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Confessions of a Dangerous Filmmaker: Low Budget Secrets: The Art of the Con

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The Art of the Con


Spinning Spyder Entertainment, it's staff and owners in no way takes responsibility for those who break the law or put themselves in any sort of physical and mental harm and injury by following this article. Nor does it endorse breaking any law or putting oneself into any sort of harm. Enter this article at your own risk.

Written by Rock Savage

October 30th, 2003

Well, after you read this, it won't be a secret will it? To be honest, all the things I will tell you should not be a secret but many low budget filmmakers don't have the information to save big bucks on their film projects! Everything that I'm about to tell you, I have learned from the school of "hard knocks" so you won't have to spend a lot of bread!

One of the reasons that film schools suck is that they don't teach you how to save money and get stuff for free!! First, lets talk about location, you need a place to film, and you don't want to rent a place because you'll have to break your piggy bank!! Don't bother to get permits, they cost too much and in order to get one, you may need some sort of insurance (more money!!) so lets say you need an office, first try to get a "home office", you may know someone who has one!! In Hardboiled Heroes there is a scene in occult investigator Harry Gross' office which is really a home office but looks damn good and I got it for free!! Which brings me to a tip I have for any filmmakers making a private eye movie, I did some research and discovered that real life private eyes have HOME offices NOT downtown offices!! Why? Because if you needed a private eye you would not want to have anyone see you go into his office, but if you go to someone's home, you could be visiting a friend!! Get it? Now, back to permits and locations, you do NOT need a permit to film in public places like parks (just don't destroy anything & clean up after yourself!)

I filmed a bloody zombie scene in Ft. Washington Park & had no trouble with security (even though we did not ask for permission!) in fact, security & people at the park (kids & all) watched as we filmed scenes of flesh eating zombies, so we became part of the entertainment!! Remember, your taxes pay for these parks so why the hell would you need a permit!!??

Did you know that some colleges rent meeting rooms for groups? You can do a lot with those rooms!! If you don't have a group, just make one up!! Tell them you need a place to meet, do NOT tell them that you are going to film there!! Let me tell you what we did!! The meeting rooms are cheap ($30 for 5 hours) and we rented one for Maxx Bloodd: Vampire Spy,we told them we were the (true) and that we needed a room for a big local meeting we were having (big lie!!). The room was for a scene where the drug lord, Crackheadd, was meeting with his mob!! In that scene, someone gets their guts ripped out! (we cleaned it up!!)

I wanted my $30 worth so after that scene, we cleared the room( we put all the furniture to one side) and dressed the "set" for 3 more scenes that took place in 3 different places!! By the way, all this was on a Sat. when there are few people on campus but to be safe, we put card- board on the little window of the door so no one could see in!! A few years later we did the same thing for Groovy Squad vs Dr.Brain, we rented the same (!) meeting room & dressed it with our nasty props that turned it into a torture dungeon!!

Places that we filmed for free or trespassed on are: a public beach (on a cold day in spring) hey, it's free and when it's cold, not many people there to bug you; and a construction site in Mummy A Gore Gore where two hardhat guys are killed by the Mummy, it was Sunday and there was no one there, so we helped our selves to the site and even used their hardhats!!!

One last note on locations, if a cop or someone catches you trespassing, act innocent, ignorant, polite, "gee, I didn't know we could not film here, sorry!" and then leave very fast!! Let me tell you about sets, if you have a large room or place, you can build a set cheap!! My buddy, Frank Vassalo ( our villain actor!) has built a set in this very large garage behind his house, this thing is apart from the house & could hold 6 or more cars! It was used for storage but I bought $80 worth of panels & paint & now we have a set for most scenes! The "walls" are painted red on one side and blue on the other! So we have a red room & a blue room!! We also have dungeon wallpaper that we use sometimes, overall, this gives us 3 different sets to use!!

Now it's time to talk about costumes & props!! In October, there are Halloween stores and they have great adult costumes!! You should save some bread & buy anything that might come in handy for future movie projects! As the end of Oct draws near, the prices go down real low, so shop smart!!

Don't throw away broken props, they may have some use later!! Obscure stuff can make cool props, remember the first digital watches? They looked cool because at the time, the watches could NOT display the time ALL the time! You had to press a button on your watch to display the time!! The face was a ruby red quartz and looked outasite!! Well, they don't make them like that any more, BUT I never threw mine away because I thought it looked cool even though it won't work any more!! Well, it's now the Mod Mutilator's very special watch that gives him the power of 60 neutron bombs for 60 seconds!!

In low budget films sometimes new actors don't show up so we must recycle the actors we got!! This has led to what we now call the Savage Film Group wig!! Yes, a wig used to make the actor/actress look different has been used in almost every film we made since 1986!! Think we got our money's worth? Of course, now we have even more wigs but we also have more actors!!

If you are making an action film, you need prop guns! Let me tell you how I got mine! In the early 1980s there was a TV show called the "A-Team" because of this action packed show, toy companies put out a series of realistic toy guns, I knew this was too good to last so I bought about 20 different guns that we still use today!! If you want prop guns these days, you will have to go to "Party City" and Halloween stores and you may have to spray paint them jet black (get it at the hobby shop) because some have red barrels so the cops won't freak out & shoot you!! (why would you wave it at a cop anyway!!?)

Let's talk makeup & blood & gore effects!! Again, the Halloween stores rule!! If you want to get makeup & stage blood when it's not Halloween, do a search on the web!! I found year round costume shops (on line only!) that have EVERYTHING!!!

Now, lets say that your film is done, how to edit, where to do post? Unless you already have your own equipment, it's going to cost you an arm and a leg!! Hey, the barter system is alive & well!! If you know other filmmakers in your area, you can help them with their projects and they can help you!! That's how I have free access to editing equipment!! My buddy Marvin edits my films & in return, I will help film his new project & he will use the Savage Film Group sets!!

Now, lets sum it all up... Never get permits, trespass if you have to, don't throw away broken props, obscure objects make good props, Party/Halloween stores are good for props! Barter when you have to!! Before I forget, last but not least...NEVER hire union actors!! Those fools will delay your movie being made, because they get paid big $$$ by the hour!! OK, got everything? Well then, happy filmmaking!!

Rock Savage

Related Links:
Savage Film Group
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