MAKING A MICRO BUDGET FILM
Sometimes people are surprised that we managed to make Black Pond for £25,000. There's nothing very surprising to say about it really - we had a small crew, filmed quickly in a limited number of free locations, and the directors did a lot of jobs themselves.
A good story and characters don't cost anything - so the size of the budget doesn't have any effect on how good the film will be. But if you're still curious, here are the answers to the questions we're asked most often about filmmaking and the technical side of Black Pond.
How long did it take to make the film?
Writing and pre production took six months. The main scenes were filmed in three weeks, and the documentary sections were filmed over four days a few weeks afterwards. Post production took six months. It took six months to get the film out into cinemas, and another six months to sort out the DVD. All in all, a bit over two years.
How many people were in the crew?
Four. Two people on camera, and two on sound. We couldn't afford to employ, feed, or house anyone else. So we didn't have anyone being assistant directors, or runners, or art department, or wardrobe, or hair and make-up, or stills photographers, or B camera, or playback, or assistant producers, or casting directors, or accountants, or lawyers. This wasn't that much of a problem really - but if we were making the film again, we'd definitely have runners and an assistant producer and an accountant. That'd be great.
What camera was Black Pond filmed on?
Two thirds of it was shot on a big heavy digital camera - the Sony PMW-350 with prime lenses. The rest was shot on Canon 7Ds. We dropped one of them in the swimming pool by mistake, but luckily it dried out 24 hours later.
How much was spent on post production?
Roughly a thousand pounds, which covered the professional sound mix and replaced the two hard drives that broke during editing. Everything else was done for free. The editing, grading, animations and special effects were done on our laptops. We used Final Cut to edit, After Effects and Photoshop for effects, and Magic Bullet for colour correction. We took our laptops into a grading suite to see how different our screens looked to a proper colour correction set-up. They looked exactly the same, so we didn't bother to hire a grading suite.
How much was spent on publicity and distribution?
Nothing. We organised all the press, marketing and distribution by themselves. The plus side is that we own the rights and had complete control over how the film was marketed. The minus side is that it's a lot of work.
How did you find the contact details for journalists?
Twitter, newspaper sites, and a bit of googling. We spent over six months building up a list of contacts - it's a lot of trial and error. Most people never got back to us, but the ones that did get in touch were motivated by the trailer, the cast, and the early reviews we managed to get at festivals. Journalists are very busy and you can't just ask them out of the blue.
Where did the money come from?
The UK government's EIS scheme was a good incentive for investors. The initial budget was raised by writing hundreds of letters and emails to companies and private individuals. Lots of generous people contributed - they're listed in the credits on the extremely long Thanks list. The original budget was £19,000 - when it spiralled out of control to £25,000, the excess was covered by Will and Tom, who had been saving up for three years from their day jobs to allow themselves to get time off work to make the film.
Was everyone paid?
Yes. We just kept the cast and crew to a minimum. The only people to be exploited were us (Will and Tom) because we didn't pay ourselves for directing / writing / filming / animating / grading / cooking / editing / producing / publicising or distributing
How much was spent on cast, crew and equipment?
Roughly a third was spent on the cast, a third on the crew, a quarter on camera + lights, and then the rest was on food and petrol. We used a wheelchair for a dolly, didn't use any lights that needed a generator, and bought the cheapest cheese from the cash and carry.
How did you learn about filmmaking?
We didn't go to film school. We think films are very practical and unpredictable things, so the best way to learn is to go out and make cheap ones yourself. The first step was writing and directing plays together at university. Since then, Will has been acting on stage and TV, while Tom worked his way up to being a director and editor on music videos and commercials.
How did you learn how to do all the technical and marketing stuff?
Trial and error, and a lot of googling.
How do you get into the film industry?
We're still not in the film industry! It's a bit of a mystery. We're not sure how helpful the film industry really is though. Collectively it seems to be quite slow and cautious, which doesn't make for great films. We'd probably say that you shouldn't have the goal of getting into the film industry - your goal should be to make films! That's the really important thing. And you can make films without being part of the film industry.