Over the last four months I've been working closely with a group of filmmakers in an intense microbudget screenwriting bootcamp and competition called The $2500 Microbudget Launchpad.
The purpose of the program is to help filmmakers who don't have cash and connections to get the best possible feature length script so that they can go to camera this year.
I launched this program because, based on my experience of reading numerous scripts and watching a lot of microbudget feature films, I believe that one of the biggest weaknesses holding back filmmakers is an inability to write a feature script or to write one that is really good and fresh.
To be honest, I think that screenwriting is one of the most under-valued elements of the filmmaking process. We are barraged with articles about gear and software, etc., which plays on our obsession (especially in North America) with shiny new things. We think that if we just have the DJI Osmo and a drone, if we master green screen, etc. we will have a great film. When people talk about the problems with microbudget films the first thing they mention is usually sound (in my own recent experience I very rarely see sound problems anymore - that message has gotten through).
But take a look at Celebration - it looks terrible. Or Primer, made for $8,000. Why did they work and why are people still talking about them? Because they had good, engaging and fresh stories.
Anyway, these filmmakers had four months to go through a step-by-step process that I developed from my experience as a development exec, as a writer/director of microbudgets, and as a teacher of screenwriting. I'll be honest - I set them what I thought was an impossible task: it's damn hard to write a readable script in four months. I expected to get a lot of very raw scripts with major story and character problems.
I was VERY surprised that, instead, I got a lot of really well written scripts. Several of them could easily be ready to go to camera this year. What's more they contain some very fresh ideas. One of the things I teach is that for microbudgets to be noticed they have to "break the mould". If you're trying to write a Hollywood action film or even a "normal" rom-com for $5,000 or $10,000 - compared to Hollywood's budgets of $20-$50-$100 MILLION, you simply can't compete. You have to create something fresh. And everybody did.
All this is good but it made judging the winner very difficult.
In the end, the script that won was by a filmmaker from Tennessee (I had filmmakers from all over the world - Colombia, India, UK, USA, Italy...) named Luke Harvey. He wrote a deliciously weird script called The Goldilocks Theory (and how it relates to Herb), about a one-eyed conspiracy theorist who gets the chance to win the love of an internet cam girl after God asks him not to reveal the date for the end of the world.
Oh, I guess I ought to say that Luke didn't just win my undying admiration (actually all of the participants won that!). He won a $2500 production investment into his film, which he hopes to shoot in the coming months.
Are you feeling a little jealous? Well, don't because you will have the same chance as Luke did: I'm running the Launchpad bootcamp/competition again in June - but this time with a prize of $5,000!!
My intention is to increase the value and number of prizes each time as the Microbudget Film Lab community grows.
I've said it enough times but it's worth repeating: the goal of MBFL is to help build a microbudget feature film movement. To that end I've set myself the goal of financing 10 microbudget feature films per year. If Hollywood won't give us a leg up, we have to help each other!
Attached is the interview that I did with Luke after he won the prize. It's worth checking it out. You'll see that Luke is probably a lot like you and it will inspire you to make your feature film. Also: stay tuned - I'll keep you posted on Luke's film as it goes forward, as well as leading up to the kick-off for the Microbudget Launchpad.
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