THE NO BUDGET NEWSLETTER
No Budget Newsletter Issue #2
April 3, 2006
to you by the No Budget Film School:
To subscribe, please visit:
1. NEW No Budget Film School Classes Scheduled!
HVX-200 Camera Update
3. Spirit Awards & Academy Awards
Sundance Film Festival
5. Cutting-Edge Workflow Article, Part 1
1. NEW NO BUDGET
FILM SCHOOL CLASSES SCHEDULED!
We're back! After a busy fall and winter, I'm back with an all-new class,
Course 201 - The Science of No Budget Filmmaking, taking place in Los Angeles on Saturday, May 6, 2006 at
Raleigh Studios' Chaplin Theater.
In this class we will go through the production budget line by line and
discuss each element from a no-budget perspective. Topics include: Cast & Casting, Crew, Equipment, Insurance, Locations,
Permits, Props/Set Dressing, Vehicles, Makeup/Wardrobe, Camera/Format, Sound, Legal, and Miscellaneous Budget Items.
We will dissect the production of the $50,000 feature True Love, demonstrating the low-budget tricks used--and the
mistakes made--showing clips from the film and valuable behind-the-scenes footage, in this comprehensive examination of a
And for you Houston residents, I will be teaching Course 101: The Art of No Budget Filmmaking
in Houston on Saturday, May 13, 2006. This class is a one-of-a-kind introduction to no-budget filmmaking
designed for filmmakers at all levels.
Details and information on how to register are on the website:
PANASONIC HVX-200 CAMERA UPDATE
Panasonic's new, affordable HD wonder, the HVX-200 is here. Reports from
the field are starting to emerge and the early word is "Awesome!" My friend Illya Friedman, formerly with Moviola Digital
and Wexler, got the opportunity to demo a prototype unit back in December. Equipped with two 4GB P2 cards, which
hold about 10 minutes of footage each in 720p mode, the camera performed admirably, even as a prototype. Very familiar
with Sony's HDV Z1U, Illya thought the HVX was sharper than the Sony camera. Of course, the HVX is 100Mbps 4:2:2 DVCPRO
HD, the same format as the $60,000 Varicam. Illya was especially impressed with the slow motion features of the
HVX. The camera can be overcranked to 60fps, 48fps, or 32fps. I was able to witness this capability in all its
glory recently at the LAFCPUG's March meeting. Filmmakers of a recently produced History Channel production brought
clips and stories from the front lines. They used several HVX's (and a Varicam) to capture footage of 1800's era battle
scenes, including canon fire. The HVX footage was impressive and indistinct from the more expensive Varicam. They
also demonstrated the P2 card's capability. I believe once you've worked with a flash card, you won't want to go back
to tape again. And while I thought you would need an expensive SATA RAID to handle the 100Mbps data rate, these guys
got by with a Firewire 800 G-Raid set-up. They admitted that it was not a great low-light camera, but overall, they
considered the HVX a "miracle for the money." For more on this project, visit:
3. SPIRIT AWARDS & ACADEMY AWARDS
This year's Spirit Awards, the "Academy Awards of Indie Filmmaking,"
and the actual Academy Awards, arguably the most coveted award in the arts, were well-represented by no-budget filmmakers,
further proof that no-budget filmmaking is one of the most effective ways to break into the industry. While there were
several notable under-$1 million low-budget films nominated for Spirit Awards (Me, You & Everyone We Know, Nine Lives,
and Junebug, for instance), the really interesting films were nominated for the John Cassavetes Award.
These films all have stated budgets under $500,000. While a 35mm film like Brick--which premiered last
year at Sundance and is currently being released by Sony Classics--is edging the top of that parameter, the other four nominees
cost significantly less than half a million. Room, (http://www.the7thfloor.com/) the feature debut of successful Texas editor and documentary director Kyle Henry, was made for under $100,000. It
premiered in the Frontier Section of the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and then played in Cannes, a huge coup for a no-budget
American indie. Jellysmoke, (http://www.jellysmoke.com/) premiered at last year's Los Angeles Film Festival and won the big-money $50,000 Target Award. The under-$100,000
The Puffy Chair (http://www.duplassbrothers.com/) premiered at the 2005 Sundance and was also nominated for a Someone To Watch Award. Roadside Attractions will be releasing
it theatrically in June.
