Use this graphic to navigate your film to The LES Film Festival 2012
Graphic designed by LES Creative Director, Roxy Hunt
So here’s the deal… the LES film festival only accepts films that are made for $200,000 or less. With that small of a budget you are going to have trouble securing the following: amazing special effects, expensive locations, A-List Celebrities, and a stellar montage where everyone is throwing cash at strippers who are grinding up on the hood of a Bentley and dousing themselves in Cristal.
What you do have at your disposal is great writing. Guess what – great writing is free and that’s what interests us most! That’s why we created this festival! A good story is a good story. Period. The only thing that will mess it up is bad acting…. well that and bad directing and editing. So let’s start with that. Great Writing!!!
WRITING & SPECIAL EFFECTS
Write a story that you can actually pull off on your budget! Your bedroom will never pass as a battleship and downtown Cleveland will never be Paris. It just won’t. As valiant as the effort may be, it is most likely not feasible without a good chunk of money.
No genre is off limits, but be honest with yourself and be realistic. You CAN make a sci-fi or horror film on a low budget… Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch, etc… You can! YOU CAN! What made these movies successful is what they managed without the special effects! The horror and suspense was in the script. It came from there!
With $30,000 you most likely will not be able to recreate the battle scene in Pearl Harbor and your mother dressed as an alien with a tin foil hat on may not be the most convincing of characters. Sexy yes, but convincing…no! Working with little money means the story has to be STRONG and you’ve got to do some problem solving to make your story fit your budget.
Wow. Seriously WOW. Where to begin. There are a lot of actors out there. There are a lot of bad actors out there. Have a discerning eye. Have 3 pairs of discerning eyes and a fourth pair outside the door waiting to be called in at a moments notice!!! Stay hydrated. If you’re not feeling it in the audition, in your gut, then keep on looking. Don’t cave in. Search and search and search until you’ve found the right person. You’ll know it!
Bad acting can drag down a great script. Even if the production value is amazing and the writing and directing are superb, a bad lead can be the kiss of death and make your stellar film unwatchable. Also, if you’re not a good actor, don’t cast yourself in your film. Only cast yourself if you truly believe that only YOU can do the film justice, and don’t cast your friends just because they are your friends! They might be great friends but they also might suck as actors. Cast age appropriate. A forty year old pretending to be in 6th grade doesn’t work. Even if you give her pig tails and a pink composition book. Maybe try giving her a Wizards of Waverly Place backpack?
On the flip side, a great actor can really elevate your script and make it hard for us to take our eyes off the screen. Actors shouldn’t look like they are acting. *Crying a lot and screaming does not equal good acting.*
If you are not a good editor, find someone that is. Bad editing will ruin your film. There are lots and lots of people out there that are looking to collaborate and would be happy to have a project to work on. Place an ad on Craigslist, join a film tracking board, do SOMETHING to get an editor who knows what they are doing. There are many editors fresh from graduation who are talented and looking to meet people and looking to build their resume. You may meet a great friend and future collaborator. You may even meet your next love! There is absolutely nothing hotter than an editing suite after hours with the hum of your FCP system in the background. Nothing.
CAMERA, SOUND, and MUSIC
If we can’t see what you’re trying to show us, it makes it impossible for us to watch your movie.
If you don’t have good sound, if we’re straining to hear what you’re trying to tell us, it makes it impossible for us to watch your movie.
Music. Music can make a movie soar, but it can also drag it down and destroy it. Use music when necessary and use GOOD music. Don’t just repeat the same chord from your keyboard over and over again every 5 seconds. Find local musicians. It’s great exposure for them and you can probably get it for free. Just make sure to have a release form and give them a little percentage on the back end in case the film is a run away hit.
Add up all of the above and you’ve done a lot of great directing. Make strong choices. Make bold choices. Surround yourself with people you trust and who will tell you the truth.
We have everything from drama to comedy, animation to experimental in our festival. Good is good. No matter what genre it is. Just be realistic. What all the films do have in common, though, is a clear vision. Something that pulls you in. Conflict. Tension. That type of suspense that makes you want to keep watching. These elements don’t cost any money.
So that’s it folks! These are just a few of our tips for making a good film and a great low budget film. We’ve seen some amazing work that has been submitted this year and are so excited to share it all! Think of the low budget as a great challenge to getting even more creative and to work on making your script even that much better. We believe in you!
Damon and Shannon