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No Budget Newsletter Issue #9

August 11, 2008

Brought to you by the No Budget Film School:

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1. 1st Annual Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles
2. No Budget Films to See
3. No Budget Filmmakers in the News
4. Filmmakers Alliance VisionFest - Meet Kevin Smith!
5. DIY Days Online

Dear Filmmakers,

Thank you for subscribing to the No Budget Newsletter. I know that some of you signed up simply to know when the next class would be held, and in case it's not clear, I want to explain again that I am currently in pre-production on a new no-budget feature and do not know when the next class will be scheduled. I can tell you that that class will be informed by my experience on this new film, as I continue to refine the no-budget filmmaking model that works for my circumstances. One concept I teach in my class is to develop a model or filmmaking template that suits your particular circumstance--one that takes into account your unique set of resources and limitations. While I may not be teaching for awhile, I want to continue, with the little time I have before we shoot, to pass along information that will inform and inspire. Many of the no-budget films that I have written about recently in bulletins and also here in this newsletter followed their own path, too. While your path necessarily will be different, I believe it is instructive to learn the ways that other filmmakers have made their own successful no-budget films--if not for any other reason than because everybody else is telling you it can't be done.

For those of you not living in Los Angeles, I apologize that so many of my recent bulletins have been LA-centric. What can I say--when I peak my head out from this film I'm working on I see things going on here. I promise when I'm done shooting I will get back out in the world, reporting on no-budget developments everywhere.


1. 1st Annual Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles

Downtown LA has finally come of age. With the miraculous transformation that has been happening over the past few years, Downtown gets its very own film festival. Founded by the good folks who brought you the Silver Lake Film Festival, the 1st Annual Downtown Film Festival LA (DFFLA) promises to be an exciting and fun event. And I can think of no better way to kick it off than with their selection of Opening Night Film: "In Search Of A Midnight Kiss." I mentioned this film in my last announcement and it's worth mentioning it again--go see it! If you live in LA, come downtown and see this special screening at the beautiful Orpheum Theater, one of the few movie palaces still standing downtown.

Don't Miss Kiss

Filmmaker Alex Holdridge along with cast and crew will be on hand to talk about how they made this incredibly charming and mischievous winner for a scant $15,000. Shot on a Sony Z1 with a tiny (and necessarily invisible) crew, the film crushes the notion once and for all that micro-budget films need to be set in one location. Quite the contrary--the less you have, the more you can go anywhere, and this film demonstrates that. Just check out the trailer on the DFFLA home page; these guys went everywhere. No permit? No problem! Let Alex tell you some of the secret techniques used to sneak shots on private property. The film has been a huge success so far in Europe, but if you can read you know that the market for tiny-budgeted indies getting theatrical releases has been brutal. PLEASE, make a point to see this film on the big screen. It begs to be seen with an audience. For one, it's hilarious. Also, and this shows just how weak-knee'd the industry has become, the big screen is the only place to see the film in B&W, its intended form. Distributor IFC Films plans to show the film in color on VOD and their channel. Jesus, people, what's happening out there?? Want to effect change? Get out there and see these films while someone's still taking a chance to release them. (OK, I'll get off my soapbox now).

The DFFLA runs from August 13 - 17, 2008 at various locations downtown.

"In Search of a Midnight Kiss" • Opening Night Film, DFFLA
August 13, 2008 • 7:30pm
Orpheum Theater
842 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014

And don't miss the Gala Party afterwards at the Pacific Electric Lofts at 10:30 pm.

Visit the DFFLA site for more information:

For more information on "Midnight Kiss":


"MOMMA'S MAN" Directed by Azazel Jacobs

Momma's Man

Aside from the aforementioned "Midnight Kiss," there are two other films I have to recommend. Azazel Jacobs' "Mamma's Man" was a critical hit at this year's Sundance and was quickly picked up for distribution. In a sign of just how tough the marketplace is getting for indie films, they had to back out of their deal with ThinkFilm because of that company's financial woes. Fortunately, indie stalwart Kino International swooped down to save this wonderful film from obscurity. Made on a tiny budget with a small crew, the film touched a nerve with male audiences with its story of a young married man, recently a daddy, who can't seem to leave his parents' home after staying there on what was supposed to be a short business trip. This unusual premise rings true in so many ways, and not just because Jacobs features his real parents and childhood friends in the film. A knock-out performance from lead actor Matt Boren and subtle Super 16mm camera work by wunderkind cinematographer Tobias Datum enhance Jacobs' skillful storytelling. Check out my full no-budget profile:

No Budget Film School Profiles

And visit the official website for more information:

"Momma's Man" opens at the Angelika in New York on August 22, 2008, and then at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in LA on September 5th.

"DISFIGURED" Directed by Glenn Gers

Screenwriter Glenn Gers doesn't have anything to prove in the writing department. He's written a number of successful scripts that have been made into studio films--"Mad Money" with Diane Keaton, Katie Holmes and Queen Latifah; and "Fracture" with Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling are recent examples of his work. But when it comes to wanting to direct something he's written that doesn't follow the studio playbook, he has to duke it out like the rest of us. A graduate of my very first No Budget Film School class, Gers was not afraid to put his own money where his passion was. The result, which is just being released on DVD, is the gutsy "Disfigured." Detailing in accurate and honest detail the unusual friendship between an overweight woman with acceptance issues and a seemingly successful woman suffering from anorexia, the film posits the notion that this odd couple has at least one thing in common: they both think they're fat. A unique but strained relationship ensues, one that is real and truthful. The film takes a raw and naked look at the image issues facing women, and in no way does this feel like a Lifetime movie. In fact, I'd like to be in the room when the Lifetime acquisitions executive gets to the love scene! When going out to name actors for the two lead roles, Gers had to stick by his guns when he got requests to cut or modify difficult or uncomfortable scenes. He chose to cast lesser-known--but certainly talented--actors and tell the story the way it needed to be told. Deidre Edwards and Staci Lawrence give incredibly brave performances in a film that has been rewarded for its uncompromising look at these issues. Read the recent New York Times review:


