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The Principles and Secrets of Micro-Budget Filmmaking Revealed

Micro-budget first-features launched the careers of filmmakers like Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight), Joe Carnahan (The A-Team, Narc), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler), David Gordon Green (Your Highness, Pineapple Express) Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, Monsters Ball), Justin Lin (Fast Five, Fast & Furious), Tim Story (Barbershop, Fantastic Four) and Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow).

These first films all went through the offices of Next Wave Films, the former low-budget financing arm of The Independent Film Channel. Now Mark Stolaroff, a principal of Next Wave, is sharing what he's learned from years in the trenches in these in-depth, one-of-a-kind classes. 

Micro-budget (under $200,000) filmmaking is unique. The methods, models and priorities are radically different from those of studio projects or even "low" budget $1 million films. 

In the classes offered students will learn the rules of micro-budget production critical to making this type of film successfully, whether the budget is $200,000 or $2,000.  No-budget professionals will offer their first-hand knowledge of production, post production, marketing, and distribution. Clips from micro-budget films will illustrate specific tricks and state-of-the-art techniques used by the most resourceful filmmakers.

These cutting edge techniques can NOT be found in a book, at film school, or in other film classes.

If you're through talking about being a filmmaker and ready to become one, No Budget Film School is for you.

A Two-Day Weekend Workshop
Next Class: October 2017 (Possibly)
Course 101: "The Art of No-Budget Filmmaking"

This course gives filmmakers the tools and the confidence to make a feature right now, with the resources available to them, however limited those resources might be.  The class offers a unique overview of Production, Post Production and Distribution from a no-budget perspective, encouraging filmmakers to throw out old templates of moviemaking.  The approach guides filmmakers to examine their own specific circumstances--their limitations and their resources--and reinvent the moviemaking process to suit their unique situation.  Learn:
* How to design a great script that will cost little or no money to produce
* How to devise a production that conforms to your particular circumstances
* How to prioritize limited resources
* How to tackle post production, festival strategy and distribution on a shoestring
* Much, much more

Course 201: "The Science of No Budget Filmmaking"

A detailed line-by-line analysis of the production budget from a no-budget perspective.  Topics include: Cast & Casting, Crew, Equipment, Insurance, Locations, Permits, Props/Set Dressing, Vehicles, Makeup/Wardrobe, Camera/Format, Sound, Legal, and Miscellaneous Budget Items.  The class will dissect the production of the $50,000 feature True Love (a Sundance Screenwriters Lab Project), demonstrating the low-budget tricks used--and the mistakes made--showing clips from the film and valuable behind-the-scenes footage, in this comprehensive examination of a no-budget film.  Learn:
* How to find great cast & crew with little or nothing to pay
* How to shoot in LA without filming permits
* How to get free locations, free props, and free equipment
* What formats, cameras, and editing systems to use
* Much, Much more

A Two-Day Weekend Workshop Companion Class
Next Class in Los Angeles in Oct. 2017 (Possibly)


Course 103: "Mastering Film Grammar"

A departure from previous No Budget Film School courses that have concentrated solely on no-budget production, "Mastering Film Grammar" is an intensive and highly entertaining exploration of screen art form. The kind of instruction usually found only in expensive film schools, these tenants of film language are some of the most cost-effective ways to improve the quality of a production no matter what the budget. Whether you're spending $100 million or $100, you're going to be pointing your camera at something. This course teaches you how to get the most out of what you shoot, independent of budget.

"Mastering Film Grammar" covers the specific strengths of the motion picture medium. Framing, moving, editing and lighting the image, depth of field, POV, score and source music, sound effects: these are the elements of the language of cinema, and we as filmmakers make creative decisions based on these elements no matter the budget of our projects. Instructor Tom Provost explores classical film grammar, examining how to use it properly and then how it can be twisted to great effect. The course also covers specific examples of how to use Frame, Light, Shadow, Color, Sound, and Editing, with over 100 clips and screen shots from various movies to illustrate and illuminate.
Course 204: "From Script to Screen"

Writer/Director Provost discusses the process of traveling from script to final edited product of his new feature The Presence, which stars Oscar Winner Mira Sorvino, Golden Globe Nominee Justin Kirk and Shane West. The film was released by Lionsgate last Fall. This is a candid, insightful dissection of the filmmaking process, examining a recently-completed feature that was chosen as the opening or closing night film at a variety of festivals, winning Best Film, Best Director, and Best Cinematography awards as well.  Students will read the first act of the screenplay as homework before attending the class, and then watch the complete film in the afternoon. Following the screening, Provost will cover extensively how he and his creative team worked to bring what was on paper to life, given the typical compromises and considerations of budget, time, personnel issues, weather, and planning. Particular focus will be placed on what "went wrong" as well as what changed from the script and why. The discussion will also include the "writing" that went on in the editing room as the film took shape and became something apart from the shooting script. Specific clips and production stills will be used to illustrate the various decisions made on the set and after.

