LOW BUDGET TIPS: Ed Burns on How To Make a Movie for $9,000

When it comes getting things done, Ed Burns is a man worth listening to. In a recent article at THE DAILY BEAST, Burns discussed his views on the changing face of film.

“Sixteen years ago as a film student at Hunter College, I made my first movie—The Brothers McMullen. While film technology has made rapid leaps and bounds since then—I shot my most recent film on a Canon 5D—the method of exhibiting indie films theatrically has seen little change over the years, and it is still as difficult as ever for independent filmmakers to reach a sizable audience in movie theaters.”

But that hasn’t stopped him from turning out a stream of successful projects. What’s more, Burns routinely discusses his approach to developing passion projects and overcoming technical and budgetary hurdles. His twitter feed is littered with little gems of wonderfully refreshing advice. And this is a guy who should know. 6 of his 10 feature films have premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. His latest film, Newlyweds, was the 2011 Tribeca closing night film.

Recently, he detailed his process for low-budget guerrilla-style filmmaking in and around New York.

“Sound is important but don’t let it slow you down. The Italian Neo-realists didn’t and they made some pretty great films…. No disrespect to sound men and women, but on these shooting schedules (12 days) you can’t be precious. When I have a budget, I have respect.”

What about gear? Well, it turns out he doesn’t use very much. For Newlyweds, Burns shot entirely on the Canon 5D MKII and a few lenses he bought at B&H in Manhattan. He kept his lighting simple by using available light whenever possible. When that wasn’t adequate, he used a china ball. For Burns, keeping it simple is the name of the game.

He breaks down the budget for his latest project, Newlyweds, like this:

“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.”

Do yourself a favor and follow him on Twitter. Then, check out this great video blog post where he chats about his approach to making a great film on a micro-budget.

Sometimes hearing it from someone who’s ‘made it’ is all it takes to make us realize that it’s all far less complicated than we think. Keep that in mind as you kickstart your next project.

Shoot first,
- Clint



2 Comments

  1. Aaron wrote:

    How can you discuss making any kind of film and not discuss the importance of sound and to make sure you budget 5-10% of your overall budget to the sound. Good luck having a proper project with no Production sound editing and no mix, not to mention all the other things editors/mixers do. If you didn’t pay for sound, it wasn’t done right.

    • Clint wrote:

      I completely agree – I think Ed was just trying to say, ‘If you don’t have the resources for a sound guy and all the right gear, make do with what you’ve got and shoot anyway.’

      A lot of people get hung up on not having the ‘perfect’ equipment and as a result they never make forward progress. The key is to keep churning out work improving as you go. Having said that, I am a big believer in getting the best sound you can afford – after all, it is half the experience. :)

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