I heard late last year (post the Paranormal Activity phenomenon) that a studio was going to start a devision to produce a slew of $100K features. 20 a year to be exact, which is a lousy $2 milj a year. Thats about the make-up budget on a normal studio picture. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly criticizing, I think its a great idea and more than that it goes to show that we as independents are onto something that the studio wants. Every time we make a film we walk that line of break-through VS failure and that makes us innovative and highly creative.

Here’s the deal:

The as-yet-unnamed division’s initial plan is to finance as many as 20 ‘micro-budget’ movies annually starting in 2010… Funds for the movies - about $1 million annually - will be part of Paramount’s existing production budget….Some of the movies may end up serving as ‘calling cards’ - a showcase for a novice director’s storytelling talent for a future project. A handful of films may contain enough good ideas to merit a bigger-budget remake. And another group may rise to the top of the heap, getting a theatrical release.”

It’s a fascinating, potentially game-changing concept, since it’s a wonderful way for studios to replenish the pipeline with new ideas, but ideas that can be executed on a cheap budget. Even if most of the films never see the light of day, it could serve as a valuable way for Paramount to gain access to new talent, since presumably the studio would retain the right to make a movie with anyone participating in the program. It will also surely make Paramount a magnet for every good low-budget idea in town, encouraging young filmmakers looking for a break to send their scripts, demo reels and story outlines the studio’s way.

from latimesblog

I liked the way nobudgetfilmschool however points out the challenges of making low-budget films. Here are a few -

Acting talent fees (or did they not know that their own system has required movies to be made with stars these days)
All other ATL talent fees (the directors and producers on my movies NEVER make an upfront fee—that’s one important, basic way you keep the budget down)
Rewriting those scripts (they mention obtaining scripts and then re-writing them. Last time I checked, optioning scripts and hiring writers, especially for a studio, costs money. Or are they just going to hire unknown writers and give them a shot. The film festival world is filled with those results already).
A union crew (this is a studio after all—how are they getting around unions??)
A good editor (this is the camel that often breaks a no-budget film’s back. Most successful no-budget films were edited by the writer/director or had some team member who was absolutely dedicated to the project who edited it. Once you go outside of that and hire a real editor, who is talented, you’re going to have to pay them for their three or more months of work. Even if you can get their agent down to say, $2k or $1k per week, you’re talking about 10% to 20% of your budget right there).

This smells to me of people who have no idea of what they’re doing. Who have never studied a $100k budget. Who have never asked people to work for free. Who have never begged, borrowed, or stolen. Who really don’t know how hard it is, how nearly impossible it is, to make a good movie on no money.

There are more ideas here so go check it out…

Anyway, if you have a script and a good reel - might be worth your while sending it to Paramount.