The winner of the Cassavetes Award was the splendid Conventioneers,
(http://www.conventioneersmovie.com/) made for SIGNIFICANTLY less than the $500,000 limit (I'm not supposed to say how little). This clever romantic drama
follows two former Princeton classmates, one a married delegate attending the 2004 Republican National Convention and the
other a lefty Democrat planning a big protest during the convention. Shot on multiple DVX100's against the backdrop
of the actual convention in New York City, filmmakers Mora Stephens and Joel Viertel utilized several no-budget techniques--most
importantly, working within the framework of available resources--to give their film a kind of verisimilitude and authenticity
that would have been nearly impossible for a much larger film to create. Proving it takes talent and tenacity rather
than resources to make a great film, they worked with a crew of seven or less, borrowed locations and equipment, and were
even arrested during the shoot (earning big chunks of no-budget street cred with me--you got to get busted before you can
call yourself a true no-budget filmmaker!).
The winners of the prestigious Someone To Watch Award were Ian Gamazon
and Neill Dela Llana, the directing team (and entire crew) behind the captivating thriller Cavite.
I reported on this film following their screening at last year's LAFF (archived on my site: No Budget Newsletter #1 Archive). The budget of this film was reported to be "two very expensive tickets to The Philippines."
It was inspiring
to see how this year's Academy Awards were dominated by so many under $10 million films. Even more inspiring was knowing
that several filmmakers got their start with no-budget films. Bennett Miller, whose dramatic feature debut Capote
was nominated for five Oscars, including a nomination for Best Director and a win for Best Actor, got his start with the charming
no-budget hit documentary The Cruise, which was shot with a one-man crew (Miller) on a Sony VX-1000. As reported
in the last issue of the No Budget Newsletter (No Budget Newsletter #1 Archive), Craig Brewer's feature prior to his Oscar-winning Hustle & Flow was the $5,000 The Poor And Hungry.
Chris Nolan, whose Batman Begins was nominated for Best Cinematography, got his start with the gritty $12,000 Following,
which was a case study in my first class last summer. Worth mentioning: Ron Judkins, who spoke in my class on the subject
of production sound, was nominated for a Best Sound Oscar for War Of The Worlds. He already has two Oscars back
4. 2006 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
While many people think that Sundance is no longer a place
for the little movie made with love and care but no money, this year's edition proves there's still a place for the no-budget
feature in indie filmmaking's Big Show. One of the more talked about features was Bobcat Goldthwait's Stay,
(http://www.roadsideattractions.com/future.htm) which was made for $70,000 and was picked up for distribution by Roadside Attractions. (Stephanie Bennett, a guest
speaker in my first class was a producer on the film). The micro-budget In Between Days, (http://www.soandbrad.com/) was shot with a four-man crew on a $3,000 Panasonic DVX100, but that didn't prevent it from winning a Special Jury Prize
for Independent Vision. I saw it on the big screen in the Eccles Theater and it looked amazing. Another tiny-budget
feature was Forgiving The Franklins, which was shot on the Canon XL2. Directed, produced,
edited and shot by Jay Floyd, this one got buried in the Spectrum section of Sundance, but has been building solid word of
mouth since its recent SXSW screenings. One film that wasn't overlooked was the Grand Jury and Audience Award winner
Quinceanera (http://www.quinceanerathemovie.com/). Shot with a Sony Cine Alta F900 for $350,000, the film was conceived, written, shot and edited in only 9 months.
Sony Pictures Classics will release Quinceanera in July 2006.