"From Script To Screen" is an extremely frank and revealing discussion about the realities every filmmaker faces whatever the budget, offering filmmakers a rare insider's look at just how a movie comes to fruition. Students will have an open forum with the filmmaker regarding their thoughts and questions on the movie and the filmmaking process.
Course 104:  "Introducing Your Character"
One of the most difficult things to do in any kind of story is quickly and efficiently set up a character...and in a manner that pays off further into the narrative. "Introducing Your Character" is an in-depth, intensive look at how filmmakers effectively reveal characters to the audience, whether in a straightforward or purposely misleading fashion. Using a variety of clips as well as John Dahl's retro thriller Red Rock West, the class examines numerous ways you can provide incisive information to your  audience, even in a single line or shot.  In the words of instructor Provost, "This is a kick-ass class.” 
Course 105:  "Disclosure of Information"

“Disclosure of Information” is the essence of storytelling. Every single choice you make in storytelling/filmmaking reveals information to the audience. How to do it, when and why to do it, what the effect will be on your audience--all are determined by the manner in which you disclose each and every piece of information in your script. While the entire weekend in essence is an exploration of how to disclose information, this class looks in-depth at the myriad choices a filmmaker has--right and wrong--and how to master those choices to create the most effective experience for the audience possible. Clips from various films such as Jaws, Blood Simple, and Carrie will be used, as well as intensive explorations of two Hitchcock classics, North by Northwest and Psycho


Course 203: "Filmmaking Basics for No Budgets"
A course designed for the no-budget filmmaker who hasn't attended film school and may be asked to wear multiple hats, or who wants to get a working knowledge of several different departments to help him or her better prepare.   The basics (as they apply to no-budget filmmaking) will be taught in a  number of disciplines by experts in each field, including: Lighting and Camera, Sound, Grip & Electric, Production Management & Assistant Directing, Locations, Makeup, and Wardrobe.

Course 301: "Alternative Distribution for The No Budget Film"
A detailed look at what to do with your film once it is completed.  Topics include identifying and nurturing core audiences, building a web site, festival strategy, marketing and promotion, DVD creation and distribution, theatrical self-distribution, and more.

Course 303: "The No Budget Marketplace"
A detailed analysis of the market for no budget films.  Topics include: the history of the marketplace, an analysis of the market success of several no budget films over the years; an analysis of the non-quantifiable success of no budget films (e.g., launching careers); the perceived paths to revenue for certain representative films; the qualities successful films possessed that enabled them to achieve that success; and more. This class is designed for the strategic filmmaker or producer who is deciding what kind of film to make and trying to understand how that film would fit into the indie marketplace.

Classes will be scheduled in Los Angeles and in other cities across the country.  Please subscribe to the No Budget Newsletter to get the latest information on when these courses will be offered in your area.

Read The Quote

" The No Budget Film School is designed for the moviemaker who possesses nothing but a dream and a drive. If you take the course and can't make some kind of film at the end of it, you'll have no one to blame but yourself. " - Peter MacNicol (Emmy Award Winning Actor. "Allie McBeal", "Numb3rs", "Sophie's Choice")

" Mark, I just wanted to say what a fantastic day it was... really amazing. You are a great communicator and I will happily recommend you to anyone I come across. I love your passion and I think it really comes through." - Gabrielle Kelly, Film Professor (Chapman University, UCLA Extension, Los Angeles Film School)

" I really feel as though your class was one of the most pertinent and truly useful filmmaking seminars I've ever taken, with immediately applicable and appropriate info." - Mary Jane Mullen
" What a great day you set up for all of us on Saturday--it was outstanding! And I really appreciated the fact that you stayed afterwards to answer any final questions. It demonstrated your enthusiasm for the subject of filmmaking - and we all got the sense that you genuinely cared about passing the torch and offering guidance." - Anthony Cistaro

"The best filmmaking training money I ever spent." - Amir Masud

" Your course on Saturday has already had a great impact on the feature that I am writing and I am certain I will have a better film for it. It was a very inspiring day for me and I hope to some day be in a position to better thank you for your generosity." - Ed Fowler
" The class was great.  There was a tremendous amount of information and encouragement for approaching filmmaking in a very liberating way." - Josh Schorr (2006 Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship winner)
" I wanted to tell you that I loved the No Budget Film School.  First off, you were very clear and informative.  Your lecture was also inspirational and motivating because it made my goal of being a feature length filmmaker very plausible." - Edwin Porres, Jr.

