, co-produced and distributed 35 feature films; both low-budget and high-budget. I also owned and operated four cinemas and sold my films internationally in Cannes and at the Milano Film Festival. This diverse experience enables me to have a well-rounded knowledge of the film business, especially film production and distribution.
Q – Is reading this book the best way for someone who hasn’t worked in film production to embark on producing a film?
A – No, it’s not the best way, but it’s the fastest and the least expensive way. The best way to produce a film is to go to film school for four years and work in the film industry to gain the appropriate knowledge by being an accomplished actor, director, production manager, assistant director, talent agent, entertainment lawyer or any other film-related professional. Having done that you will have acquired the necessary knowledge and created the right relationships that will enable you to produce a feature film. Many actors and directors, plus other film professionals, have become successful producers through this process such as: Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, just to mention a few well-known people, but there are many others. The only other way is to be very wealthy.
Q – What makes you believe that someone reading this book will be able to make a film?
A – I don’t think that just reading the book will enable you to make a feature film. However, anyone who does would be considered someone who is seriously interested in producing a film. That desire and initiative, alone, indicates that the reader has the right attitude. Combining that approach with the roadmap of this book, which gives all the necessary steps, makes the reader a good candidate to succeed. If the reader is also determined – and I mean determined and focused to see it through – then I believe success is possible.
Q – Who is this book aimed for and who would want to read it?
A – There are a lot of people who work in the film and television industry, such as writers, actors, directors, technicians, exhibitors, distributors, casting and talent agents, personal managers and entertainment attorneys that would benefit from reading this book, and let’s not forget film students. They are all potential candidates and though they may be working in the film and television industry, many of them might be intimidated by the concept of producing a feature film and this book may show them the way. Also, there are millions of film buffs that may find the book an interesting read as to how a film is put together. One of the aims of the book is to dispel the myth that a producer is someone who has lots of money, connections in high places and film know-how. I want to demonstrate and encourage those who might want to make a film and let them know that a producer is someone with a story idea, who wants to tell the story through film and is willing to work hard to make it happen.
Q – What are the prerequisites for accomplishing that?
A – The prerequisites are: you have to love films and be an avid film watcher, be a social person, practical and get along with everybody. You also have to be a hard worker, not a procrastinator and not a quitter. These are basic qualities that many people have and these qualities will help you to produce your first film and if you have any other skills or assets, well, that’s a plus.
Q – Do you make any recommendations as to the type of film one should make?
A – No, I only layout the process of how to produce, not what to produce and how to go about creating a presentation to attract investors, how to manage the production and lastly, how to find distribution and foreign sales. I do not discuss how to write a script or what type of film you should make; that’s left up to the producer to determine. However, I do spend a lot of time explaining the approach of writing a script, collaborating with a writer or acquiring the right existing script.
Q – What other information is in this book?
A – I have included a chapter on ultralow-budget films, which are for people who have film experience but want to spend next to nothing in making a feature film. It can be done, providing you know what you are doing and you pick the right subject. I have also included some sample contracts for hiring cast and crew, plus other services, such as insurance, locations and equipment rentals, etc. These are useful contracts to refer to, in order to see what the various objectives are in negotiating with people and services. They are included to be used as reference only and not as final contracts.
Q – What made you write this book now?
A – It never occurred to me to write a book about film production, but in recent years I have been contacted by a number of documentary filmmakers, magazines and podcasts to give interviews on films I’ve produced and distributed. Also, a few of my films have been converted into Blu-ray and they wanted me to comment on the productions. That’s when I decided to write a more comprehensive article on how to produce a low-budget feature film, which turned into this book. The reason I focus on low-budget is because you should start small and slowly build up to more ambitious productions. With the advent of digital cinematography, one can produce a professional-looking film with less money today than previously, when filmmakers were shooting film. You no longer need to rent expensive heavy equipment and lighting, which required a truck to transport and large crews to setup and strike the set, generators to power the lights, purchase 35mm or 16mm negative, develop it, print it, make a CRI (Color Reversal Intermediary), answer print, release prints, shipping and storage fees for the prints plus renting screening rooms to show your product. That was the catalyst and it’s also nice to be able to pass on the information in case it helps other would-be filmmakers achieve their goal. I also feel strongly that independent filmmakers contribute greatly to the film industry.
Q – What are some of the key mistakes that a first-time, producer makes?
A – The mistakes are many, which are sometimes unavoidable. However, the more preparation one makes in pre-production, the better the chances are of reducing those mistakes. Also, reading about film production is an inexpensive way to become aware of certain pitfalls, such as: choosing the wrong script, starting principal photography by not having all the required money, being ambitious by wanting to produce something beyond your ability, not being knowledgeable enough to check the director and control the production expenses, overshooting scenes, which cause additional shooting and editing days, overspending during principal photography and running out of money before you complete post-production and going overbudget or not having enough coverage to edit the film properly. There are other small mistakes such as hiring friends, as opposed to professionals, or choosing uninteresting locations, which gives the film a bland look, or having too many SFX and stunts, without having the experience or the money to execute them properly. I write about all that and offer advice how to avoid or to be aware of these mistakes.