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A weblog by Laura Moncur


SXSWi 2009: No Budget to Lo Budget

Filed under: Utah Geeks — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Last March I went to SXSWi 2009. I posted the notes from two of the days, but conference exhaustion got in the way of me posting the notes from the last three days. After much delay, here they are.

SXSWi 2009: No Budget to Lo Budget by LauraMoncur from Flickr

SXSWi 2009: No Budget to Lo Budget
Megan Scibona
Jason Nunes
Felicia Day
Michael Nigro
Kevin Sullivan

Megan Scibona: Do you have any tips?

Kevin Sullivan: Beg borrow and steal. If you have any money, use it wisely.

Michael Nigro: There is no set way to get money. It’s really networking. I go to the hedge fund people, but the economy is changing, so they might might not be there in the future. Sometimes it’s more important to get a good trailer.

Felicia Day: Work begets work. You don’t have to ask permission to make your script. There are no excuses. No idea is going to be THE good idea. You just have to produce something. We self-funded the first few issues, after a couple of episodes, we ran out of money, but people donated.

Jason Nunes: In the REAL world, we have day jobs. We do these passion projects on the side.

Megan Scibona: What are the most important things to spend money on?

Felicia Day: Sound person. They won’t work for free. Web video is usually horrible because you can’t hear what is going on. Get a boom.

Kevin Sullivan: You need someone who knows how to frame the camera.

Michael Nigro: Find out what you’re weakest at. I’m no good at graphics. I really shouldn’t edit my own footage. I need an editor.

Jason Nunes:You have to be willing to let go and let them be creators. That can be scary. Your product gets so much stronger when you give someone a shot to be creative.

Felicia Day: Kill the autor. Everybody’s contribution is REALLY important. It’s invaluable.

Jason Nunes:The BEST thing you can spend money on is food. Get your crew excited to come to work. If you have a passionate crew, then you’ll have a better product.

Kevin Sullivan: When you think of the traditional roles of film, it all goes away in low budget film making. You can pick up the trash, even if you’re the director. It’s a collaborative effort. If you don’t want to do that, then don’t do low budget.

Michael Nigro: Amass your team in a streamlined enough way.

Felicia Day: If you’re passionate. If there is one person with a vision. People are willing to work for almost nothing. They feel like what they are contributing is worthwhile.

Jason Nunes:Good story and acting is important too.

Felicia Day: There are people who show up and do a favor. I will always remember those people. One bad person can ruin the whole experience.

Megan Scibona: With bigger budgets, what do you think is a waste of money?

Kevin Sullivan: I find insurance VERY valuable. Not playing the game. Do I really NEED this? Not pre-planning is the where the biggest waste of money comes. If you’ve planned right, you can react to things better.

Michael Nigro: Post production is changing so rapidly. You can do color correct yourself. There are so many people out there who are talented to put graphics together.

Jason Nunes:There are a lot of people who have a vested interest in making you pay a lot of money. Tech is changing, so there are tools out there who can do it for much less. If you are willing to work with someone who is working out of his basement at nights, you can get more bang for a buck.

Felicia Day: There are people are willing to help when you’re passionate. It’s better to have no makeup artist than a BAD makeup artist. Get over the dolly, man! Every time we’ve had a dolly, it has been a problem. It’s not worth the money.

Jason Nunes:You’re telling a story. Tell it as simply as you can.

Kevin Sullivan: If you can’t afford it, get sticks and take the camera out of your hands.

Megan Scibona: Do you guys write for what you have?

Jason Nunes:I’ve written two kinds of scripts. I didn’t think about production for one, but if I have to produce it, then I write them directly for them. Think of the actors that you have. Write for them. Write for your location. If you add production into your writing process, then you have a better shot.

Kevin Sullivan: Write the best story that you can. Then go out and find it or modify it. I want to see the BEST story.

Michael Nigro: I agree with both of you. Often when you’re in shooting, you might not get that location that you really wanted. When you’re shooting, it becomes an interpretation of your script. You could have five people do the same script and it would be different for each person.

Felicia Day: I think you’re all full of poo. I agree that you have to write. Please make sure your script is really what you want it to be. If your story and characters are great, people will watch it no matter what. Make sure it’s the story that you want to tell.

Jason Nunes:A screenplay is the BEGINNING of the process. You have to find a way to make everything work.

Felicia Day: Growing my audience. People weren’t used to watching TV on the web. I felt like the most important thing I did was to be an audience member, not a producer. What forums would I be on? What blogs would I read? What games would I play? Thousands of PR agents make your show successful, and they are fans. You have to build a community. What gaming forums would they be one? People’s time is valuable. We took the time to really think like an audience member.

On the web, it’s completely different than traditional media. Microsoft knew how to use the Internet. Think like the audience member.

