Mark Duplass on How To Spend Your Budget on a $1,000 Feature Film


Mark Duplass packed his SXSW Keynote Speech with tips I wish I had heard sooner. After his advice on how to handle the ‘this is no good’ voice, I’ve decided to share his tips on how to use your $1,000 budget to make a feature film

In case you still haven’t seen the talk, here is the overall direction Duplass advices aspiring filmmakers without connections or a hidden fortune to take:


During the Q&A, someone asked Duplass to explain how he decided on what to spend the said $1,000, which is, in no way, a sufficient amount of money to make a feature. Here is what Duplass says:

[pullquote]And you should have designed the aesthetic of the movie so that it doesn’t feel like less than a $200,000 movie but it feels squarely like a $1,000 movie.[/pullquote]

It’s not an empirical number, it depends of the city you live in and the scope of your story. But when I think about that movie, it’s doing a couple of things.

Borrowing recycled hard drive from people. Getting the uncompressed app on your iPhone. Most of it is food and you really want someone who can cook. I recommend having your editor be the ‘DIT’ person who takes the Media in – and they have a lot of downtime, so you have them help you light, and you have them cook.

And you should be having a crew that’s really, really small. And you should have designed the aesthetic of the movie so that it doesn’t feel like less than a $200,000 movie but it feels squarely like a $1,000 movie. i.e. handheld, i.e. rough lighting for a reason.

So that money should be mostly spent on food and then you are going to spend that on festival applications.

I should add here that Duplass had mentioned earlier in his talk buying camera and other necessities at Best Buy and other massive chains, and using the 30 days refund policy to give them back after the shooting. This is obviously something that doesn’t work in most countries where the Customer is not King, but if you are in the U.S., it’s a way to wave some of your biggest expenses. (Assuming you don’t already have equipment)

Another point Duplass made was about being in L.A. versus being in your hometown, wherever that is.

There is a moment when it is helpful to be in L.A. It is so much better for you to keep making your stuff in a small town while you’re still finding out who you are, because your rent is going to be $265 a month, you’re going to get support from the pharmacist when you’re wanting to shoot in the Pharmacy because your dad knows him.

I really think it’s very very tough to make independent films in L.A. Unless you kind of have a name, or something to offer them, they will just be like ‘get out of my face’ basically.”

This is another key element to help you make your film for cheap. Being from a small town can become an asset, especially when you’re broke. Los Angeles is particularly ruthless because everybody wants to make films there, so little is free and stakes always feel higher.

And for a full recap on everything Duplass said, it’s right below (watch it!):