What do you do when you have an amazing idea for a short film, but lack the finances to make it happen? Simple answer: you wait around for the money you need to magically appear. The more challenging but rewarding answer: you use every penny you have (or the generous donations of family/friends/lemonade stand money) to think outside the box and make it happen. In short (no pun intended), this is what the annual No Budget Film Festival is all about – being creative with what is available to you, and in the spirit of the NBFF’s mantra, “never stop f***ing shooting!”
From industry veterans to aspiring filmmakers, the 5th annual No Budget Film Festival saw people from varying backgrounds and budgets gather at Mack Sennett Studios in Los Feliz from November 21st to 23rd to mingle, watch short films and share their wisdom on low-budget filmmaking.
We chatted with a number of jury members, panelists, filmmakers and participants who were involved with this year’s NBFF to get the scoop on the most interesting or helpful things they learned this year. Here are some of our favorites:
1. Limitations breed creativity.
Don’t approach your budget (or lack thereof) as a problem, but rather an opportunity to get creative and make it work. As Fireside Chat Panelist and director Claire Marie Vogel reminds us, “If you strive to find creative solutions from a new angle, your personal stamp will shine through.” Looking to include a chase scene with a cop car in your film, but don’t have the budget to pay for the permit, rental, driver and other elements involved with such a shoot? Take a master tip from the #FilmHacks panelists from 5 Second Films and RocketJump, who demonstrated the endless possibilities of working creatively on a budget. For example, the group showed how substituting a toy cop car for a real one in a video can produce astounding results. RocketJump founder Freddie Wong summed it up best by saying, “You [should] work with your limitations, instead of bemoaning them.”
2. Your (film) baby will never look the way you originally envision it, and that’s okay.
Even with all the preparation in the world, “your film is never going to be produced the way you think it is, and it’s never going to look how you think it’s going to look, so hug that notion and release it,” said Effie Brown, producer of “Dear White People.” Your film might be planned as one thing and end up as another, but you should embrace the change and ride that wave, because the best kind of filmmaker is an adaptable one.
3. Make what you love, and love who you’re working with.
Have a few talented friends who are interested in helping you out with your film? Great, just buy them lunch and promise to return the favor. That’s exactly what several filmmakers who screened their films at the festival did, following the example of the RocketJump filmmakers behind “Video Game High School,” who now have an award-winning, heavily subscribed-to digital series. Also, work on projects that you’re seriously passionate about, as this will shine through. As Giovanni Colantonio (Gray Hour Media, producer of NBFF competition film “O, the Ennui”) put it, “[The NBFF] selections were filled with real passion and sincerity, both of which pop off the screen more than a billion dollar 3D explosion does.”
4. A smaller festival doesn’t necessarily mean less of an experience.
This goes for both attendees and filmmakers/panelists/guests. This year’s NBFF included stations at Mack Sennett Studios for free haircuts (courtesy of The New California Barbershop), free makeup (courtesy of MUD), free beer (courtesy of Lagunitas), free coconut water (courtesy of Vita Coco), and included a karaoke party hosted by the RVIP Mobile Karaoke Lounge (where filmmakers, panelists and programmers alike performed the song from the viral video “Too Many Cooks,” because why not), as well as tons of opportunities to network with major independent producers and creators of everything from digital content to award-winning films.
Where else could you score a free makeover, attend a special indie themed version of UCB’s improv show Shitty Jobs, and in the same day learn that “camel poop makes good fuel” (from NBFF official selection “Poop On Poverty”), which was jury member Sarah Adina Smith’s (“The Midnight Swim”) favorite fact that she learned at the festival. During the closing night party, other jury members weighed in on their festival experience. Jury member and actor Brandon Bell (“Dear White People”) noted that the films he saw at the festival were “very inspiring and compelling,” and jury member and Emmy-nominated writer/animator Kent Osborne (“Adventure Time”), remarked that NBFF “has the strongest program I’ve ever seen at a film festival.” So basically, don’t discount the little guy.
5. Just start shooting & stop waiting for the perfect scenario to fall into your lap.
As the 5 Second Films creators stated during their #FilmHacks workshop, “if you sit around waiting for the right equipment to shoot your project, it’s never going to happen.” Your time is better spent working on your dream project than waiting for someone else to hand you the right tools to do it. This view is echoed by this year’s NBFF jury award winner, Hilary Campbell (“This Is Not The End”), who said, “you work with what you have, prove your talent, and eventually someone will notice.”
In short: Never Stop F***ing Shooting.
In the spirit of our “Never Stop F***ing Shooting” motto, coined by board member and producer Brian Udovich, the filmmakers behind official NBFF selection “The Glass Cabin” recorded their festival experience via GoPro and iPhone and have made it available here.
For more information about the No Budget Film Festival and to see the complete list of this year’s winners, you can visit the website.
READ MORE: 15 Tips On Making Your First Micro-Budget Feature