5 Tips For Making Your First Micro Budget Feature Film – Jack Peterson

5 Tips For Making Your First Micro Budget Feature Film – Jack Peterson


What’s up? This is Jack Peterson. I recently finished my first feature film
which is called SAWGRASS and I’m making this video at the request of Film Courage. So this is just going to be 5 tips for your
first micro budget feature film. Tip #1 – Put In The Work: To tip number one is basically put in the
work. Don’t be lazy and basically it takes a long
time to finish these things. From the time I came up for the idea of SAWGRASS
to the time I finished it was basically three years. So it takes a significant amount of time and
energy and focus to actually finish a full-length film. SAWGRASS was 89-minutes long and like I said
it took 3 years from inception to completion so it’s not easy. Even if you make something relatively short
like I did it’s still going to take a long time. I feel like my second feature film might be
a little bit of a smoother process now that I have some experience and now that I know
what it takes to complete something but still it’s a really arduous process. You can’t be lazy and you have to put in
the work even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you are having a bad day, it’s just
required if you actually want to finish something. There are a lot of people that start a film
or a novel or an album (whatever the case may be) and it never gets done pretty much
because they don’t have the discipline to see it through. So that’s pretty much the most important
thing in this section is just to put in the work and actually try and finish the film
instead of starting and stopping and starting again a year later because if you are not
focused it’s never going to get done. Tip #2 – Scale Back If Necessary: When I initially finished the script for SAWGRASS
it was like 93-pages long and it was super-ambitious and it had all kinds of live action scenes
that I was going to film and all of these extensive special effects sequences that I
had no idea how I was going to accomplish. I had this naive idea that I’d be able to
raise financing for this crazy thing without any prior experience. To be honest I didn’t really pursue financing
too much because I quickly realized it was not going to work. So I decided I would scale back and do something
small. So I pretty much did a small micro-budget
version of the same script. I scaled back a lot of things and I changed
a lot of the elements around and made it more…well I put more documentary elements in it and
I did a lot of animation rather than live action special effects so I simplified it
and kept the core of what it was. I scaled it back so I could actually do it
on the budget that I had. And as far as what the budget actually was
it was so small that I didn’t actually even count it. I just spent money as I needed to. So it might have been a few thousand dollars. But regardless it was probably smaller than
what it would have been if I had tried to accomplish the original script so just tried
to scale back if required. If you can get a lot of money your first go-around,
that’s cool. Most people won’t so just try and do something
that you can feasibly finish with the budget that you are working with. Tip #3: Don’t Be Afraid To Reach Out: Pretty much what this means is if there is
somebody you want to work with or if you have a question for somebody that you are really
inspired by don’t be afraid to reach out to them in some way whether that is on Twitter
or email or even a phone call which is basically what I did. So when I first finished the script for this
thing I was trying to get anybody I could to just read it, that I admired who could
give me some actual feedback. The first person I called was actually Bob
Odenkirk (from BREAKING BAD and BETTER CALL SAUL). And I just cold called him out of the blue. And at first he was like “Who the heck are
you?” basically and I explained who I was, what
I was doing and the film I was making. He politely told me that he didn’t have
time to read scripts but he talked to me for 20 minutes and gave me tons of useful career
advice and tons of information on how to finish a film and what I should do going forward
and he gave me a lot of motivation that was really valuable in actually finishing the
film. So does Bob Odenkirk remember me a year later
or whatever it is? Probably not. But the fact that I spoke to him and got all
of that information from him is part of the reason that the film is actually completed
now. Another guy I cold called at one point was
a guy named Ken Levine who is the creator of BIOSHOCK and he’s a really good writer. So I talked to him and he gave me similarly
tons of good advice and inspiration. And a lot of motivation to actually finish
something. He gave me feedback on a short film I made
which was super valuable and really amazing to get something like that from someone I
admire. So never be afraid to reach out to someone. The worst they will do is tell you that they
can’t help you. They are not going to be mean to you. I’ve never once had someone that I cold
called insult me or tell me off because I called them. Most people just want to help so always feel
free to reach out to anyone that you want to work with or want advice from (whatever). That is how I got Erick Paddock the brother
of the Vegas to help with my movie and I was able to interview him for the movie and it
was great and it was all just because I reached out to him. So that’s a really valuable thing to learn
is that there is no one that you can’t cold call or email if you really want to. Tip #4 – Don’t Worry About Film Festivals
and Distribution: I think a lot of people probably disagree
with this but I’ve seen a million people make a micro-budget feature films (especially
their first ones) and they submit to a ton of festivals, they basically don’t get into
any and then they try to get a distribution deal and sometimes they do. Like I was talking to a girl recently who
found some obscure distributor that put her movie on VOD basically and she has made zero
money back from that and probably no one has seen the film to be honest with you. I really doubt that anyone is going to pay
$5.00 to see some movie by a no-named filmmaker with no-name actors in it so I would highly
recommend that you put your work out for free early on and then later on down the road you
can start charging for it or move on to bigger things. But when you’re starting out you have to
put out free samples and if people like it they will help you fund a bigger project next
time. But yes, don’t worry too much about film
festivals and distribution deals and all of that stuff because in the end what really
matters at first is developing yourself as a filmmaker. Tip #5 – Consider It A Long-Term Investment This basically ties into my point about not
worrying about film festivals and distribution because there are some filmmakers who take
10 or 15 years before ever making any money off of their film. So that’s a common story and it could happen
to you. So you can’t give up. You just have to keep making films. The truth is most filmmakers never even go
on to make one feature film and most of the filmmakers who make one feature film, never
make a second feature film. So it’s just about getting past that and
continuing to make films despite the lack of visible progress. It’s not something that happens overnight. You have to work it up over time. My second feature film is a little bit more
ambitious. I’m going to try and raise more money this
time. And then my third film after that will probably
be even more ambitious. So it’s just something that takes a long
time to achieve basically. So you have to look at it long term. Those are my five tips so hopefully somebody
finds this video useful. Thanks again to Film Courage.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

