Remember Kevin Smith made Clerks for 20K?
Many times, art is created from nothing. Artists often create a piece of art out of minimal resources. Can we make films this way? Yes, of course, that’s what micro-budget or no-budget filmmaking is about. Almost fifteen years ago, Offender Justin and I canned Shopping for Fangs for 34K on 35mm. Now I’m producing Stanley Yung’s Chink, the first Asian American serial killer movie, for about the same money on the Red Epic. A couple days ago, we spent a whole day tech scouting and went through a 3 hour production meeting with a group of energetic youngsters almost just out of film school. After the 12-hour day, Koji Steven Sakai, the writer/producer, Stanley and I talked among ourselves.
“You got to get the people who want to get involved on this level,” said Koji. “People who really believe in the project.”
So if you have to make a micro-budget, no budget or highly artistic project out of no money or with the savings you have in the bank, what would you create?
ALFREDO: I’d make a documentary about “Happy Feet.” No, not the penguins. Happy Feet is a guy who comes through the line at the soup kitchen where I work. You hear him before you see him: he’s always singing 70’s soul songs by Parliament Funkadelic or Kool and the Gang, or early 80’s rap like Doug E. Fresh. He has a great voice, by the way. The other diners in line find him annoying, but everyone who works there looks forward to his arrival, because it just brightens your day. When he’s not singing, he’s dancing and talking a mile a minute, most often about the Subaru dealership (why Subaru?) he claims to own, as well as his brother’s stunning house in the Oakland hills, and all the “beautiful ladies” he chats up at Lake Merritt. He always rides a different bicycle, and, when it’s cold, wears a Berkeley High letterman jacket. I’m guessing he’s in his mid-40’s. As he grabs his tray of food, he always says, with a huge (some say coke-induced) smile on his face, “Happy people, you just can’t beat ‘em!” That’s his motto. And the title of the documentary I’d make.
DHH: If I were to make a micro-budget film, it’d have to be a labor of love, which for me would mean an original idea which I would direct in order to maintain artistic control. I’ve never yet chosen to try my hand at directing movies, but I might want to adapt one of my lesser-known plays: for instance, BONDAGE, a love story between an Asian man and a white woman, set in a San Fernando Valley S&M bondage parlor. Or maybe YELLOW FACE, my mockumentary play about an Asian American playwright named DHH, who accidentally casts a white actor as the Asian lead in his play, then pathetically tries to cover up his blunder to protect his reputation as an “Asian American role model.”
PHILIP: Since the budgets for the programming on our YouTube channel are already at micro-indie or maybe more sub-micro-indie levels, for the answer, you can just go to our channel here.
ROGER: I’m not sure what I’d create, but if I’m using the savings I have in my bank account, it would have to be something that made me laugh really, really hard – during writing, during shooting, and during editing. Basically, it would have to be something extraordinarily deep and meaningful and a true and raw expression of my point of view. But if I HAD TO create something RIGHT NOW, I’d concoct a “chase” or “treasure hunting” movie that would enable me to travel around the globe and shoot, guerilla style, through the streets of funky cities on every continent of Earth in 2 months or less. Cause if I’m going to blow my savings, I might as well knit my other passion into the whole process – travel.
BEVERLY: If I had my wits about me, I would have made a micro-film about my grandparents’ falling in love. My grandma on my mom’s side was in an arranged marriage in the Philippines, and since he was ‘employed by the United States Navy’ at the time of WWII and was on a naval ship most of the time (or in hiding), my grandmother told me the story of when she had to burn all his belongings and walk holding the hand of each one of her kids to the town central square and kneel and swear her loyalty to the Japanese forces that held her town. She never remarried after grandpa, calling him the ‘love of her life’. My grandpa and grandma on my dad’s side used to tell me stories of how they dated back in the 1930’s and the letters they’d receive from his brothers in America (sent to the US to take over the jobs from the Chinese and Japanese immigrants) who said that ‘Americans thought we were monkeys and that we had tails!” They found it all so funny and so ridiculous. They used to laugh when they told me stories. I look back on them and see these people who really worked to make their marriages work and I base all love stories on the strength of theirs. And then one by one, they died. And I never videotaped them or took pictures of them, or made a movie about them. And I miss them terribly now, because I missed the boat on that one.
JEROME: Thank you for all the ideas. For the record, I am definitely not taking them; retooling them slightly; and repackaging them for my own gain.
Most definitely not that.
EMMIE: You didn’t mention that it had to be film, so I’d do a project in a public setting. I’d go with something interactive that (ideally) brightens up someone’s day or intrigues them. Various examples: Berlin’s talking trash cans (2005), Improv Everywhere’s pranks, Andy Goldsworthy’s summer snowballs, The Fun Theory’s piano steps.
I’d love to construct a fairy tale forest for people to wander in, but that’s the opposite of micro-budget. Especially because I’d want to use real jewels and gold.