Friday, May 21, 2010

Rant: ultra-low-budget movies

I have a fondness for ultra-low-budget movies.
Prime examples:
Blair Witch Project - Actors, with just camping equipment and mundane audio/video equipment (which was part of the story), were actually sent into the woods for 5 days, and were given cryptic directions they would find on scraps of paper lying in their path. They really did get tired, dirty, stressed & scared.
Cube - Aside from a handful of simple digital effects shots, the entire film was shot in a 10’ cube. Change of “location” was achieved by color filters on lights.
El Mariachi - Made for $7000, raised by the director/producer submitting to paid medical experimentation. Lighting was just two cheap lamps cleverly arranged. Extras included two local hostile-to-the-production talk-show hosts won over by giving them cameos. DVD includes fascinating 10-minute lesson on cutting corners.
Done right, the viewer has no clue there was practically no budget – because the story, directing and acting were right.
El Mariachi’s director, Robert Rodriguez, went on to become a major Hollywood player. He still does all post-production work in his garage.
All too often, when you pare a big-budget production down to the story and its truth, there’s nothing there to convey. If you don’t have a story to tell, but have to tell one, money can still buy fame.
I’d love to do a series of shorts that take the start of blockbuster movies, then apply a moment of realism which abruptly cuts the film short. There’s a 007 film that starts where Bond jumps off a cliff to freefall into an uncontrolled airplane, then a long blind pause reveals he has succeeded in catching up & taking control before it crashes; I’d edit in a fireball, then roll credits (backed by a slow zoom in on a dark smear on the canyon floor). Likewise a slasher movie where the first would-be victim grabs a 12-gauge, performs the indicated response, then resumes the night of fun & frolic with the others.
Edit: xkcd wins...

Tangent to the tangent:
The high point of Executive Decision was 20 minutes in, where a big-name actor abruptly falls out of a plane and is not seen again.

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