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No Budget Newsletter Issue #4
August 1, 2006

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1.  DGA Digital Day Wrap-Up
2.  "Head Trauma" Opening in August
3.  What's New on the Web Site
4.  Inaugural Fullerton Film Festival Aug. 3-6
5.  No Budget Filmmakers in the News
6.  Next Classes
7.  No Budget Film Resources Page


I attended the DGA's annual Digital Day this last Saturday (July 29, 2006) and it was equal parts entertaining, enlightening, bewildering, and boring.  Of course, I approach all these kinds of events with No Budget goggles on, so my perspective of the various panels and presentations was probably completely different than that of the majority of the audience, who I imagine were working DGA directors, AD's and UPM's.  I recognized many well-known directors in the audience and it seemed to me that a lot of the information caught them off guard.

The first such blow to the chin came from Wired Magazine Editor-in-Chief/Author/Digital Prognosticator Chris Anderson, coiner of the now ubiquitous term, The Long Tail.  He was there to open the day and scare the hell out of all the traditional media-creators, as well as promote his new book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More.  Anderson spent the first half of his presentation explaining his theory of the Long Tail and then suggested ways these changes would affect the future of media creation, (to read the original article, visit: ; to watch the humorous video, visit:  One of his more interesting observations was based on the content-consumption habits of his three children, the oldest of which is 9.  These are kids, who like a lot of (and soon most of) kids today are wired into all the new technologies--Tivo (DVR), internet, video games, DVD, cell phones, etc.  What Anderson has discovered about our future content consumers is that they don't discriminate between the different types of media they consume.  In other words, they may prefer an amateur video or a crude machinima on YouTube over a Disney blockbuster on DVD.  Kids see TV, internet video, and DVD as the same; they don't care about the quality of the image, only the authenticity of the content.  Of course this radical idea has different ramifications for different content creators.  For the professionals in the audience, who care so much about production value and make their living on expensive studio-made projects, this is a terrifying thought.  For folks like me, who have always known (and vigorously taught in my classes) that production value isn't really all that important, this is old news.  Truth, honesty, uniqueness--these are the qualities we should be aspiring to as no-budget filmmakers.  We get there through story, performances, dialogue, and talent, not necessarily production value.  The tools of production, and now the tools of distribution, have been democratized; that should be a good thing to all of you reading this. That means you've now got your freedom.  So, what are you going to do with it?

Now you're probably asking, does that mean that the dream of seeing of my brilliant feature on the big screen with hundreds of other people is over?  Not necessarily.  Chris noted that while content is becoming a commodity, the experience of consuming that content is not.  His children still enjoy going to the movies and value that experience.  Let's not forget that we all need to support seeing independent films on the big screen, so that we do not lose this wonderful and increasingly rare experience.

That leads me to another presentation at Digital Day, the Case Study in Micro-Budget Filmmaking panel featuring the soon-to-be-released feature, "The Dogwalker".  DGA member (and producer of Gary Walkow's $12,000 feature "Crashing") Alain Silver moderated a lively discussion with "Dogwalker" director (and co-founder of L.A. filmmaking collective Filmmakers Alliance, Jacques Thelemaque. Thelemaque took the audience through the genesis of the project, its long gestation, prolonged production, extended festival life, and finally its long-overdue distribution, prompting Silver to comment several times, "this kind of filmmaking takes a long time".  From the Q&A it was clear that the DGA members present had no idea you could do all of this--shoot with no money, make it look good on miniDV, not really pay anyone, shoot without permits, shoot with a two-man crew (at times), etc. Thelemaque showed a variety of clips from the film which clearly impressed the veteran audience, (which included, sitting down the row from me, a very well-preserved Carl Weathers, AKA Apollo Creed).  Fortunately for them (and us), the film is opening in selected cities beginning August 11th (LA will be August 25th), giving everyone the opportunity to finally see this award-winning film.  Go to the website and mark your calendars!

The most interesting aspect of the Creative Impact of Working in Digital panel was how vehemently the filmmakers on the panel dismissed film.  Three very different directors--Tony Bill ("My Bodyguard", "Five Corners"), Rob Cohen ("XXX", "The Fast and the Furious"), and David Fincher ("Seven", "Fight Club")--each said they would never work in film again.  Bill went on and on about how shooting digitally was going to change the craft of acting, because actors no longer had to feel the pressure of getting it right, as expensive film was running through the camera.   His latest project, "Flyboys" was his first digitally-shot project (on the Panavision Genesis) and he said he would NEVER shoot on film again, if he had anything to do with it.  Cohen had shot all of his features on 35mm, but after recently shooting commercials on digital (he prefers the Viper over the Genesis), he said that his last film "Stealth" would be his last on film.  Fincher may have been the most emphatic, remarking that,  "soon film will be a quaint choice that certain luddites will make."  Fincher started using the Viper for commercials a couple of years ago and hasn't gone back since.  His newest feature, "Zodiac" which he is finishing, was shot digitally and he liked the fact that you (and the rest of the crew) could see what you were getting immediately.  He said the 23" monitor on the set was showing your answer print--no dailies, no voodoo. 