Jason Nunes:When does it make sense to say no to money? If you feel uncomfortable, it’s a sign to say no. Your gut tells you. If you feel uncomfortable with the creative choices. Sell out, make your money and then make your own thing.

Michael Nigro: When you’re making a low budget film, your goal is to make the next film, too.

Jason Nunes:There are other distribution models. You can do your passion without the guy in the gray suit.

Felicia Day: The Internet is the great democratizer.

Michael Nigro: If you feel you’re going to lose control, then don’t do it. If you’re comfortable with losing some control, then go for it.

Megan Scibona: The first time I was offered a little money, I was excited. REALLY think about whether it’s going to be worth it.

Question: What is the definition of Low Budget? REAL numbers.

Kevin Sullivan: Day job: under 2 million is low Personal reality: Under quarter million

Is that low budget for Hollywood, Austin?

$400,000 is going to a LOT further than $400,000 in Hollywood.

Michael Nigro: f you’re making a movie outside of the studio, you’re an independent film. Tax incentives, those are great things to explore, but a lot of cities are feeling the economic pinch, so the tax incentives might go away.

Once you get a little bit of money, you can parlay that into more money.

Felicia Day: Web video world $500 to $25,000

I think people think, oh it’s only web, so they shoot stuff that doesn’t look good.

There is no excuse to have a script and just sitting on it. You can find an instant audience.

Kevin Sullivan: It doesn’t cost you anything to ask people. You can ask actors, location places, crew, vendors. Sometimes it’s on your knees. Just being nice will get you really far.

Felicia Day: I think we are in a very strange time. I think it scares people. The content WANTS to be with the audience. People are pirating things who would pay for it if you would just offer it. People are just going to go around the problem.

I think you will see more people do it online in order to have more control. Us content creators need to keep showing them that this is possible.

Michael Nigro: I putting your work into marketing, festivals, DVDs. If you are going to finish your project, then you are going to want to get it out there.

Kevin Sullivan: My shorts cost $500 to film and I spent $500 to market them. We thought about how to distribute it WHILE we were writing the story. What is your financial audience? Think of that or find someone who knows how to do that. AND know your audience and how you’re going to market to it?

Michael Nigro: Make sure you have your website set up early. Plant the seeds as early as you can.

Megan Scibona: You should think about your film as spaghetti sauce. ?!

Jason Nunes:The hooks of your story are the same hooks for marketing. Find out where your audience is on the web.

Felicia Day: The networks don’t think about the characters. They put out the marketing horse and then build the marketing around the horse instead of your story. You don’t need to make the spaghetti sauce to appeal to EVERYONE. Is there an innocuous forum?

Jason Nunes:The old way of doing media production doesn’t work on the web.

Michael Nigro: This is a great hope, but it’s a huge fear as well.

Felicia Day: We have ideas of what TV and movies are going to be. We don’t really know what the Internet is going to be like.

Jason Nunes:It’s like the early day of television.

Kevin Sullivan: With lighting, if you can’t afford the real lights, go to Home Depot. If you’ve got a good story, do whatever you can to add to your story.

Felicia Day: The gaffer is my best friend. One light can make or break a scene.

Question: How do I fair the people?

Kevin Sullivan: Be honest. I’ve never seen a penny from some deals. :( Be fair with your people. Drag those people along with you when you start getting paid.

Jason Nunes:Do what you say you’re going to do.

Felicia Day: Don’t be a douchebag producer. First dollars went out to the cast and crew. Pay yourself LAST. It makes me sleep tomorrow.

Michael Nigro: Create a loyalty with your crew from day one. Take them to your paying gig. You can pay them back that way.

Jason Nunes:There is in kind stuff. I’ll go boom for someone else to pay them back for doing my stuff.

Megan Scibona: My DP is in the audience. I bring him everywhere. We get paid together and we do things for free together.

Question: Florida will pay you. Pull the permit. They think it’s easier to ask for forgiveness? NO. It’s free and it’s about coordination. We don’t charge for permits. Look at your students for help.

Kevin Sullivan: Location people might seem intimidating, but they are really friendly.

Megan Scibona: Any final tips on shooting?

Felicia Day: I toured the Lucas Ranch. I was told that several props were made out of Dixie cups. Don’t wait for the CGI guys to save you.

Jason Nunes:You can look in your kitchen cabinets and create all the same makeup effects. It’s much easier and cheaper to make them.

Kevin Sullivan: Simpler is better. Don’t try to get all fancy. Have a good story. What are you telliing me? What are you telling your audience? Plan it like you’ve never planned anything else.

Michael Nigro: Amass a great team and community. Make sure you’re READY to shoot. Stick to your deadlines. People will appreciate that so much. Be honest with your crew.

Megan Scibona: I add in an extra hour, so we are never kept late. We either finish early or finish on time. Say THANK YOU.


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