Microfilmmaking is the production of ultra-low budget movies. These films generally are made by impassioned filmmakers operating outside the Hollywood mainstream. While a "low budget" Hollywood film can cost millions of dollars, 80% to 90% of all independent films are made for budgets of $30,000 or less.
Without the backing of major movie studio, microfilmmakers have to be resourceful in raising even their modest budgets. They often hold a “regular” job and fund their film projects out of their own pockets. Many begin the filmmaking process by approaching friends and family for donations of money or services.
Microfilmmakers are often the first to adopt new technologies and techniques, economic necessity leading to creative invention. The lack of money leads them to try new ways of doing things, or invent new techniques. Microfilmmakers were among the first to shoot movies on video.
Beginning with the home video revolution in the 1980s, Hollywood and mainstream media companies have undergone a radical transformation. The sheer number of platforms for entertainment product has grown and changed, and continues to evolve, driven by the Internet, DVDs, high-definition video technology, video on demand, digital video recorders, mobile devices, and more. The rapid evolution has wreaked havoc with the traditional Hollywood model and has opened the door for new talent.
As the technology for shooting video advanced, became less expensive, more accessible and simpler to operate, it seemingly reached a point where every family in the US had at least one video camera. This proliferation spurred Francis Ford Coppola’s famous comment, “The great hope is that...some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart and make a beautiful film.”
The popularity of YouTube and user generated video further fueled “do-it-yourself” video production, and the micro-budget film was born. Producers and directors began making full-length feature films on budgets as low as several thousand dollars, usually borrowed from friends and family.
Stacey Parks, author of "The Insiders Guide to Film Distribution," talks about using a wide variety of tools to help micro-filmmakers finance their projects. There are four main ways, Private Equity, Crowd funding, Tax Incentives, and Sponsorship.
The success of the micro-budget film Paranormal Activity in Fall 2009 has given a stamp of legitimacy to micro-filmmaking. Given the contraction of advertising revenues in television, the severe decline in DVD sales of major motion pictures (which generally results in approximately 50% of a films revenues), the reduced markets for Hollywood products internationally, and the skyrocketing production costs of most mainstream films translates into a reduction in movies made. The studios will continue to make sure-thing, big budget, effects-laden, action-driven Summer Blockbusters. However, for “smaller” films, i.e., dramas, character driven films, offbeat or indie pictures, the Microfilm paradigm offers hope and a viable alternative.
- Microfilmmaker Magazine, Mission
- Microfilmmaker Magazine, Mission
- Disney downsizing a downer for indies. Sharon Stewart. Daily Variety: 10/07/2009
- Francis Ford Coppola, interview in Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)
- Stacey Parks: http://www.filmspecific.com/public/department86.cfm
- The haunted history of ‘Paranormal Activity.’ John Horn. Los Angeles Times: 9/20/2009
- Hollywood studios in midst of their own horror show. John Horn, Ben Fritz, Rachel Abramowitz. Los Angeles Times: 10/06/2009
- The movie magic is gone. Neal Gabler. Los Angeles Times: 2/25/2009