New York Times Review

Gers applied strict rules to keep his budget under control, and to insure that the production spent their time shooting instead of lighting and moving around people and equipment. "Disfigured" was shot with a six to eight man crew on two miniDV Canon XL-2's in 15 days. The director's rule for the crew was: "If you can't fit it in your car and carry it yourself, you can't use it." In order to make the shoot less intimidating to Venice home and store-owners who were averse to renting locations, the production used no trucks, dollies, gaffer's tape or cables that couldn't plug into an ordinary wall socket. Gers paid everyone on the crew (favored nations) and put the film in the can for around $40,000. Total cost to get all the way through to delivery to distributor Cinema Libre, a lean $80,000. After playing several festivals, including Cinequest, AFI Dallas, and Florida, the film was recently released on DVD and is available in the national video chain stores, the indie outlets, Blockbuster Online and Netflix. It was Gers' plan from the beginning to release the film on DVD at around six months after his first festival premiere, to strike with something to sell when the iron was hot. This plan has been working out thus far and Glenn promises to get back with me in a few months with an update on his progress. For more information on the film and to purchase a DVD, please visit the official web site:

For those of you in Los Angeles who want to see the film on the big screen and hear the story of how it was made with the director, cast and crew, "Disfigured" is playing a special one-night only screening in West Hollywood:

"Disfigured" Screening
August 27, 2008 • 7:00pm
Pacific Design Center, Silver Screen Theater
8687 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 900969

By the way, I should also note that the IDA will be hosting their annual DocuWeek screenings in New York and Los Angeles this month. This is an excellent opportunity to see world-class documentaries on the big screen, many of which will be in contention for Academy Awards. One doc worth recommending, which I caught on the festival circuit is "An Unlikely Weapon," about famed photographer Eddie Adams and the infamous picture he took during the Vietnam War that haunted him and a generation. For the complete line-up, please visit:

New York City • August 8-14, 2008
Village East Cinema & IFC Center

Los Angeles • August 22-28, 2008
Arclight Hollywood & Arclight Sherman Oaks


I probably don't have to tell you, but it's certainly worth mentioning: two of this summer's big record-breaking films were directed by filmmakers who got their start making their own no-budget features. I worked with Chris Nolan for five years on his $12,000 feature debut "Following" when the company I was working for, Next Wave Films, gave him finishing funds. Did I know then that he would go on to direct what is most likely to become the second highest (if not highest) grossing film in domestic box office history? Sure I did! I'm very smart that way.

At that same time I met director David Gordon Green, who had submitted his $40,000 35mm first feature "George Washington" to Next Wave. While we didn't get involved with that film (foolishly?), David and I became friends and I'm happy to report that the coming fame and fortune that he is experiencing with his record-breaking comedy "Pineapple Express" hasn't changed him a bit. (I might add that Chris and his producer/wife Emma are also unchanged by the whirlwind of success that has enveloped them over the last several years). Did I know that David would follow his quirky art films with a hugely successful studio stoner comedy? Yes, of course. I told you, I'm smart like that.

Both Chris and David were gracious enough to share their no-budget secrets to a pair of packed houses at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre as part of my No Budget Film Club screening series. I hope to get those two evenings on DVD and make them available from my site as soon as I finish principal photography. In the meantime, you can get little pearls of wisdom from David in several YouTube clips that I posted from his appearance as a guest speaker in my No Budget Film School class a couple of years ago:

No Budget Film School's YouTube Site


Every year Filmmakers Alliance, the dynamic LA-based filmmaking collective, puts on their annual VisionFest, a celebration of not only their members' work, but also of independent, "greenlight yourself"-styled filmmaking.

Meet Kevin Smith

In addition to the screenings, which are consistently outstanding, one of the highlights of the evening is always the presentation of the Vision Award to a respected filmmaker who embodies the spirit of independent filmmaking. In past years I have been thoroughly enlightened, entertained, and inspired by the speeches of these recipients, who have included Alexander Payne (enlightening), David O. Russell (entertaining), and Terry Gilliam (inspiring - "Be Bold!", he said). This year's edition, (FA's 11th) features two award presentations that promise to be Hilarious and Challenging. FA will be giving it's annual Vision Award to none other than KEVIN SMITH (hilarious), and they will be giving their inaugural Nilsson Award to the award's namesake, ROB NILSSON (challenging, as he will be challenging you to go out and make something). As always, this event is as much a party as it is a screening and awards show--the evening finishes with a spectacular celebration catered by some of Los Angeles' best restaurants.

Make your plans now--advanced tickets are considerably less than tickets at the door. And get there EARLY! This is a very popular event and overthrow crowds are delegated to the smaller theaters in the DGA. See details below for more information.

Wednesday, August 20th, 7:30pm
Directors Guild of America Theater Complex
7920 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

For more details on VisionFest 08, please go to:

To Buy Tickets, please go to:
Vision Fest Tickets


For those of you who missed the DIY Days event a few weeks ago, you're in luck. Co-organizer Lance Weiler will be putting video of the day's panels and presentations up on his incredible web site, The Workbook Project. I moderated the first panel of the day and that video is already online. Check back periodically, or better yet, subscribe to their RSS feed to catch future posts from this incredibly edifying event:

Take an hour or so and look around this content rich site.


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