7 Weird Ways To Fund A Low Budget Movie

While it’s not exactly his first stab at making a film, financial circumstances are forcing Uwe Boll to ask for cash online to get his latest project shot.

But even if you’ve got good ideas for movies, getting your first foot in the cinematic door can be a tough process.

Still, low and micro-budget projects can succeed and plenty of budding writer/directors have grown healthy careers out of seed money – most of them long before the web was born.

So if you’re thinking of finally realising that six-hour epic retelling of Waterloo… well, look elsewhere.

If your ambitions are a little smaller to start, we can help.

First off, enter our competition to win a cool Panasonic HDC-SD20 camcorder to get you started on the kit front.

And once you're good to shoot, why not try following the example of these plucky pic-makers?

1. Sell your body… For drug trials

The Film:
El Mariachi

The Filmmaker: Robert Rodriguez

The Story:
“I was in a research hospital called Pharmaco back in Austin, Texas. I was in there for a month testing a cholesterol-lowering drug. And I wrote the entire screenplay in the last three weeks that I was there.”

Rodriguez raised $7,000 to get the film shot before editing it on videotape and – for the first time in the history of film – selling it to distributor Columbia Pictures based on just the tape, not a print.

The Warning: Just be careful which kind of drug you sign up for. Extra limbs could be useful, but anal trenching is something to be avoided.


2. Put it all on credit cards

The Film: Clerks

The Filmmaker:
Kevin Smith

The Story:
“I put the $25,000 budget on my credit cards,” recalls Smith. “Everything but American Express, because they make you pay it at the end of the month."

Smith used family loans and leveraged his income to help pay for the black & white movie, which he shot in and around the shop he already worked as a perfect free location.

The Warning: If you run up a huge debt, the closest you’ll get to “blockbuster” status is working there to pay it off.

3. Try your dentist

The Film: The Evil Dead

The Filmmaker:
Sam Raimi

The Story: "Dentists are great. Get money from dentists,” says star Bruce Campbell. “They're loaded with dough. One guy gave us money because he didn't go to Vegas that year. He says, 'I usually take two grand and blow it in Vegas. Well, here's my Vegas money.' He's since made 17 times his money."

Raimi and Campbell shot a super-eight preview of the film to show to possible investors. The result is splattery history.

The Warning: Getting into financial straights with people who have easy access to sharp, pointy tools is not a good idea.


4. Have a strong short – and influential friends

The Film: THX 1138

The Filmmaker:
George Lucas

The Story: “You've made a bunch of little projects, you've shown off you have talent, and you talk real fast, and you convince somebody that you should be doing a feature.”

Lucas spun student film Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB into the chance to turn it into his first feature. It didn’t hurt that a certain Francis Ford Coppola was helping out – and spending some money too.

The Warning:
Success lead to ego. Ego leads to Jar Jar. Jar Jar leads to suffering…

5. Don’t give up the day job

The Film:

The Filmmaker: Rian Johnson

The Story:
“I got lucky and had some really nice day jobs. I did some random assistant editing work, worked at a preschool for deaf children for a few years, then produced promos for the Disney Channel."

Johnson poured his savings plus cash from kindly family members to start making his high school noir.

The Warning: Your boss won’t react well if you sell the office photocopier to rent that fancy digital camera for a day.


6. Start with a great hook

The Film:
The Blair Witch Project

The Filmmakers: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez

The Story: “We came up with a story we wished we'd heard around a campfire,” says Sanchez. “A 200-year-old legend about an outcast, a cursed town and a series of child murders and unexplained disappearances.'”

Myrick and Sanchez started the buzz on their movie with an eight-minute pseudo-doc about the legend and filmmakers who had gone missing looking for the witch, fooling the likes of veteran indie film promoter John Pierson and even a New York police detective, who called offering to help in the hunt.

The Warning:
Making people paranoid and afraid these days can lead to physical violence. Plus, what if your legend turns out to be true and the “star” comes looking for their cut?

7. Win a lawsuit

The Film:
Roger & Me

The Filmmaker: Michael Moore

The Story: “I decided after a certain point, after writing about this for so many years, I'm thinking, ‘I'm not getting anywhere writing about it. What else can I do? Well, let's see. I like going to the movies. Maybe I should make a movie.”

He did – Moore used $58,000 from a lawsuit he won after being fired from news magazine Mother Jones.

When that money ran out, he mortgaged his house and sold his bed to keep the film going.

The Warning:
Not everyone wins lawsuits. And you don’t want to have to shoot your film entirely on courtroom CCTV.


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