No Budget Film School
No Budget Newsletter #5 Archive
The Classes
Class Registration
Instructor / Guest Speakers
Student Testimonials
The No Budget Report
No Budget Blog
No Budget Films
No Budget Resources
Class Media
True Love
No Budget Film Club
Join Film Club
No Budget Consulting

Click here to subscribe to the No Budget Newsletter


No Budget Newsletter Issue #5
December 19, 2006

Brought to you by the No Budget Film School:

To subscribe, please visit:


After teaching my last class in Los Angeles in late October and finishing some work that had been piling up, I'm happy to finally get out this new edition of the No Budget Newsletter.  It's not a holiday edition, per se, but I did want to take the opportunity to wish you the best this holiday season.  I hope you get to see some good movies in the next few weeks--since this is when the good movies are released, (by studios, anyway).  Moreover, I hope you get out and make your own movies.  Maybe that can be your New Year's resolution:  "This year I'm going to finally make that feature I've always said I was going to make!"  Remember, you don't need money, so don't let that stop you.


1.  Next Class Scheduled - Atlanta, GA March 24 & 25
2.  No Budget Report - AFI Fest
3.  What's New on the Web Site
4.  No Budget Bulletins From The Front
5.  No Budget Filmmakers in the News
6.  No Budget Film Resources Page


My next class will be taught in Atlanta, GA on March 24th and 25th, 2007.  It will be another two-day no-budget filmmaking immersion, similar to the class I just taught in LA.  Day One will be "Course 101:  The Art of No-Budget Filmmaking" and Day Two will be "Course 201: The Science of No-Budget Filmmaking."  I also hope to have some special guests joining me, which will be announced closer to the date.  IMAGE Film and Video, the non-profit media arts organization that presents the Atlanta Film Festival (April 19-28, 2007) each year, will be hosting the class and running registration.  If you're in the Atlanta area and want to register, please visit the IMAGE site and follow their registration procedures by clicking the link below:

You will find registration instructions near the top of the page, and more information about the class, including price and times, near the bottom. Please let all your Atlanta filmmaking friends know about the class.  For additional information on what will be covered, please visit my site:


The 2006 edition of the AFI Fest wrapped recently in Los Angeles and because it was being held so close to my home, I couldn't resist getting a pass.  The festival has grown in mostly good ways over the years and it celebrated it's 20th season with a host of high-profile parties and events, some very good international films, (always their specialty), and some interesting U.S. features.  I won't be the first one to (honestly) tell you that this isn't an American filmmaker's first choice for their North American premiere, (after Sundance and Toronto, there are several other festivals I would recommend), but the festival does offer a level of prestige and class, a well-organized and extremely comfortable viewing experience (you can't do much better than the Arclight), and a bit of publicity, if you're lucky.  I was a little disappointed by the attendance, though this is, after all, Los Angeles and competition for butts-in-seats is fierce.  Many of the lower-profile screenings I attended were not full, or not even close.  This is not what I encountered at the 2006 Los Angeles Film Festival, (a much better place to premiere), where they have made great strides in getting folks to turn out.  AFI works hard at it, too, they just have a ways to go.  In my view, the American films that premiered here are a reflection of that distance--they felt like films that didn't get into Sundance or other "better" festivals.  I'm not trying to knock AFI, it's just a difference of intentions.  For years AFI has concentrated on international cinema, (dating back to their FILMEX roots, which AFI adopted back in 1987.  FILMEX, the Los Angeles Film Exposition, was founded in 1971 as a showcase for foreign films).  Only recently did they start to put an emphasis on American films, and a number of high-quality features from Sundance and other festivals played here this year.  World premieres, however, is another matter, and here Sundance and Toronto are still the king, with festivals like SXSW, Tribeca and LAFF jockeying for position as runner-up.

My natural interests lie in no-budget cinema, so I try to hunt down those films to report on.  Here is a quick review of some of the more interesting no-budget features I saw:

BUNNY CHOW This engaging and at times hilarious feature from South Africa felt like a true American Indie, all the way down to its road trip subject matter.  This resemblance was partly due to the way it was made, and partly due to, I imagine, the rest of the world's interest in American cinema.  There were numerous references to American movies and pop culture which makes the viewer realize, we really are living in a small world after all.  But there were also differences--an effortless multicultural backdrop for one.  The new South Africa is rich in racial and religious diversity and writer/director John Barker was trying to capture that essence.  Even the title alludes to the smorgasbord of cultures found in Johannesburg --a "bunny chow" is a local sandwich with just about everything on it.  The film was shot on the HDV Sony Z1, converted to B&W to hide the video look, (that camera doesn't shoot in true 24p) and then transferred to film at Duart.  It was shot for just about zero dollars in a few days and money was raised afterwards for the blowup and other technical work.  The main players are mostly friends who work in television together and nearly 40% was improvised.

