Classic Shoe-String Budget FilmsMarc Ehrenbold
Classic shoe-string budget films are a testament to ingenuity and dedication to the craft of film making.
The movies we have collected below are but some of the many Davids that have trounced the bumbling Goliaths of the film industry in terms of production values and box office earnings.
Some the films mentioned here were produced with a budget that cost as much as buying a used car, or a 70″ LED TV. Some signed on friends and relatives to play roles in their project. Being tied down by money constraints did not do the same to their creative genius. Let’s take a look at some of the best classic shoe-string budget films out there.
Before directing critically-acclaimed films such as The Prestige, Interstellar, Memento, and The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan came out with his 2006 directorial debut called Following, a British noir crime drama film with a measly budget of $6,000.
The production was designed in such a manner that costs were kept to a bare minimum in every way possible. His actors rehearsed scenes over and over to avoid retakes so they can economize on their 16 mm film stock, the film’s biggest investment and to which Nolan paid for with money from his own pocket.
He utilized whatever available light was at his disposal, being unable to even rent professional lighting equipment. Nolan also wore different hats, assisting in production and editing, including photographing the film.
With very limited resources and a cast and crew working full time jobs, they managed to finish the project in one full year. The film made $240,495 in the box office.
Primer is a 2004 sci-film about a scientist who stumbles upon inventing time travel. Written and directed by Shane Carruth ( a former engineer and mathematician), this indie flick had a budget of only $7,000. The movie was infused with an extremely experimental plot structure, a complex, technical dialogue, and a philosophical standpoint that made it appealingly controversial.
Funfact: Carruth wasn’t just the film’s writer and director, he also portrayed the lead role. In addition he was the film’s editor, producer, cinematographer, and music composer. He worked with a 5-man skeleton crew, and majority of his actors were family and friends. The film grossed $841,926 worldwide.
Blair Witch Project
Next item on our list of classic shoe-string budget films is one of the first horror movies that unleashed the “found camera style” of storytelling. Blair Witch Project was done with just a $60, 000 budget, but walked away with $249 M. It had such a cult following at the time that it spawned a less successful sequel and a 3-part video game series.
A break-away hit in 1992, Director Robert Rodriguez’s film debut only cost $7,000 to make but raked in $2 M at the box office. The movie was so underfunded that Rodriguez couldn’t afford second takes and he only had 20 days to shoot the film. The commercial success of the movie kick-started what is now called the Robert Rodriguez Mexico trilogy.
Director David Lynch had a very difficult time securing production funds for the project that it took 6 years to finally put it under wraps. Production was on and off, and was only on whenever Lynch had a budget to get with the shoot. Eraserhead only cost a paltry $10,000 to make but is estimated to have grossed over $7 million.
The Apu Trilogy
One of the most critically acclaimed no budget movies ever created was directed by Satyajit Ray. The first installment of the trilogy, Pather Panchali, was created by hiring an amateur cast and staff, and a budget of only $3,000. Pachali’s trilogy is now considered one of the greatest indie movies of all time.
We’re sure there’s more of these brilliant films out there. Comment with a good, successful indie movie or two that you know were made with a shoe-string budget
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