Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mumblecore - Part 1

If you are waiting for someone to give you a job as a director, media maker or filmmaker, you may be waiting for a very, very long time. Sometimes you have to make your own opportunities. In the world of low-budget, micro-budget and no budget film and television production, you have no choice but to become an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs see possibilities that others don’t see. They look past their circumstances and embrace the challenges.

If God has called you to do something, whether that’s filmmaking or, for that matter, anything in life, the only person that can stop you is you. It doesn’t matter what the studio, the casting director, the producer or the director says, if God has called you to do it, it’s a done deal. But do you believe that? Can you take a leap of faith into the unknown against all odds and despite what anyone else has to say about it?

If I had listened to people, I would never have started a media ministry or launched a successful television program which eventually aired on 15 national cable and satellite networks and 200 stations across North America. I have been a low-budget media maker and filmmaker for years. I have learned how to use guerilla filmmaking techniques to create a big-budget look. It’s absolutely possible to accomplish the impossible with little or no money. Trust me. I’m a living example.

We produced The Zone television program at $12,000 per episode. In the world of television production, that’s pennies on the dollar. It may sound like a lot of money, but when you’re competing with programs like Saturday Night Live and Mad TV, our budget was pale in comparison. Those were our competitors in our time slot. We were producing a live-to-tape program with a studio audience with a format similar to Saturday Night Live. And we did it with practically no budget.

They have coined this type of filmmaking as mumblecore. It’s an independent film movement that started around 2000. It employs ultra-low budget techniques. Most filmmakers who use these strategies work with digital video cameras. They often tell stories about personal relationships between 20-somethings, and they use nonprofessional actors with improvised scripts. When we shot The Zone television program, we were using basically the same model. Our hosts were non-professional and learned on the job. Our targeted audience was teens and young adults.

Mark and Jay Dupless are examples of filmmakers who have been successful in using mumblecore principles. Their first film, The Puffy Chair, was shot on a DVX-100, the same camera that I have used for years teaching high school film students. Their production budget was only $15,000, and eventually the gross revenues exceeded $192,000. Their second film, Baghead, had a budget of $50,000. That film grossed over $140,000 at the box office.

After proving that they could return a profit, they finally got their big break. Their latest film, Cyrus, had a production budget of $7 million. By using low-budget and guerilla filmmaking techniques, Jay and Mark Dupless have now entered the world of mainstream Hollywood.

But they didn’t wait for Hollywood to give the an invitation. They made their own opportunities. Dreamers dream. Filmmakers make movies. They understood the principle of low-budget filmmaking. That is never let the money stop you. In this age of digital technology, anyone can be a filmmaker. All you need is talent and determination.

Part 2 - The Story of The Zone

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