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Guerrilla filmmaking

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Guerrilla filmmaking refers to a form of independent filmmaking characterized by ultra-low micro budgets, skeleton crews, and limited props using whatever resources, locations and equipment is available. The genre is named in reference to guerrilla warfare due to these techniques typically being used to shoot quickly in real locations without obtaining filming permits or providing any other sort of warning.

Independent filmmakers typically resort to guerrilla filmmaking because they do not have the budget or time to obtain permits, rent out locations, or build expensive sets. Larger and more "mainstream" film studios tend to avoid guerrilla filmmaking tactics because of the risk of being sued, fined or having their reputation damaged due to negative publicity.

According to Yukon Film Commission Manager Mark Hill, "guerrilla filmmaking is driven by passion with whatever means at hand".[1]

Guerrilla films[edit]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times characterized cult B-movie filmmaker Ed Wood as a guerrilla filmmaker. As depicted in the biopic Ed Wood, Wood stole a fake octopus for one of the scenes in his low budget films.[2]

Film critic Roger Ebert described Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, directed by Melvin Van Peebles, as "a textbook on guerrilla filmmaking" in his review of Baadasssss!, a biopic about the making of Sweet Sweetback.[3] Ben Sisario of The New York Times called Van Peebles "a hero of guerrilla filmmaking" who has suffered for his uncompromising vision.[4]

Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It was a guerrilla film on a budget of $175,000 which made $7,137,502 at the box office.[5] It was Spike Lee's first feature-length film and inspired him to write the book Spike Lee's Gotta Have It: Inside Guerrilla Filmmaking.[6]

New Queer Cinema director Gregg Araki shot his first two films, Three Bewildered People in the Night (1987) and The Long Weekend (O' Despair) (1989) using a spring-wound Bolex camera and scrap film stock, on a budget of $5,000 each.[7]

Robert Rodriguez shot the action film El Mariachi in Spanish. El Mariachi, which was shot for around $7,000 with money partially raised by volunteering in medical research studies, won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992. The film, originally intended for the Spanish-language low-budget home-video market, was distributed by Columbia Pictures in the United States. Rodriguez described his experiences making the film in his book Rebel Without a Crew. The book and film would inspire other filmmakers to pick up cameras and make no-budget movies.[8]

Pi, directed by Darren Aronofsky,[9] was made on a budget of $68,000. It proved to be a financial success at the box office ($4.6 million gross worldwide).[10] Aronofsky raised money for the project by selling $100 shares in the film to family and friends, and was able to pay them all back with a $50 profit per-share when the film was sold to Artisan.[citation needed]

Troma Entertainment is a film production and distribution company founded by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz in 1974. The company produces low-budget independent films, many of which have developed cult followings. Kaufman has been outspoken about their use of guerrilla marketing and tolerance of piracy, and he has written the books All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger and Make Your Own Damn Movie!, which outline his philosophy of quick and inexpensive independent film.[11]

Paranormal Activity, directed by first time director Oren Peli, was shot for approximately $10,000. Michael Cieply of The New York Times described the production and release as "guerrilla style". After being well received at film festivals, Paramount put the film on a tour where fans could request a screening.[12]

Escape from Tomorrow, made for $650,000, was "shot in a guerrilla-style manner at Walt Disney World and Disneyland without the permission of the parks," according to Jason Guerrasio of Indiewire. The film was originally expected to not be released due to fears of a lawsuit from Disney, but it was released on video on demand in October 2013.[13]

Clark: A Gonzomentary was a 2012 gonzo journalism-styled mockumentary about an amateur filmmaker documenting a Philadelphian eccentric artist and his creative process. The guerrilla-style techniques implemented were used as part of the story itself, to represent the amateur production within the story. It was shot with a budget of less than $3,000 with a Canon XL2 and a Panasonic AG-DVX100. The director opted out of using a steadicam purposefully to achieve more shakiness. It was awarded Outstanding Lead Actor in a comedy or mockumentary by The 2013 LA Web Series Festival and deemed "a gonzomentary truly realized" by Mark Bell of Film Threat.[14]

Super Demetrios (2011), the first Greek superhero film, made on a budget of €2,000, won the audience award at the 52nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival with the highest number of votes in the history of the festival and became an instant cult classic,[15] "proving that Greek guerrilla cinema can survive without state funding injections" according to Giannis Zoumboulakis of To Vima newspaper.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "For Release". Archived from the original on 15 January 2005. Retrieved 23 October 2006.
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (23 September 1994). "FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW; Ode to a Director Who Dared to Be Dreadful". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger (11 June 2004). "Baadasssss!". RogerEbert.com. Archived from the original on 21 February 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  4. ^ Sisario, Ben (20 January 2010). "He's Got It Bad, or 'Baad,' for His Art". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 5 May 2018. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  5. ^ Henderson, Stuart (13 January 2008). "She's Gotta Have It". PopMatters. Archived from the original on 3 December 2014. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  6. ^ Martin, Sharon Stockard (13 December 1987). "PLEASE BABY. PLEASE BABY. PLEASE ..." The New York Times. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  7. ^ Levy, Emanuel (1999). Cinema of Outsiders: The Rise of American Independent Film. New York University Press. p. 467. ISBN 0-8147-5124-5.
  8. ^ Broderick, Peter. "THE ABC'S OF NO-BUDGET FILMMAKING". Filmmaker (Winter 1993). Archived from the original on 8 October 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  9. ^ "Production Update". Filmmaker (Winter 1997). Archived from the original on 20 June 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  10. ^ "Pi". The Numbers. Archived from the original on 5 December 2014. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  11. ^ Takahashi (8 April 2011). "Steal this movie: cult film maker lets digital pirates share his content". VentureBeat. Archived from the original on 29 October 2014. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  12. ^ Cieply, Michael (20 September 2009). "Thriller on Tour Lets Fans Decide on the Next Stop". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  13. ^ Guerrasio, Jason (9 October 2013). "How the Director of 'Escape From Tomorrow' Made a Crazy Guerrilla Movie in Disney World – And Got Away With It". Indiewire. Archived from the original on 10 January 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  14. ^ "Reviews". filmthreat.com. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  15. ^ Kranakis, Manolis (18 April 2012). "Ο "Σούπερ Δημήτριος" θα σώσει την Ελλάδα από την κρίση!" [Super Demetrios will save Greece from (debt) crisis!]. Flix (in Greek). Athens, Greece. Archived from the original on 15 August 2016. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  16. ^ Zoumboulakis, Giannis (20 November 2011). "Η γοητεία του αντάρτη" [The charm of guerrilla (filmmaker)]. To Vima (in Greek). Athens. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2016.

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