5. CUTTING EDGE WORKFLOW ARTICLE,
PART 1 OF 2
(This article was written by Mark Stolaroff in 2005 but never published)
I recently attended SMPTE's (The Society of Motion Picture and
Television Engineers) two-day Digital Workflow seminar entitled appropriately enough, "Case Studies From The Edge," held at
the Entertainment Technology Center's (ETC) Digital Cinema Laboratory (DCL), a kind of incubator for developing tomorrow's
standards in digital cinema. A part of USC, the ETC is the Switzerland of Digital Cinema, backed by most of the Hollywood
studios and a place where everyone--studios, manufacturers, filmmakers--can come together to solve the "problem" of digital
cinema. The DCL is housed in the historic Hollywood Pacific Theater, a previously-abandoned movie palace built in 1928 to,
significantly, showcase that era's great technological advancement, talkies. In 1954 it was the home of the world premiere
of Cinerama, the first great wide-screen technology which included multi-track stereo sound. The building is the
ideal place to test digital cinema--the significant technology of this generation--since it presents the challenge of a 51
ft. wide screen with a 102 ft. throw, in an arena with nearly 1,200 seats on the floor. The audience of 300 or
more, of which over half were SMPTE members, were treated to an awesome display of this technology's capability.
I am not a SMPTE member and don't consider myself a "tech-head," my background as a former principal with IFC's Next
Wave Films had given me experience with digital cinema and digital workflow. I was in charge of overseeing the post
production on all the films in which we invested finishing funds and after 1999 or so, all of these films were digital and
each presented a new and unique workflow challenge. Up until the time of Next Wave's closing in late 2002, I was pretty
well immersed in these issues--at least at the low-budget end of the spectrum--and had a working knowledge of the then state-of-the-art
of the technology. Well, like the Virginia Slims, "you've come a long way, Baby!"
Friday night's program
offered a first-of-its-kind screening of Steven Soderberg's recent hit film, Oceans 12, with alternating 35mm
and digital reels. Each projector was state-of-the-art, as was the post workflow for the film, which represented the
first implementation of a 4K Digital Intermediate (DI), something Larry Blake, Soderberg's technological partner-in-crime,
passed off as "not that big of a deal." Regardless, the screening was impressive, demonstrating just how far digital
cinema has come in the last few years. Though the first reel, which was digital, looked great, I quickly forgot about
all of that, as I settled in to Soderberg's intentionally complex caper story, (perhaps demonstrating the ultimate significance
of all these advancements in technology). I only again recalled what we were all there for when I noticed the nearly
seamless real break switch to 35mm. The guy in front of me was constantly looking back to see which projector was in use.
Really the only way to tell they were projecting 35mm was when you saw the inevitable little pops and scratches that a film
print, even an "answer print quality" print, accumulates from handling. Much like the LP's in my music collection, the
quality of the reproduction is very good, but they deteriorate a little bit every time you play them. The couple of comments
I heard around me when it was over were along the lines of "the 35 print looked dirty". I should note that the digital
projector used at the ETC is one of the new 2K DLP projectors just recently made available commercially, the Christy CP2000,
with a resolution of 2048 x 1080 (2K) and a contrast ratio of 2000:1. If you've seen Star Wars or one of the
other features screened digitally in theaters in the last couple of years you've probably seen it on a 1.3K projector (1280
x 1024) with a 1000:1 contrast ratio. More on Oceans 12 later in the article.
Following an early breakfast,
Saturday morning's program started off with a spirited case study of Michael Mann's Collateral, which featured
a panel of thousands, including Editor Paul Rubell, DP Paul Cameron, and post production guru/Associate Producer Bryan Carroll.
In trying to capture a true representation of Los Angeles at night, the boundary-pushing Mann used three different types of
cameras, each with their own workflow-35mm, Sony F900 24p HD, and Thompson's new Viper HD. Those who survived to tell
the tale (the panelists) depicted a world that was not so much held up for example, as in, this is how you want to do it,
but rather one that suggested that the rules have not been developed yet, not even by those at the top of their craft.
Working for a maniacal genius, these talented and experienced people needed to think on their feet, improvise, and be prepared
to fail once in a while. Even manufacturers like Thomson, Panavision, and Sony were run ragged in the pursuit of perfection,
as they were frequently asked to modify their equipment. An entire army was enlisted to manage the equivalent of 1 million
feet of film, (an additional 300,000 feet was used in the 6 months of testing). Some departments, like editorial, were
working 24/7 throughout the shoot.
(Part 2 of this article will be included in the next issue of the No Budget Newsletter, and comprises information on "Dust To Glory," "Oceans Twelve,"
"Finding Neverland," and "Shark Tale.")
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