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The no budget film festival starter kit

by Blake Robbins

What makes me the person to write such a starter kit? Nothing, but my no budget film The Sublime and Beautiful just had its world premiere at Slamdance and has since been programmed at film festivals in Cleveland, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Charleston… with requests for screeners from about 20 more festivals from all over the world.

Here’s the thing: If I can do it, you can too and here are 6 thoughts to get you started:

1. Don’t buy into the myth.

One of hollywood’s biggest myths is that films cost a lot of money. The contract for the SAG ultra low budget is for films that cost under $250,000. That is a huge sum of money to the average person, and  it makes it seem that even the smallest film is prohibitively expense. They don’t have to be. They can be made for less than the cost of a used car. Many of today’s leading filmmakers had to prove they could make a film to jump start their career – and more often than not they did so with no budget films. The examples are endless: Oren Peli, Christopher Nolan, Robert Rodriguez, Lynn Shelton, Joe Carnahan, Shane Carruth, Kevin Smith. Design your film to fit your lack of budget and learn to solve creative problems creatively not with money and you’ll be on your way (and I highly recommend Mark Stolaroff’s No Budget Film School).

2. When the boat leaves, make sure you have a ticket.

One of my favorite acting teachers, Thelma Carter, said: Be prepared for opportunity, do your work. I’ll broaden it to include the best advice I was given about making a no-budget movie: Pick your first day of filming and work back from there. Do not wait for the money, set the date and prepare to go. Once you pick this day, your schedule starts to fall into place and everyone involved, most importantly you, know it’s time buy a ticket because the boat is leaving.

3. Blow up the beach.

When asked about making movies today, Quentin Tarantino said (and I paraphrase) “they’re like waves on a beach, they just keep coming, one after another. My advice to filmmakers today is to blow up the fucking beach”. Once you’ve designed a film to fit your lack of resources, and you’ve picked your first day of production, it’s time to think like this. I’m proud to say that people mostly love or hate my film. Go out on a creative limb — touch, move and inspire — show the world something they haven’t seen before. These are the films that festivals and independent film lovers are craving more of. Don’t try and make a movie that appeals to everyone — don’t worry about that until Hollywood is giving you millions of dollars.

4. Let your crazy out.

As a working actor, I noticed on small films I shot with directors like Tenney Fairchild, Quentin Dupieux, and Kevin Willmott, among others… they each had their own unique brand of creative craziness and the people that collaborated with them had signed on for it. I realized I needed to let my crazy out too. But I did it my way, based on my skill set, my strengths and weakness, my passions, and you can too. Dig in and gain access to that creativity that’s deep within all of us. (Personal note: I’m not talking about being an asshole. The industry has plenty of those confused individuals, don’t be another one.)

5. Buy low, sell high.

One of the reasons I think my film turned out well is that I was able to see talent in people whether behind the camera or in front, then inspiring those people to collaborate with me. This is an essential skill set for a quality filmmaker. Know talent when you see it. There are many in Hollywood that are waiting for others to say whether something or someone is good. If you are your own tastemaker and trust your instincts, then you’ll have the ability to buy low and sell high.

6. Fail on your own terms.

I read this line while in pre-production for my film and it stuck with me. Making movies is a collaborative art form, and generally the best collaborators make the best films. If you can marry that with being willing to fail on your own terms, you are best prepared to go after your film. Whether it turns out good or not, you’ll be able to live with the results. It’s often said that the way to make a great movie is to make ten bad ones. If you’re making them with little or no money, but working with crazy talented people, blowing up the beach, and failing on your terms…. call me cause I’ll act in that movie anytime!!

Blake Robbins

About Blake Robbins

Blake Robbins is best known for playing Dave Brass from HBO's critically acclaimed series OZ, Tom Halpert (Jim's brother) from the hit comedy THE OFFICE, and most recently as Mitch Glender on FX's SONS OF ANARCHY. He's appeared in over 20 feature films that have played everywhere from Cannes, Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW, to Toronto. His feature film writing and directing debut THE SUBLIME AND BEAUTIFUL just had its world premiere at Slamdance. Please follow Blake Robbins on Twitter: @robbins_blake . Follow THE SUBLIME AND BEAUTIFUL on Facebook and Twitter

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