Producing your own feature is a great way to break into the film industry. Microbudget film is a good place to start. This loosely refers to films budgeted at under $100k. The WGA classifies low budget films as those budgeted at between $200k to $1.2million. So it depends on your definition of micro budget.
Apart from budget, the main feature of micro budget films is that you have complete creative and business control over your film.
Here are a few things to consider before producing your film:
1) SET UP A LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY
This will legitimize you as a bona fide production company!
2) BECOME A DGA, SAG & WGA SIGNATORY COMPANY
This will give you access to better cast and crew all round.
3) DO AN AUDIT OF YOUR RESOURCES
What crew, equipment, locations, costumes, caterers and any other resources do you have that can be integrated into your script. Do you need to call in any favors? Have you worked on anybody’s projects for no or low pay? Now’s the time to call them in.
4) WRITE WHAT YOU OWN
It’s a risky business filming a property with encumbrances. Make sure you own all the rights to your script.
5) WRITE WHAT YOU CAN FILM
Think like a producer. Have a creative vision, but be realistic about budgets. Avoid night shoots, complicated special effects, extreme weather such as storms and too many locations. These factors add filming days and can bloat your budget.
6) AVOID COPYRIGHTED CHARACTERS, LOGOS & TRADEMARKS
Your favorite superheroes are a no go zone. So are their costumes, likenesses or anything that can be passed off as them. This is your time to be original.
7) KEEP YOUR SCRIPT SHORT
For a feature, aim for 90-100 pages. The shorter, the better. Audiences don’t need every detail explained to them. They are more capable of filling in the gaps than you realize.
Try to have one central location where most of the action will be filmed. Limit your total locations. Try and have them in close proximity to minimize cross location commutes. Avoid expensive locations which require permits.
Limit your main and supporting characters to under 10. Background actors will often work for meals & a DVD of the film.
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