We have a Q&A today with a directing team experiencing a lot of success right now. Fresh off creating their latest low budget feature film, we speak to Jamison LoCascio and Adam Ambrosio.
Successful Low Budget Feature Film: Introduction
Producer Adam Ambrosio went to long time collaborator Director Jamison LoCascio to put together what would be LoCascio’s second feature film (after his award-wining thriller “the Depths”), an ambitious nuclear war drama entitled Sunset.
Ambrosio’s idea was first turned into a short film with the same name starring Liam Mitchell and Barbara Bleier and premiered on the filmmaking channel Film Valor, which Ambrosio and LoCascio run together on YouTube.
After the success of the short, great feedback and over 16,000 views, the pair decided they should tell the larger story and expand Sunset into a feature film.
With only a limited budget, 4 person crew and 12 days of shooting, Sunset has already become a major success for Film Valor. With distribution partner Eric Doctorow of Random Media and release by The Orchard and Sony Pictures on Amazon, iTunes, XBOX, DVD and more on July 3rd.
The film has gotten excellent reviews, is winning awards and seeing a great festival run. The film stars industry veteran Austin Pendleton (A Beautiful Mind) and you can watch the Sunset Feature Film Trailer here:
They have decided to share 5 Tips For Making Your Low-budget Feature Film Successful.
Note: We’ve abbreviated each filmmaker to initials for better readability as follows:
J – Jamison LoCascio (Director/writer)
A – Adam Ambrosio (Producer/writer)
Peppered throughout this article are stills from the production itself.
1. Plan Your Schedule Carefully
J – Average shooting schedules typically keep shoots to 5 pages a day…it is not possible to shoot a feature this way if you only have 12 days to shoot…or less. We always planned according to location (See more on point 3).
Always give yourself enough time to do complicated camera set-ups and when you have easier dialogue driven sequences, do as many scenes as you possibly can at that location.
There were times (several times) we shot 20 pages plus a day, mostly dialogue driven sequences but they came out great! Other sequences with complicated camera rigs were given much more time and also came out great.
This means you have to limit your number of takes too when scheduling this way but I think it is important to do less takes at more set-ups. A great cast is really necessary to do this, they will “be there” already and allow the process to go quickly and smoothly.
By the way, the moment you make a scene outdoor and at night…be ready to be there for a really long time. We only have one EXT night scene in Sunset, the beginning. It was all interior day or night.
A – Be mindful of performer’s schedules.
Also keep in mind that planning your schedule is beyond just camera set ups and getting performers ready…there is weather, light outside and other on set jobs with catering and food.
Also you need to keep in mind the SAG rules for performers if you go union (which we recommend).
2. Limit Your Crew
A – Don’t try to make the set look grand, you don’t need a lot of people around to make everything easier.
When more people are around it brings in a lot of extra questions or problems…it’s another person having a conversation that you don’t need to have.
As long as you could get the essential people such as Director, DP, Sound, Gaffer and someone around to do Slate, then you have your production crew.
J – We all wore a couple of different hats on this production and worked together well.
I not only directed but also recorded the sound, edited, scheduling and more. Adam was completely in charge of on set operations, SAG items, slate and a lot more.
Only 4 crew members total! Before and after production we all worked very hard on various tasks as a small but unified team.
3. Limit your locations but keep things interesting
J – We really only have two primary locations in Sunset, the two houses of our main characters. But that doesn’t mean we were limited to just a room or two.
We shot in all of the various rooms and places around these two different houses including outdoors (backyards, surrounding streets, etc.) to create a constant variation of environment for the audience. So really two locations was almost like 18 plus different environments and textures to keep the audience engaged and it didn’t cost anything extra.
As you can imagine, this was not expensive to shoot, but looked great. We also did aerial footage on a 4k drone to connect the different locations, add tension and excitement. The story concept made this work. And, to be clear, these choices were based on building the story.
4. Use SAG Actors
A – By having SAG actors, you have to adhere to the time sheets, which helps the scheduling out a lot because it gives you a structure of time. Because before you know it…one scene can take 3-4 hours and suddenly you’re in over-time.
This can clear your budget out. It’s a good idea to keep on schedule by using SAG actors, as they know that they also have a set schedule to go by.
J – Going off of Adam’s statement, these actors are professionals who come in to do work. They have the experience to give you what you need within a set window of time and that matters.
You can still pay SAG day rate and be very fair with your entire cast, whether they are SAG or not. One of our leads, David Johnson was not SAG but he had formal training as an actor and years of experience in major roles in both Theater and Television.
We worked with David before and trusted his ability. That really paid off for us, he was incredible and surrounded by other SAG professionals.
We got a great name like Austin Pendleton by finding passionate actors who started to tell people about our project (script) and when actors sing your praise, anything is possible!
5. Edit The Film Yourself
A – The editing process is a huge part. If the director can do it, do it. Your passion will translate. It makes more sense to me.
J – I edited the film and did the sound design myself and it was a very rewarding experience. I was really able to experiment with various elements of the film and try things!
There was no limits like you would have with an editor who is working on their own schedule. I was able to work on it any time I wanted to.
We shot the film in 4.5k on the Red Raven and I was concerned about processing that footage, but prior to making this film we had done a few short films on the RED for our YouTube channel Film Valor.
Where we shot in 4.5k and I edited with proxies and the process went well, so we said “lets be brave and shoot a feature this way then have me edit.” It was crazy but we really pulled it off.
Low Budget Feature Film – Summing Up
J – Check out our behind the scenes series on YouTube Film Valor and stay connected to us! Also see our first feature film “the Depths” starring Michael Rispoli out April 24th on Amazon, iTunes, Xbox, DVD and more.
A – And check out our film Sunset on July 3rd on Amazon, iTunes, XBOX, DVD and More!
Go make your movie!