SOMEBODIES This American film shot completely in Athens, GA premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.  Starring its writer/director--the triple-threat Hadjii--"Somebodies" is a hilarious look at middleclass black college student life at a southern university, with obvious echoes to the late-90's indie fest sensation "Hav Plenty," though the tone of that film is very different.  Shot on the ubiquitous Panasonic DVX100 in 19 days with a host of local comedic talents, Hadjii wanted to cast Dave Chappelle or Mos Def in the role of Scotty, but they got too famous so he cast himself.  Sure to get picked up for distribution, I imagine you will get an opportunity to see this, if only briefly, at a theater near (or relatively near) you, and then surely on DVD. 

FROZEN DAYS One of the more exciting films I saw was the $25,000 Israeli film "Frozen Days."  A virtuosic display of directing, acting and cinematography, by supposed newcomers in each of those areas, "Frozen Days" dazzled the audience in its U.S. premiere.  Shot on an "old school" PAL DSR 570 by DP Tomer Ran and transferred to 35mm, most of the film is portrayed in high-contrast B&W, except for a memorable foray into super-saturated color near the middle.  Director Danny Lerner shot for 27 days over a four month period using all manner of DIY tricks to track the camera and keep the action moving in this lean, noirish, psychological thriller which uses the political reality of suicide bombing in Israel as a launching point for an exploration in genre.  You can't keep your eyes off talented lead actress Anat Klausner (playing the part of "Meow"), who was in town with the movie, (agent shopping??).

Other Films Worth Mentioning: 

2:37 Australian film about cliquish, upper middle class high school students and suicide.  Charismatic 22 year old writer/producer/director/editor Murali Thalluri's story about financing and shooting the under-$1 million film was perhaps more interesting than the film itself.  Just an example: the script was written in a day and a half and the character who was born with the two urethras (!) was based on himself.  Feature was shot on the standard def Sony XDCAM and transferred to film.

BUG William Friedkin's ("The Exorcist") newest film features Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon in challenging roles, (for them and the audience), but it's Harry Connick, Jr.'s performance that will make you forget all that "Harry Met Sally" pseudo-Sinatra stuff he does.  Set mostly in a motel room outside Las Vegas, the film was shot on a set built in a high school gymnasium in Louisiana.  Can you say, "tax credits?"

AIR GUITAR NATION A real crowd pleaser, this delightful doc about the first U.S. participants in the Air Guitar World Championships held in Oulu, Finland was produced by veteran TV producers Alexandra and Jane Lipsitz, ("Project Runway"). Trust me, the first time you see C-Diddy attack those imaginary strings, you will be hooked!  Expect theatrical distribution in 2007 through Shadow Releasing and then availability on DVD with New Video's Docurama label.


New to  The No Budget Report page is my rundown of the HD Expo and DV Expo events held recently in Los Angeles.  Catch glimpses of new, affordable HD cameras from Sony (HVR-V1U) and Canon (XH A1) as well as other exciting tools and technological developments. 
On my Classes page I've added pictures from my most recent class and you can listen to an internet radio interview I gave with Digital Production Buzz before I taught my first class, way back in July 2005. I've also added some new testimonials from recent class graduates in a new Student Testimonials page, (I swear I'm not making these quotes up!). 
I'm sure you're probably aware of my No Budget Film Club, which is a screening series held in Los Angeles of outstanding no-budget features with the filmmakers in attendance, telling all the dirty secrets of getting their movies made without money.  We held our inaugural event on October 2, 2006 with a screening of Christopher Nolan's "Following." I've added a few pics and some member feedback from that evening to these pages.   I'm planning my next event and hope to announce it in the next month or two.
I am continually updating and adding to my No Budget Films page (formerly called Movie Links page).  I've essentially created mini-profiles on a number of noteworthy no-budget films, with links back to their web sites.  In many cases I have interviewed the filmmakers or know them personally, so the information is straight from the horse's mouth.  Please bookmark this page and return here often for new profiles or updates on existing films.  If you ever get down and think this whole no-budget thing can't be done, VISIT THIS PAGE!  Newer profiles to check out:  "Love & Suicide," "Forgiving The Franklins," "Chalk," and "What Is It?"

