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In depth: Mini budget film-making


“Local support is key to getting new voices heard, everyone needs encouragement when they’re starting out,” says cinema programme officer at Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre.

The impression that film-making involves vast expenses is common, especially with big-budget films such as Skyfall, which almost put production company MGM into severe financial trouble. But who ever said film-making had to involve enormous sums of money?

The standard of films has completely changed over the decades as new technology, new ideas and the opportunity for networking and sharing means it has never been easier or cheaper to make a film.

Low-budget success

Take Paranormal Activity for example. The film cost around £10,000 to make, which is admittedly more money than an independent aspiring film-maker can afford. The fact, however, is that even though the technology used was budgeted, the film still managed to be a huge hit at the box office.

Jody Tozer, film-maker and founder of Cardiff based film company, Bulldozer Films said, “I think that this day and age, it has become easier to make great films on very small budgets. Take Welsh film-maker Andrew Jones, who made an award-winning feature on just £1500. I think it just takes a good idea and a great deal of collaboration with other passionate people and you can create an amazing film.”

Jody Tozer (2nd in from the right) at the Cardiff Mini Film Festival in August 2012.

Breaking into the industry

Bulldozer Films is described by its founder, Jody Tozer, as a social scheme based in Cardiff, committed to helping bidding film talent to break into the film industry.

Providing aspiring film-makers with experience in shooting short films, Bulldozer’s film festival entitled the Cardiff Mini Film Festival, occurs numerous times throughout the year, with the most recent taking place on the 2nd December 2012.

The festival demonstrates the undeniable popularity of independently produced local films and gives film-makers the opportunity to get their work screened without having to fork out hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

Jody stated, “Having strong links and help from a community can be worth a hell of a lot of money. If you can make those contacts and links, it’s almost like having a big budget, you’re just not paying for things that most film-makers will.”

Proving that films can be made on very little or no budget, the rules of the festival state that all films submitted must have been made using £500 or less.

Jody said, “I think this budget is fair as it can allow for someone to purchase a second hand camera and that’s pretty much all you need to make a film.”

Aware that new film-makers can be put off by the cost of taking part in festivals, Jody has also made the film festival free to enter.

The next Chapter

Chapter Arts Centre is a valuable asset to Cardiff’s film industry as it offers many opportunities for independent film-makers to come forward and showcase their projects to a wider audience. 

Founded in 1971, Chapter has an international reputation for innovation and collaboration, encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with the arts.

The organisation gives film-makers the opportunity to screen their films for subsidised hire rates and organises a monthly short film night entitled Chapter Moviemaker.

Claire Vaughan, programme officer of film and cinema at Chapter said, “I think that there are all kinds of pressures in film-making but I think local support is key to getting new voices heard, everyone needs encouragement when they’re starting out.

“Film is becoming ever more accessible due to changes in technology and some of the most exciting films in the last few years have been made on tight budgets.”

Local talent

Ryan Owen Eddleston is a film-maker and Cardiff University graduate, recently working as a director for Doctor Who and Sherlock.  Ryan’s film, Sink, was part of the Official Selection in 2011 at the London Lift-Off festival, and also won Best Film at the Cardiff Mini Film festival in 2012.

Ryan stated, “Film-making on a low budget has increased because of accessibility to technology that can make a film stand up against films that have been produced 10 or 20 times the budget.

“It’s hard to get your film noticed among all the others. An event like the Cardiff Mini Film Festival is great as any winners get kudos for their film, enabling a shorthand commendation for festival programmers, Directors, Producers and Actors.”

John Shand is also an independent Cardiff film-maker who won the Best Short Film category in the Mini Film Festival in December 2012. John said, “Cardiff Mini Film Festival opens its doors to a city full of film-makers and puts them in the same room.”

These days, people are realising that films do not necessarily have to rely on a huge budget. Film festivals and community events can allow aspiring film-makers to produce the film they have always dreamt about producing without the cost they would have originally imagined.

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