Digital guru Scott Billups tried to take a complicated subject, The Latest Options in HD, DV, MiniDV and HDV, and make it easy to understand.  Well, let's just say he gave it his best shot.  He used the old crayon metaphor to explain Data Rate (the size of the crayon box), Latitude (the number of different gray crayons between the white and black crayons, and Color Space (the number of crayons in the box); it got progressively more difficult to understand after that.  One interesting point he made about the future demonstrated how Moore's Law would affect moviemaking.  Intel co-founder Gordon Moore's famous "law" predicts the speed with which computer processors will improve over time, getting faster, smaller, and cheaper, ("the transistor density of semiconductor chips would double roughly every 18 months" is how this "law" is widely interpreted).  When you consider that the modern video camera is really just a computer peripheral, then in a matter of time everyone will have the power of a current Viper on their cell phone (don't laugh, Billups showed a slide of a bulky 1GB hard drive he purchased several years ago for $5000, and then compared it to a new, tiny 4GB flash drive that costs $73 today).  He then noted that in the future the only thing that will separate a filmmaker from a guy with a phone will be craft and methodology. 

For all you digital cinema naysayers:  Sony demonstrated their new 4k digital projector, projecting clips of "Mystic India" (a new film that originated on 35mm) and "The Sound of Music" (a 40 year old film that originated on 65mm), and the results were simply stunning.  The "Sound of Music" clip in particular was nothing short of astonishing.  I had recently seen this same clip at the Academy during a memorial for the late director Robert Wise.  The clip the Academy projected on film was in keeping with their incredibly high standards, but it was like a different film on the 4k.  If you ever get a chance to see this demo, make it a point to attend. 


Along with the aforementioned "The Dogwalker", another film to catch in theaters this month is the hair-raising thriller "Head Trauma", directed by Lance Weiler, co-director of the 1998 micro-budget masterpiece "The Last Broadcast".  "Broadcast" was made for $900 and represented the first film completely posted on a desktop computer.  "Head Trauma" premiered recently at the 2006 Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) and will open in theaters beginning August 18th.  So what do "The Dogwalker" and "Head Trauma" have in common?  They are both being distributed in a major way by the filmmakers themselves. 


For more information on "The Dogwalker", "Head Trauma" and other notable no-budget films, please visit my new MOVIE LINKS page:

This page is still in its infancy, but represents the beginning of what I hope my web site will eventually become, a portal for no-budget filmmaking. To get there I'll just need a little more spare time, and a web designer!

Also on the site in the NO BUDGET REPORT section is my No-Budget Wrap-up of the recently completed 2006 Los Angeles Film Festival, with in-depth coverage of several no-budget films:

Archived editions of the No Budget Report are available on the site; and exclusively for subscribers, archived editions of the NO BUDGET NEWSLETTER are also available:


If you're near Orange County California, don't miss the inaugural Fullerton Film Festival, taking place August 3rd through 6th. The festival was created to help support the restoration of the historic Fox Fullerton Theater and inspire the vision of both new and established filmmakers. This year's film line-up includes a diverse selection featuring Latino, Asian, African American, Native American, and Eastern European filmmakers. Classics, comedy, and Orange County favorites are also a big part of the mix.

I will be giving a lively presentation on No Budget Filmmaking Sunday, August 6th. I'll show clips from rarely-seen no-budget films, including "The Poor & Hungry", the first film of "Hustle & Flow" director Craig Brewer, which has never been available on video.
"No Budget? No Problem!"
Sunday, August 6, 2006, 2:30pm
Campus Theater, Fullerton College
321 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, CA 92832
Come join the fun at the Fullerton Film Festival.  Experience four days of special screenings of films from around the world in four historic venues.


Andrew Wagner is directing the next InDigEnt feature, called "Starting Out In The Evening" and starring Frank Langella and Lauren Ambrose. His micro-budget "The Talent Given Us" is now available on video.

"Hustle & Flow" director Craig Brewer is prepping a new feature called "Maggie Lynn", a country music drama.  His next film, "Black Snake Moan" is set to open in the Fall. Craig's first film, "The Poor & Hungry" was made for $5,000.

"The Puffy Chair" creators The Duplass Brothers have made a deal with Universal-based producers Mary Parent and Scott Stuber to write a new script that they will also direct. This hasn't discouraged them from continuing to make no-budgets; they are prepping another micro-budget feature and planning to shoot this October. "The Puffy Chair" is still playing in theaters.

Chris Nolan's ("Memento", "Batman Begins") next film, "The Prestige" is set to bow October 20, 2006.  I hear it's a good one! Chris' first feature "Following" was made for $12,000, and will be screening in LA Oct. 2nd at the Egyptian Theater, with Chris there in person to discuss the film! Check out this website for details:

Joe Carnahan ("Narc") wrapped his long-awaited follow-up to "Narc", "Smokin' Aces" recently and is feverishly finishing post over at Warner Brothers. The all-star cast includes Jeremy Piven, Alicia Keys, Ben Affleck, Peter Berg, Ray Liotta, and many others. Check out the kinetic trailer:

Joe's first feature, "Blood Guts Bullets & Octane" was made for $7,000 and was picked up out of Sundance by Lionsgate in 1998. "Narc" impressed Tom Cruise so much he came on as an Executive Producer and insisted that Paramount release it. Joe was then attached to direct "Mission Impossible 3" for Cruise, until the two had a falling out. Joe is tentatively scheduled to speak in the upcoming No Budget Film School class on Oct. 21st.  Hear all the dirt from this outspoken, hilarious and inspiring filmmaker.

I will be teaching my next class in Los Angeles October 21st and 22nd, a two-day no-budget filmmaking immersion.  Information is on the website.


Don't forget the No Budget Film Resources page on my web site.  These are hand-picked links and resources for no-budget filmmakers provided exclusively for No Budget Newsletter subscribers.  Please let me know if there are categories you would like me to add:


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