It's something I find myself talking to more and more filmmakers about. Less is more. Also something that was hammered into my head back in my early days of Theatre. It's a concept that seems to be ignored by too many indies. Too many people focusing on what they can't get instead of (here comes that phrase Patrick likes so damn much) "doing the best with what they have."
I went on about it a few posts back, and for many of you who have kept up with my previous blogs and journals, you know I say this quite a bit. Now more than ever you can afford the very basic things you need to make a movie. Cameras are more affordable, computers, yadda, yadda, yadda. But still too many people focus on, "Geez, if we only had a better camera!" or "Just another grand to match the grand we already have to make this movie..."
If you have access to a camera, shut up and shoot something. If you have a grand set aside to make a movie and you're still hesitating, I'm comin over right now to slap you in the frickin face. Do you know what I could do with a grand? How about this? What if Steven Spielberg had no money, no studio backing, no connections? What if all he had was his talent? What do you think he could do with a grand? I mean lets say all he could get with that grand was a camera, a computer, some tape stock, some cheap lights, and maybe a few more odds and ends that he could only get with one grand. What kind of movie do you think he would come up with?
This particular subject has been conceptualized and documented in a kick ass site called, you guessed it, $1000 Spielberg. Check out the site. These guys have got it down. Much of the rules and concepts I've set for myself, these guys have got listed on their site. They talk about it too. The idea of using what you've got, as well as knowing how to use what you've got. If you have a lower end MiniDV camera that has decent resolution but isn't quite up to par with HD or 35mm, then why are you going to set out to make a 35mm film? I'm going to shoot this 357 using paintballs.
I've known too many of these guys. I've seen their shorts. Too many people trying to imitate the latest Hollywood trends. Hey, practice is great. Go out and practice some of your Matrix style moves and fx, lord knows we have, but as far as conceptualizing a feature film, too many people wanna go out and make a million dollar movie with only a grand in their pocket. Sometimes less. Hey I get it, we think big, we want to make big impressive movies. But I repeat what Clive and James over at $1000 Spielberg have said. "Make your format your advantage."
If you're going to make your guerilla movie, than adhere to some of the rules of guerilla tactics. One of those rules is this: Make your weaknesses your strengths. If you can only afford a low end MiniDV camera, start thinking about what you can make in that format. What is something that would look feasible in this particular format? Obviously you can't shoot widescreen panavision style epics. You could try, and many have, but it doesn't seem to work well. So how do you make it work? How could lower resolution video look "good"?
For me, doing The Midnight Special was an easy concept. It just clicked with me one day. It has to be reality TV. A huge inspiration was Cops. When Cops first came on the air (seems like ages ago) I was a little angry I didn't do it first. I thought, well here's a genuis idea. Low production costs, hight end concept. One camera, video tape Cops at work. Cut it together, get some minor graphics, got enough money left over to get a theme song, get it on the air, and boom. Instant TV show. No actors, no fx. Cops became a staple along with many other shows on TV we all now know as "reality TV". Along comes The Real World and America's Funniest Home Videos and the increase in the voyeuristic, cinema verite, type programming, and now everyone's use to seeing this look. This rough, spy cam, realistic, home movieish look. So why not come up with a storyline around that particular kind of look, heck we've got the cameras for it. That's what they did with Blair Witch and The Last Broadcast.
So that was our niche. A reality TV look into the "training video" of a Secret Government Agency that fights monsters. Basically it's Reno 911 except with monsters. Of course there's more to it than that, a little bit of added pathos and drama along with the comedy. But that was the basic idea. A training video. Would definitely fit the format. Features interviews, camera tag alongs on cases, monster sighting type footage, etc. No need to spend money making it look real, because most of it was real, well, except for the monsters, but we'll cover that later.
So instead of looking at what you can't make with what you don't have, start looking at what you can make with what you do have. Blair Witch is an example, except I would advise you actually write a script. The Last Broadcast is a really great example, and it's well written. And there it is, it's in the writing. A great story can be told with a movie, and you should be creative enough to come up with something amazing with what you've already got. Make the best with less.
And speaking of that, here's a movie that won the Fangoria Chainsaw Award for the BEST WITH LESS Category. It's a movie called Zombie Honeymoon. Written and Directed by David Gebroe. I haven't seen it yet, but the trailer looks great. Good job David! I am really impressed.
Zombie Honeymoon Trailer
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Check out the official site for Zombie Honeymoon.