Why Your First Feature Film Has To Be a No Budget Film
And why I might be wrong.
If any of you have seen my first feature film “The Garden’s Keeper” you should have noticed that it’s very low-budget, as in 750 dollars total budget. It's crazy, I know, but failing to secure funds taught me more than I would have learned if I had more money. I’m not saying more money is bad, but your first film is a learning experience and the less money you have the more creative you get and the more you learn.
Doing a feature film without any money will help you be more creative, trust me. It sucks not being able to represent your vision on-screen but you will learn how to solve problems even before they present themselves, and solving problems is pretty much an ability that everyone should have because you will start solving problems in other aspects of your life including business and family.
Another thing I did, even though I had access to a pocket dolly and a small crane, is shoot the film on a tripod, because in my mind, I had to dominate the most basic form of storytelling to be able to use the rest of the tools in moviemaking, and I’m happy to say that I was able to pull it off and I know that on my next film i will be able to pull something off with more movement if its necessary.
Wearing many hats in a production will actually help you budget and hire people for the second one. You will know what must be done, how much time it takes and what abilities does that person need to do the job. I actually had to transfer all the footage filmed each day alongside the audio recorded each day, organize it and double-check it (we had 2 hard drives), that was something I learned while working in L.A. as a video editor and wearing many hats.
A somewhat famous Mexican film director (had a few movies in Mexican Theaters) once told me “My first movie sucked, it was horrible, it had bad lighting, bad directing, bad acting, but I was learning how to direct” and this actually inspired me since he is now making million dollar movies, he also said to me “people will hate your first film, they will say it's crap, your second film? same response, it's crap, your third one? they will say that you are starting to make decent films but it’s still bad, and about your fourth film, people will start to appreciate them and think they are not so bad” so with that in mind I set out to do at least 4 feature films, I mean, my 15th film could be the one that gets me noticed or my 5th one or my 50th one, I don't know so that's why I have to keep making movies.
My grandfather had one of the best seafood restaurants in Mexico and he pretty much taught me something invaluable. It might be wrong but it worked for him and is working for me in every aspect of Filmmaking and Marketing. It pretty much works anywhere you must work as a team: “Tienes que saber hacer para poder mandar” which translates roughly to “you must know how to do something before you can lead them”, in his case, everyone who wanted to work at his restaurant had to start washing dishes and go trough every position above that to eventually be manager. This gives you knowledge about how things work and people can't take advantage of you. Using this technique I have impressed a few editors who have worked for me because I used to be an editor “how did you know I only did x, y, z?” and I answered “I used to be an editor and do that”. Simply put, It makes you a better leader.
Don’t let money be an issue when filming a feature film, find a way to film and get all that practice and shitty movies out-of-the-way so you can start making some awesome films!