" I found your class really were masterful." - John Chisholm
" You're The Man.  Your philosophy is excellent and valuable." - Glenn Gers, (Writer-"Mad Money", "Fracture"; Writer/Director-"Disfigured")
" Learned so much, I can't wait to get started." - Patrice Williams
" Just wanted to thank you for the class.  You and your fellow panelists were very informative and inspiring.  I needed the "refuse to spend money" rule implemented into my brain and that was achieved.  Thank you for that!" - Victoria Bolt
"Great presentation. Overwhelming and thrilling!  Oh yes, and extremely helpful." - Kristi Moya
"I wanted to thank you, Ron and your team for the wonderful session of no-budget filmmaking. The lessons learned will be put to immediate use." - Rodrigo Obregon

Peter Broderick

Past Guest Speakers:

Peter Broderick (President, Paradigm Consulting; former President, Next Wave Films)

Joe Carnahan

Joe Carnahan (Director, "Narc," "Smokin' Aces," "Blood Guts Bullets & Octane")

David Gordon Green, Jodi Hill




David Gordon Green (Director, "Pineapple Express," "All The Real Girls") 

Jody Hill (Director, "Observe & Report," "The Foot Fist Way") 

Michael Cioni

Michael Cioni (Director of Operations, PlasterCITY Digital Post)

Ron Judkins


Ron Judkins (Director, The Hi Line; two-time Academy Award winner for Sound)

Rick Tait (Founder, 1245_VINE_Industries)

Marty Pasetta, Jr. (Producer, Sleeping Dogs Lie, 2006 Sundance Dramatic Competition)

Henry Barrial (Director, Some Body, 2001 Sundance Dramatic Competition)

Mike Upton (SVP, 2929 Productions; Producer, Madea's Family Reunion, Akeelah And The Bee)

Mike Upton

Jacob Rosenberg (On-Line Editor, Dust To Glory; Author)

Jacob Vaughan (Director, The Cassidy Kids; Producer, Editor, DP, Dear Pillow)

Alex Orr (Director, Blood Car)

David Bruckner (Director, The Signal)

Filmmaker to Watch

Craig Zobel (Director, Great World Of Sound)

Ti West (Director, Trigger Man, The Roost)

Cabin Fever 2 Director

Joel Viertel (Producer, Conventioneers)

Todd Rohal (Director, The Guatemalan Handshake)

Different By Design

Matt Radecki (Director, TV Junkie; Founder, Different By Design)

Andrew Huebscher (DP, Crashing, What We Do Is Secret)

Michael Smith Dead X 3

Daniel Casey (Director, The Death Of Michael Smith)

Click here for more information on the guest speakers for the recent May 30, 31 class.

"True Love" (click to enlarge)
A hammer tapping the edge of the glass shatters it
Behind the scenes of window smashing / As seen in the film

Go behind the scenes of a $50,000 movie and learn how various no-budget tricks and techniques were applied in pre-production, production and post-production.

"Some Body" (click to enlarge)
Stephanie Bennett stars in "Some Body"
Scenes from the $3,000 feature, "Some Body"

Hear in-depth case studies of successful no-budget films like The Dark Knight director Chris Nolan's Following, made for $12,000. Instructor Mark Stolaroff's Next Wave Films gave Nolan finishing funds.

Mark Stolaroff

Analyze a scene from an actual award-winning no-budget movie, from script to screen: hear the scene read, get the opportunity to identify and solve production problems, learn how those problems were solved in the movie, see behind-the-scenes footage of the scene's set-up, then see the filmed scene in it's finished form.

Read the article!
Click to Enlarge


"Production Value Is Overrated!"

Read Mark Stolaroff's article from Film Arts Magazine regarding the importance of production value on low-budget indie films. Click the link below to download a PDF.

Film Arts Article PDF

Hear a couple of interviews I gave on DIY production with filmmaker and blogger Paul Harrill on filmmaker Lance Weiler's Workbook Project site, (an incredible DIY resource site). Click the links below:

The Workbook Project Interview on DIY Production with Mark Stolaroff, Paul Harrill, and Lance Weiler

The Workbook Project Interview looking back on 2007's interesting DIY films and distribution trends, with Mark Stolaroff, Paul Harrill, and Lance Weiler


Click the link below to hear Instructor Mark Stolaroff's June 2005 Digital Production Buzz interview, as he discusses no-budget filmmaking basics and No Budget Film School.

Digital Production Buzz Interview