I finally found out how he does it. The ultimate indie-actor-turned-director Edward Burns had me scratching my head for a while. I mean the man is currently promoting yet another feature film made for next to nothing, starring, written and directed by himself. Tweets like this were just blasphemy.
“Newlyweds shooting budget: 5k for actors, 2k insurance, 2k food and drink. 9k in the can. We only shot 12 days. That’s how to make an independent film.” – Ed Burns via Twitter
So I did what I always do – I went to Google the truth. It took some sifting through articles like “Ed Burns cranks out film for just $9,000” and “Ed Burns Shoots a $9,000 Feature with his 5D“and browsing the guy’s tweets but I got my “ah-ha!” moment after all. Cue drumroll, please.
“The film, which is his 10th as a writer-director, cost just $9,000 to shoot on location in Manhattan, though the final budget, after postproduction costs, was closer to $125,000.” – Ed Burns in Chicago Tribune
So what did I learn today? Aspiring to shoot a feature is not a completely far-fetched idea with a tight script, today’s technology and a kickass crew. If it’s gonna cost me 9 grand to bring my dream indie to life, I can sleep at night. However, when I read that Burns’ budget exploded from 9k to $125,000, I have to pick my mouth up off the floor. Now all of the Kickstarters’ that launch a month before major film festival make so much more sense. Picture and sound editing, color correction, digital transfers lab and music rights/composer costs ADD UP. And don’t even get me started on marketing and distribution costs.
Once the shock wore off, I went back to Googling. I’m fully aware that as a Black, female first-time filmmaker, there are a plethora of grants available if one brings a quality application package to the table. The problem, or better yet, the challenge is that many of these organization receive hundreds of submissions because there’s only so much to go around and way too many filmmakers strapped for cash. How can you stand out among the many? Come to the application with a film you’ve already shot. It may be so messy that you can’t even look at it or just have some loose threads, but at least the decisions makers will have the chance to see some semblance of your amazing story. In following the footsteps of a game-changer like Ed Burns, do whatever you have to do to get your movie in the can. If you can just get past that hurdle, PLEASE let someone else pick up the post-production tab. I leave you with three organizations that offer grants/programs specifically for filmmakers of different backgrounds.
IFP Narrative Lab
“year-long fellowship supporting independent filmmakers through the completion, marketing, and distribution of their first features.” Structured in three week-long components held over the year, the Labs offer personalized attention on post-production, audience building, and distribution strategies in the digital age, followed by continued support from IFP as the project premieres in the marketplace.
2012 Deadlines: March 9 (Documentary) / April 6 (Narrative)
The Women in Film Foundation’s Film Finishing Fund Filmmakers
“Supports films by, for or about women by providing cash grants of up to $15,000 and in-kind services.” In order to apply for a FFF grant, a filmmaker must have completed principal photography and a rough cut at the time of application.
Early Deadline: Monday, April 30
(Application Fee for WIF members: $50; for non-members: $75)
Final Deadline: Friday, May 18
(Application Fee for all applicants: $100)
Filmmakers from Under-represented communities:
Tribeca All Access (TAA) is a year-round networking and career development program of the Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) that supports the work of directors and screenwriters from traditionally under-represented communities within the industry. TAA will provide grants of $10, 000 to ten exceptional filmmakers working in narrative and documentary film. Selected participants will be offered one-on-one meetings with key industry players, targeted networking events, dedicated panels and comprehensive workshops during the Tribeca Film Festival.
2012 Deadlines: not open for submission yet (2011 submission period was from August to October); $25.00 USD entry fee