The Good Machine No Budget Commandments

Folks often ask me “How do I get work in this crazy business?  How do I get a manager/agent/production deal?”

Let me tell you, folks — everything is changing.  Various forces — the economy, escalating production costs, union situations, studio re-structuring, etc — has created a Hollywood that is risk-averse in the extreme.  Getting a movie made — by anyone — is harder than ever.  There are fewer people at the top paying people anything at all to write movies.  Ten years ago, one could sell a screenplay idea with a ten-minute pitch and a charming demeanor.  These days, it’s common — utterly common — for producers to demand full scripts from writers competing for a studio job, for free, then decide which of the written-for-free scripts they will submit to the studio, then find out that the studio isn’t really interested in the material.

My advice for those wishing to become known as writers, especially writer-directors, is to produce your own work.  It has never been easier to do — you can get an excellent camera for $1000 or less, you can get Final Cut Pro for the same amount (or less, if you’re a student).  Then all you need is a script to shoot and you’re all set to go.

There are wonderful books out there that can teach you how to make a movie for nothing (Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew is my favorite) but now the nice people at Good Machine have put everything you need to know in a one-page easy-to-read list.

Users will note that this list, if followed strictly, will tend to produce intimate domestic dramas about people talking about feelings — mumblecore movies.  That’s where imagination comes in.  The fellow who wrote and directed Paranormal Activity followed all these rules to the letter — shot the movie in his own house, with a cast of less than a dozen, and with minimal props that could be found anywhere.  What he brought to the format was a great idea that used the no-budget aspect of the production to its advantage — in fact, it pointed to it — in order to help sell its premise.  The result, while domestic, is sufficiently scary enough to make $100 million and establish its creator as a major Hollywood talent.


2 Responses to “The Good Machine No Budget Commandments”
  1. Ted Slaughter says:

    Taking into account a movie like “Primer”, you can see how you could make the equivalent of “Inception” for $7,000.

    You don’t have to pay Leo for one. If you live in a big enough city, you can find good actors that will work for literally a free lunch.

    I’m assuming “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” is public domain, too.

  2. Stephenls says:

    Apropos of, uh, not really this post (although this post has given me something to ponder, as I have access to a camera), I really hope you have something to say about Inception hereabouts.