As always, archived editions of this newsletter are available exclusively to Newsletter subscribers.  Click below if you missed any earlier editions:



Film Independent Announces Nominees for 2007 Spirit Awards

LOS ANGELES - Film Independent (formerly known as FIND, formerly known as IFP/LA) has announced the nominees for their prestigious Spirit Awards ceremony to be held February 24, 2007.  Known as the "Academy Awards of Independent Filmmaking," several no-budget and low-budget films made the cut.  The under-$1 million Sundance sensation "Half Nelson" was nominated for Best Feature, and also picked up nominations for Best Director, Best First Screenplay, Best Lead Female, and Best Lead Male.  The no-budget features "Chalk" and "Four-Eyed Monsters," (which also bagged a Cinematography nom) were nominated for a Cassevetes Award, given to the best film under $500,000.  The $60,000 "In Between Days" was nominated for the Someone to Watch Award.  Two of InDigEnt's (the digital production company that produces $300,000 features) lesser known features, "Sorry, Haters" and "Land Of Plenty were also up for awards.  Read all the nominees:

Sundance Announces 2007 Festival Lineup

PARK CITY, Utah - Careers were made and dashed today as the Sundance Film Festival, the holy grail for American independent filmmakers announced their lineup for the 2007 edition to be held January 18-28.  Included in the 122 features are films from two Next Wave Films' filmmakers (Next Wave was the finishing funds company I was a principal at)--Judith Helfand's "Everything's Cool" and Amir Bar-Lev's "My Kid Could Paint That."  Several other filmmakers who got their start with no-budget features are back, including:  David Gordon Green ("George Washington") with "Snow Angels"; Andrew Wagner ("The Talent Given Us") with "Starting Out In The Evening"; Chris Smith ("American Job") with "The Pool"; Craig Brewer ("The Poor & Hungry") with "Black Snake Moan"; and John Carney ("Park") with "Once." 

2006 Nicholl Fellowship Winners Announced

LOS ANGELES - Five scripts were awarded the Dan and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, considered one of the premiere screenplay competitions in the world.  Each writer or writing team receives $30,000 and past Fellows include Susannah Grant ("Erin Brockovich"), Allison Anders ("Gas, Food, Lodging"), Mike Rich ("Finding Forrester") and Ehren Kruger ("The Ring").  Included in this year's winners is Josh Schorr, who attended No Budget Film School in July 2005, for his script "10 Day Contract". 

ON THE LOT Looking For A Few Good Filmmakers

LOS ANGELES - Fox TV's "On The Lot," a new reality show produced by Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett, is currently seeking filmmaker candidates for one of its 16 slots.  Candidates submit film work to the show's web site and viewers from around the world choose their favorites.  The 16 winning filmmakers then compete on the show, which starts airing Spring 2007, for a chance to win a $1 million dollar development deal at DreamWorks.  I have two words to say on the matter:  Project Greenlight.  Details can be found on their site:

Los Angeles Film-goers Treated To Cheap Art Films

LOS ANGELES - The Laemmle Fairfax quietly changed ownership recently and is now a second-run theater.  This might sound like bad news for LA indie film patrons, but it's actually great news.  While they are screening second-run studio movies for $3, they are also screening first-run art films for the same price!!  And all those films you wanted to catch at the Nuart, but couldn't make it to the one week they were playing? Check out the Regency Fairfax--they might be playing there for $3.  How long will this last? Who knows--get there before the lease runs out and it becomes a swap meet.


Joe Carnahan's newest feature "Smokin' Aces" is opening in theaters January 2007.  Also recently announced is his newest project, the remake of "Bunny Lake Is Missing" through Columbia Pictures.  "Bunny" will star Reese Witherspoon, who is also onboard as a producer.  Carnahan was a speaker in the most recent No Budget Film School class.  In addition to giving the lowdown on his breakthrough no-budget feature "Blood Guts Bullets and Octane," he also regaled the class with his experiences working in the studio system, including the 15 months he spent attached to direct "Mission Impossible 3."  He also told the story about his brother Matthew Carnahan's new script, "Lions For Lambs," advising students to retain the rights to their work.  Matthew wrote "Lions" on spec, rather than pitching to the studio and getting paid to write it.  Because he owned the script, he could control who made it and how.  Since the class it was announced that "Lions" will be the first film made by Tom Cruise's revived United Artists label, and will be directed by Robert Redford and produced, of course, by Matthew Carnahan.

Warner Brothers has hired director Chris Kentis and producer Laura Lau to develop "Indianapolis," a feature based on the tragic story of the WWII battleship U.S.S. Indianapolis which went down after delivering the atomic bomb.  Film buffs might remember the story from the famous scene in "Jaws," where Quinn recounts the horror of sailors being eaten by sharks waiting for help to arrive, ("So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb...").  Kentis and Lau should be well equipped to tell this story--their $150,000 feature "Open Water" dealt with a couple left behind by their diving boat, to face a similar fate.


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:


This e-mail publication is intended for subscribers only. However, we encourage you to forward it. We grant you permission to re-publish and further distribute this message in its complete form only.

The fact that you are receiving this email probably means that you signed up to receive the No Budget Newsletter at some point. If you would like to unsubscribe, please reply with the word UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line of your email.

An e-mail confirmation will be sent when you are officially removed from the Newsletter mailing list. If you experience difficulty unsubscribing or you're interested in changing e-mail addresses, please send your request to:

No Budget Newsletter Issue #3