It’s been exactly 11 months since I chose to embark on the ultimate feature film experiment.
At the time, another production I had been developing fell through, and I was at a crossroads.
I wanted to direct a new feature, but didn’t want to wait for a year or two to raise financing in a more traditional way.
At the same time, I had already completed two micro-budget features and wanted to challenge myself to do something new.
So I asked myself – what type of project can I initiate today that will be different from anything I’ve ever done before?
Before long, the answer was clear –
It wasn’t about scaling things up. Or repeating anything I had done on previous productions. It was about going in the opposite direction…
I would make the smallest film possible.
Not “small” in terms of ideas, production value, or potential reach. But rather in terms of production scope.
I’ve always prided myself on being a jack-of-all-trades, so I asked myself how I could double down on my minimalist approach:
What would happen if I wrote/directed/DP’d/recorded sound on a feature film with no additional crew?
What kind of implications would that have on the story? What about the production timeline? The collaboration with the actors?
Every aspect of the process (from writing to scheduling) would be an entirely new experiment. And those unknown variables are exactly what drew me in.
My last feature film was shot in 2 locations over the course of 9 days.
The new feature was shot in dozens of locations across the span of about 15 days (factoring in pickups and b-roll).
And it cost less than a quarter of the budget to produce.
We started shooting in January with a single shoot day to capture the opening scene. About a month later we shot 2 more days, before taking more time off to edit and write the next scenes.
At the end of May we shot 3 more days, and then after a summer break captured the remaining scenes in a larger block throughout September.
Just last week we shot the very last pickup shot (I think), which means we’re officially picture wrapped.
Looking at the footage, it’s hard to believe I didn’t do this before.
The production was simple, despite shooting at countless different locations and having company moves almost every day.
The collaboration was amazing, since I could work extensively with the actors to workshop scenes in a way I never could while juggling a larger crew.
And the footage looks awesome, thanks to shooting on a small mirrorless camera (my Fuji X-T4) that allowed us to work quickly and get more coverage.
Most importantly, the process was actually fun and mostly stress-free.
I had enough time in between shoot dates to pivot if necessary. And it didn’t feel like everything would crumble down if one thing went wrong – which is often how it is on indie productions.
It’s the least expensive feature I’ve ever made, but will likely have greater production value and story potential than other projects with more resources behind them.
As I look to my next feature film (a larger genre movie that I plan to raise funds for in the new year), I can’t help but wonder when I’ll get to do something this small again.
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