Why Hollywood film making isn’t what it used to be.

“Once upon a time, there were multi-million dollar productions that ruled the film market…”: this is changing in the third millennium, and I will tell you my personal opinions about it in this article.

Film making is traditionally an American industry; over a century of film production can prove it. However, things are changing, maybe faster than what the Hollywood famous studios have predicted. Until recently, to reach a great success, a movie had to have a stellar budget – to pay equipment, director, actors, crew, locations and so on. So, what is changed? Do all these things became cheaper in the last years?

Well, the truth stay in the middle… let’s analyze briefly some things that could lead an indie production to the success.

  • Equipment

Let’s face it: the prices of equipments to make a film that could stand on par (or higher) with big budget Hollywood movies are falling rapidly; due to the digital revolution, now it’s possible to find out 4K digital camera at a fraction of what is needed to buy a 35mm camera, and often with better final quality; RedOne was the most known amongst young directors, and new models are used widely also in high budget movies like “The Hobbit”. Absolute price is very high compared to consumer camcorder, but resultsare astonishing.

But for directors with shoestring budget, a good alternative could be to use a simple DSLR camera… don’t trust me, just make your research and you will discover that, for example, 70% of “Act Of Valor” scenes was shot using a simple Canon EOS 5D (Mark II) – that cost an order of magnitude less than a Red 4K digital camera…

Don’t forget that, until we would like to direct a new mokumentary a-la-“Blair Witch Project” – taking our camera with us on impervious tracks – some kind of camera dollies must be used. Many video clip,tv series and movie directors are using a new product, the CamDolly, a revolutionary kind of camera dolly; indeed, you could use ONLY this one, as it will be able to be used in different modes and configuration, so no other dollies will be needed. Price is very good – perfect for a low budget movie – and you could also have it for FREE! How? Just go to their website to discover it.

  • Actors

When we talk about movies with millionaire budgets, we are of course talking about blockbusters; and, to reach that kind of $$$ grosses, movie studios need superstar actors and actresses. This is where a low budget movie can’t be compared directly with those blockbusters… but this is doesn’t necessarily means that acting should be Z-grade!

Do you really think that an actor should earn $10M to play a 5 minute secondary role in the latest sci-fi blockbuster film? I don’t think so… there are a lot of little-known actors that are very good; OK, I must admit they (probably) will be not on the same level of, let’s say, Robert DeNiro, but for sure their wage will not eat up 50% of your budget… and, don’t forget that for many, the most important thing in a movie is the story, not the main star… and some well acclaimed actors started in a ultra-low budget movie… Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead… do these names ring a bell?

  • Special Effects & Post Production

Twenty years ago, it was impossible to do CGI special effects without spending a little fortune… Jurassic Park was one of the most successful example of integrated CGI FX in a blockbuster movie. Think that now it’s possible to obtain same – if not better – results using your home computer! Just download the latest Open Movie project by Blender, “Tears of Steel” – it’s free, it’s great, and could be made in your bedroom…

But beware! This doesn’t mean that cheap CGI = good CGI… many times it’s simply, well… poor CGI? When it happens, it is always really noticeable, and when you will notice that “cheapness” in the effects once, the suspension of disbelief is gone for the rest of the movie, along with your fun!

So, there is always place for the classic, “home-made” effects, even today; they had a huge coming back lately, maybe due to the fact that we are so used to computer graphic, that sometimes we are surprised by how good could be a non-digital special effect – in particular, teenagers can’t believe special effects could be also NOT digital!

Apart CGI effects, nowadays it’s possible to make post production at home with extremely good results! You can take all the shoot scenes, contained in a portable hard disk, at home, and make whatever you think it’s good to improve the pace and the final aspect of the movie – cut some shots, redub an entire scene, or follow the trend of the moment and make your movie Teal&Orange, using for example DaVinci Resolve, a wonderful software – a free version is available.

Locations

Filming in L.A. lately is very expensive, and many directors choose to use another city for their locations; in U.S., many cities like New Orleans or Chicago are cheaper, make less problems for things like traffic stop for the usual car chase, and offer more tax rebate… add the fact that everyone in the world can recognize the classic L.A. locations used in thousand different movies, and you can imagine why these directors want to shoot there.

Mexico and Canada are still cheaper than U.S., but if you need particular or fresh location, you could always decide to fly to New Zealand, the old fashinating Europe or more exotic places; they only should be cheap. Another thing to take in account is the fact that not all talented directors live in U.S.A.! Then, why don’t shoot their films in their own countries? Crew wages are lower, too!

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Here you are some examples of low budget movies I watched lately; follow the links to learn more about them, you will find interesting information about how can they achieved their result without spending an insane amount of money!

Monsters

After I watched this movie, I can’t believe that its budget was half million bucks (“way under” $500,000”, to quote the director) – the filming equipment was only around $15.000! A very well directed movie, with convincing actors, right locations and good special effects. I liked it very much.

Hunter Prey

Not as good as “Monsters”, but with its budget set at $425.000, it doesn’t lack a good story, wonderful locations, and quite good special effects. Advised for all the Star Wars fans. Watch it to discover why!

Adam Chaplin

An ultra-low budget Z-movie… why I decided to include it? Well, the director is also the main star, plus he wrote the script and composed the music – a “one man band movie”! Special effects are a mix of simple, but effective CGI, and home-made gorgeous anime-style ultra gore effects… this is what “Fist of the North Star” movie should have been! Still a Z-movie with bad acting and bad dialogs, but really fun to watch if you like to see smashed heads and a lot of blood…

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