The bare minimum for making a whorthwhile film?

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  • #170298

      If you were making a film, and starting from zero, what is the minimum across the board, that might enable the creation of a worthwhile film?

      So for example, one set or two? One actor or two, or three? An iPhone or would it have to be a better camera? One lens? One light, no lights? Crew? Just a cameraman/DP and audio recorder? Etc. But then what about length of script, is a 2 minute film interesting or does that sound too limiting, is a 10 minute film better or is it only worthwhile if it’s a feature?

      A follow up to this is, what is worth prioritizing and putting extra money toward? For example, you might have your bare minimum situation, but then if you have a set designer on board, or a certain camera, or a certain lighting rig for your set, then you can make something really worthwhile perhaps?

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    • #170304

        You are trying to build the house from the roof.

        First and foremost you need a story.

        No story, no movie.

        It will be the story that answers all of your questions: how many actors? How many  Sets? How big of a Crew? Which  Camera? What Grip needed?

        What you need to prioritize?
        The story.



          If you haven’t go watch Sidney Lumet. And if you want to decimate it to the essence, watch Fail Safe. Two actors Henry Fonda and Larry Hagman) and a phone. Riveting.


          But as mentioned above, story. A good story on 16mm reversal could be an enduring masterpiece, while a bad story on 70mm could a horror you forget a minute after you walk out on it.


            I don’t believe a longer film generally means a better film, nor a feature film being classified as ‘worthwhile’ because of its extended period of time.

            First you’d have to develop a story and see where that takes you, but I think you’re prioritising looks over substance. Just because you have a great set designer, camera or lighting rig doesn’t mean your short/feature film will be a masterpiece.

            I’d really encourage you to watch David Sandberg’s <i>Lights Out</i>, its an amazing and thrilling 3min short horror film. Of course your short film might differ from his, but nonetheless, it was shot on two rooms, with an IKEA lamp, a strong bulb and a redhead.


              The less you have, the more important the quality of the story.

              If you have extra money, put it in talented people, proper catering and solid sound. A worthwhile film can be done without any film lights or cinema camera if you’ve got the minds for creative solutions.

              Limitation propels creativity.

              If you start at zero, there’ll be limitations every minute of your way, so you want the right people on your side to make maximum use of these limitations. Good catering because bodies and minds must be fueled. Good sound because that’s the only thing the audience will not forgive if it’s bad.


                I have made a 15 minutes short film last year with almost no budget. As challenging as it was, it was surely a great learning experience and I was overall satisfied with the final result.

                Making a movie on these terms it’s surely possible, but I think it’s important to
                1) be creative and open to changes, as you’ll most likely deal with a tight schedule and restraining location rules;
                2) be reasonable with the final result. Not by making a bad film on purpose, but by understanding the limits of your gear and crew. As talented as you are, it is unrealistic to aim for an Alexa look while shooting with a DSLR;
                3) and be able to assemble a crew of people sharing the same passion. Instead of asking for a favor, it is nice to look for people who have something to gain from that experience even when you don’t have a lot to pay them. They could be looking for set experience, for adding a specific type of project to the portfolio. Win-Win situations are based on trust and sincerity.

                Anyway, if I had extra budget for the short film I’ve mentioned, I would most likely use it to rent a better camera (it was filmed using a DSLR) and/or pay for better post producton (specially coloring).


                  Why don’t you down it and let the members have a look.
                  We are interested, that’s all.


                    @gianniranzuglia Thanks for recommending Lights Out, I’ve heard David Sandberg’s name a few times but never saw his film. It’s so good! Great use of sound, and all very simple. Simple and concentrated seems to be key. It’s like reducing boiling a broth down to a thick and potent gravy.

                    I will watch that! Sidney Lumet’s book is great.

                    Good advice!

                    Thanks for sharing your experience. I’d love to see your film if you are able to drop a link.


                      Here’s the link. English subtitles are available too.

                      If I’m not mistaken, our total budget was around 150 dollars.
                      Feedbacks are more than welcome! 🙂

                      Al Duffield

                        As many have said, the “bare minimum” for a narrative film at least is a good script. Without a script of a story worth telling the film won’t be “worthwhile”. And obviously for it to be a film you need a camera.

                        You could also make a film without a script, I’ve watched many an engaging documentary, but the story, the story is always worth telling.

                        Al Duffield

                          Actually saying that, you don’t even need a camera to make a film. Animation is also a form of film and you generate that entirely in a computer.


                            @bscofano88 Look forward to watching this!

                            I actually made a short a couple of years ago that was completely bare bones, just me with the help of my girlfriend. Although it needs editing down, I actually liked how it came out, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I’m very glad I made it, but it felt too basic. So I two years later I’m still trying to develop scripts, and think about what I can do with little resources that can be entered into a film festival or something…? It’s challenging, and time goes quick! But Andy Sandberg is very inspiring.

                            Yes, very true!

                            Here’s a link to the film if you feel like watching it. Some of the beginning is what I plan to edit out, it gets better! (I hope) 🙂



                              A film is usually a collaborative process.

                              It embraces lots of different languages and it’s hard for just someone to manage all of them in a deep and creative way. At least at the beginning.

                              Focus on one aspect and master it. Maybe it’s writing what you really like? Maybe it’s cinematography? Maybe it’s the recreation of a world (art department)?

                              It‘s true a director needs to know a bit of everything but still most of them just focus on one aspect mainly and delegate the rest to their teams.

                              If you focus on one aspect you will find the resources you need to develop your craft, as specific courses, specific books, specific advice by professionals even specific competitions and awards. The 1-man do it all doesn’t exist on a professional level.

                              Also, this is a forum on Roger Deakins website so most people here would have a clear tendency on focus their creativity to the creation of moving images.



                                Considering this short was made for $150.00, it was rather good infact I should say excellent. Superb lighting and camera work imo, good acting and sensitive Direction. Sound effects and music track was above average, sound recording was noticeably very clean (I listened with reference headphones) I was very impressed.  Editing too was precise. A lot of thought has gone into this production particularly when prepping and rehearsing. It has certainly paid off.

                                Certainly worthy of showing in a cinema or even as a TV continuity price.


                                  Hey Mike,

                                  Thanks for taking the time to watch the film and also for writing such a candid feedback.

                                  I read the forum almost daily and the community has taught me a lot, even if you guys are not aware of it. 🙂

                                  Looking forward to sharing more films in the future here and to seeing films from other fellow members too.

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