Talks & Interviews — June 4, 2012 at 6:57 am

How to make a horror movie for $50,000 ? (exclusive)

One of the better books about low-budget and independent film-making that I’ve read gave numerous examples of how a movie made for less that $1-2 million can go viral and gain recognition.

Of course, the important point is that a $1-2 million film can easily flop and not be understood by viewers, while some $700,000 flick can become cult within its own limits.

While this might work out great within a country (the U.S. in this particular case), it rarely goes through the roof on a worldwide level. Even considering this – film still pays for itself.

Now assuming one doesn’t have two millions, or even one. Or even $500,000. How much more low-budget you can go to make your film, spread a word about it, and, if lucky, get your money back?

Director and writer Gregory Blair started off as an actor in 2006, and now he’s preparing to shoot his first film – a horror movie titled “Scare Tactics” with a budget of… $50,000. That’s quite low, if you ask me.

Low-budget however doesn’t mean it cannot be done. Blair agrees though that quite frequently low-budget films are made according to the available budget.

“It’s true. Writing a script based on what you know you have readily available is a great way to keep your budget low. I did that once when I was trying to write a short film, since short films rarely make their money back,” Blair told BZFilm.

He adds that “Scare Tactics” however is a different story.

“I wrote the script long before I ever decided to shoot it, so it was never about what I had available,” he said. “I definitely did write it to be low budget, which is why it takes place in mostly one location and has very few characters and minimal FX or CGI.”

BZFilm asked Blair to “look behind the curtain”, and tell how he actually plans to distribute a horror movie with a $50,000 budget.

“We actually have already gotten interest from a distributor, though we want to keep our options open and haven’t signed anything yet,” Blair said.

He admits that one of the wonderful things about the horror genre is its marketability.

“Whereas drama and comedy often don’t translate from culture to culture, horror generally does, so a horror film can succeed in international markets that films of other genres can’t as easily hope for,” he said.

According to Blair, horror movies are always among what the distributors and buyers are looking for.

“So with the right distribution deals a movie made for 50k can have  huge return on investment, if handled right,” Blair said.

What about online social media that some see (and use too) as a marketing and distribution tool for movies?

“There’s no denying power of the Internet, it has become has become a vital marketing tool for everyone, independent filmmakers included,” Blair said. “In fact, thus far for “Scare Tactics”, that’s all we’ve used.”

Blair notes that the greatest thing about Internet is its scope, since an independent filmmaker can connect with filmmakers, fans and founders internationally in a way that was never as easy before.

“Advertising a film would have been exponentially more difficult before the advent of the internet and social media. But things are changing all the time and it’s important to keep up,” Blair noted.

“The more people you have on your team, the more of an impact you can have. And we want to make “Scare Tactics” a runaway hit,” Blair said.

Describing “Scare Tactics”, Blair said the film offers different thrills for fans, packing the alchemy of classic horror movie conditions.

“The main character is an unreliable narrator. As he reviews his past and gets more and more confused about what is real and what isn’t, the audience gets to take that ride with him in addition to struggling with their own changing opinions about the character’s state of mind,” Blair concluded.



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4 Comments

  1. Unfortunately, the average filmmaker doesn’t have $50,000 sitting in the bank to spare. Guys like Eric Stanze, Jeff Leroy, Steve Sessions, J.R. Bookwalter, and Brett Piper have been doing movies for under $50K for years and been very successful to some degree.

  2. Yes, absolutely. As far as I know, Nathan Schiff’s classic films “Long Island Cannibal Massacre” and “They Don’t Cut the Grass Anymore” were made for some $1000 or maybe even less. Majority of movie lovers wouldn’t even call them films, yet the are, and they’ve become cult.

    As for the filmmakers you mentioned, I’ve seen Stanze’s amazing “ScrapBook”, Leroy’s awful “Evil 3000”, and some of Bookwalter’s movies (Dead Next Door being the best and Ozone is a personal favorite), so $50,000 is of course not the lowest amount one can make a movie for. Poverty breeds creativity.

  3. You can make a movie even for $500 but if you don’t have an idea of what are you doing and at least 100k then chances are 99% that you will make an unwatchable crap. Distributors won’t touch cheap crap, and you won’t make any money back on movie for 50k unless you have powerful people backing you up. It’s nice to dream but reality hits very hard…

  4. Just wanted to reply to “F” there.

    Paranormal Activity
    Budget ~ $15,000
    Opening weekend $77,873
    Gross $193,355,800

    Wow, reality does hit very hard indeed.

    A great movie can be filmed on a low or even micro budget. Having said that, low budget, can limit the film maker’s options, while even an amateur could make a blockbuster with a big budget. The screenplay determines the success of a movie, not the budget.

    Giving it some thought though, I’d rather spend 50,000 and make 2,000,000 than to spend 1,000,000 and make that same 2 million. So sure, make it cheap as long as you make it good.

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