Today I want to share 3 highly unconventional formulas you can use to make a feature film with minimal budget and time.
Most filmmakers go their whole career wanting to make a feature film, but never actually follow through.
They have a drawer full of incredible ideas and plenty of talent, but can never seem to create something of their own. Usually because they can’t find the time or money to do so. It’s a never-ending battle.
I’ve dealt with these struggles myself, but eventually realized there was another solution…
A re-thinking of how movies could be made, so they become more manageable and sustainable, even for someone with little time, full time obligations, and no traditional financing.
Best of all, I discovered there are multiple ways to make a noteworthy feature film, even within your current means.
Below are just 3 of the formulas I’ve come up with (or come across) that are worth considering.
Each can open up countless possibilities for making a feature film on your own terms, even in as little as one shooting day.
The 3 formulas are:
- 1 day production, improvised script, near real time
- 6 day production, two hander, shot in a single location
- 12 day production, multiple shooting blocks, edited in tandem
Here’s a little more detail on each:
1 Day Improvised Production
Yes, feature films have been shot in a single day. It’s crazy, but possible.
One way to do it:
Write a scriptment that can be improvised by 2 – 3 actors in a single location with natural light. Set the story in near real-time, and film it documentary style with 2 cameras. Shoot non-stop, without going back for any re-takes, and shape the best material in the edit.
In order to make this work, you need:
A) Some incredible actors who are comfortable with improv
B) A ton of prep time with cast and crew
C) Willingness to experiment in post-production
Even under the best of circumstances results will vary wildly when shooting this way.
You’re trying to capture lightning in a bottle, which is no easy task. But if you’re well prepared and flexible enough to pivot when you hit roadblocks, you can come out the other side with a really unique film.
6 Day Scripted Production
This format is a little more common.
It’s the “two actors in a single location” method that everyone preaches, and can work really well for the right idea.
For starters, you need a killer location, and a crew that isn’t afraid to shoot 10 – 15 pages/day. Your actors also need to be super well rehearsed, since you’re probably only going to have 1 – 2 takes per shot.
Unlike the 1 day production, with 6 days you have at least some time to plan out shots, dial in your lighting, and generally be more detail oriented. That said, 6 days is still nothing in the context of shooting a feature, which is why you can’t expect company moves to another location mid-day, or big ensemble casts.
One main challenge when using this method is maintaining visual interest on the screen, since everything is being shot in the same environment.
That said, sometimes that type of limitation can turn into an asset, and actually improve your final product by forcing you to think outside the box.
I used a version of this method on my feature film Psychosynthesis, which was shot in just 9 days across 2 locations. You can learn more about that production here.
12 Day Tandem Production
This is the formula I’m using on my latest feature film.
Schedule a 12 day production and break it up into 4 shooting blocks of 3 days each.
Every shooting block covers a full act (Act 1, 2A, 2B, 3), and each block is spread out at least a month apart, making it easier to schedule and finance. Raw footage is edited in between shooting days, helping to drive new creative ideas.
There are some challenges to working this way, notably:
A) You have to keep cast/crew committed over a long period of time
B) Changes in physical appearance, weather, environment, etc. need to be accounted for
B) Shooting sequentially is almost mandatory in order to avoid continuity issues
That said, if you can work within these parameters, a whole world of creative possibilities will open up.
It’s more fun (and often more creative) to have shorter, more casual days on set. It can also lead to amazing creative results, since you can add scenes and try out new ideas without the burden of a more rigid production schedule.
Working this way also forces you to take your time and be really methodical about your choices. And the reward is a production that is both easier to execute, and lower cost to produce.
There are a thousand other ways you can make a movie too. These are just a few fresh ideas to get the wheels spinning.
I talk about these concepts in much more depth in my No-Budget Feature Film Blueprint, which can help anyone make a feature film starting today, regardless of budget or resources
When you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:
1. Make a feature film today: The No-Budget Feature Film Blueprint
2. Build your network and sharpen your craft in our community: The Backlot
3. Color grade & polish your footage with my post-production tools on: Cinecolor
Iam very much looking to do a feature on a 48hr shoot single location. Still trying to come up with a novel high concept screenplay is the biggest challenge.
Can you name a few movies that were shot in such tight schedules.
Brilliant inspiration! This post contains more sound advice than most books I’ve read on the topic of low-budget filmmaking.