13 Comments

  1. Here's my summary:
    Jack Peterson's tips for first time filmmakers
    1. Don't be lazy. Discipline to put in the work will see you through, although it can be three years from start to finish.
    2. Scale back if necessary. The original script may need to be scaled back, i.e., cheaper effects, unless you have good financing available.
    3. Don't be afraid to reach out, even via cold calls. Most people really do want to help and may participate in the project or give valuable advice.
    4. Don't worry about festivals and distribution. Some distribution deals will not get you, the filmmaker, any money, and may not get you the exposure either. You may as well put it out for free rather than take that deal. Your goal needs to be developing yourself as a filmmaker.
    5. Consider this a long-term investment.
    It may take 10 to 15 years to be financially successful. Many aspiring filmmakers fail to make one feature, and many others fail to make two, so stay in the game.

  2. my 2nd feature took 4 and 1/2 yrs. to finish and it's a good ,original movie .nothing more, nothing less and stars Debbie rochon.good.solid advice but if you release it for free then how can you make money for it down the road?another important question is why do there always have to be famous people? i.e. stars.everyone has to start somewhere and Americans aren't very artsy or don't search anything truly independent.they'd rather watch all the mainstream mediocrity.most people instead of making up their own minds won't see something unless someone tells them they must see this!I also submitted to 52 film festivals and didn't get into one as they just want something, political,has diversity and they (festivals) aren't looking for new talent, only established talent.even the smallest festivals today are celebrity fests.so much for what the elite call the "underdog".it's a monopoly!

  3. "Live OutSide The Box…Not Think" aka DownSize, Find ways 2 Generate Your Own $ First So U Can Creatively Express YourSelf w/out Compromise…Once You Focus & Accomplish "Financial Independence"…The SelfMotivation or Discipline will B "Self-Actualized" đź’Ż

  4. Thank you so much for the 5 tips, I know all of the work, money and time you have invested into your feature will pay off!

  5. Excellent advice and realistic. Whether you make a profit or not on you first feature length film, one thing is certain: you made your first feature length film! The first and most important hurdle. That is a massive CREDENTIAL. That’s a good first item on a resume, and it says a lot…vision, tenacity, flexibility, follow through, EXPERIENCE. Thanks for this!

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