Things I learned from “Newlyweds”

March 10, 2012 — Leave a comment

Last night, I watched the movie called Newlyweds that was written and directed by Edward Burns. The movie was made with a budget of $9000 and distributed through non-traditional means.

So why am I writing about this? Because Ed Burns has demonstrated a nice way to make a micro-budget movie and get it shown to people. It’s both a model and an inspiration for aspiring indie filmmakers.

His hero is Woody Allen, hence the Hannah and Her Sisters-esque poster design.

For the past six months, I’ve been slowly inching towards a concrete plan to make my own micro-budget feature (though sometimes I refer to it as a “no-budget feature”). What I encountered is three major steps: 1.) developing the script, 2.) make the movie with the right tools within my budget, and 3.) distribution.

The last step is the most difficult because not too many film schools or film-related programs teach you about distribution. I’m still learning about this area so I’m not going to write about it. Just know that it’s essential to learn to survive in the modern world of indie filmmaking.

What’s more interesting to learn about is finding a way to make the movie. I was reading the Edward Burns interview from MovieMaker magazine and he described how he was able to make this movie. Here are the key points:

  • camera used: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • used only Canon lenses
  • handheld shooting style
  • used primarily available light — so no generators / only needed to plug into an outlet
  • 2-3 men crew and most scenes only had two actors
  • easy to get locations for free due to less equipment and small crew size — hence the “hand-shake deals” Burns mentions
  • saved  a couple thousand dollars on transportation because most actors stayed in their own apartments in NYC (basically find local actors)

From a different article on FilmmakerMagazine.com, Edward Burns sums it up with this quote:

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.

There will be people who are going to say, “What’s so special?” after watching Newlyweds. They hear about how cheap it was made and go to watch it, expecting something to amaze them. No, this isn’t the point of me bringing up the movie or even Edward Burns. The point is, he was able to make this movie the way he wanted. It was a small personal story he believed in and thought that this micro-budget method was the best way to get the movie made.

The other key idea is that he wrote the story first then decided on how to make the movie.

There are a lot of video shooters out there that are using DSLR cameras and expensive rigs. But this doesn’t mean you’re a filmmaker/moviemaker. They’re just shooters not directors. They just shoot wonderful footage of random objects, street life, music videos, and rack focus a lot. Directors focus on blocking. But how can you block when you have no story to tell? Please note that I have a huge interest in DSLR cameras (I’ve been looking into them since 2009)! I haven’t made the leap to purchase one because I told myself that I needed to have a script first. 

An amusing video that illustrates these types of video shooters out there.

So that’s my goal for this weekend: to finally decide and focus on ONE story to develop. It’s time for me to stop dicking around and procrastinating. Edward Burns has shown us a great way to make a micro-budget film. There are others out there that use DSLR cameras too (some examples from the top of my head: Tiny Furniture, Act of Valor). But I like Edward Burns way because he describes that it is a great freedom to have without big studios looking over your shoulder. 

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