Low-budget film

A low-budget film or low-budget movie is a motion picture shot with little to no funding from a major film studio or private investor. Many independent films are made on low budgets, but films made on the mainstream circuit with inexperienced or unknown filmmakers can also have low budgets. Many young or first time filmmakers shoot low-budget films to prove their talent before doing bigger productions. Many low-budget films that do not gain some form of attention or acclaim are never released in theatres and are often sent straight to retail because of its lack of marketability, look, story, or premise. There is no precise number to define a low budget production, and it is relative to both genre and country. What might be a low-budget film in one country may be a big budget in another. Modern-day young filmmakers rely on film festivals for pre promotion. They use this to gain acclaim and attention for their films, which often leads to a limited release in theatres. Film that acquire a cult following may be given a wide release. Low-budget films can be either professional productions or amateur. They are either shot using professional or consumer equipment.

Some genres are more conducive to low-budget filmmaking than others. Horror films are a very popular genre for low-budget directorial debuts. Jeremy Gardner, director of The Battery says that horror fans are more attracted to how the films affect them than seeing movie stars. This allows horror films to focus more on provoking a reaction than on expensive casting choices. Thriller films are also a popular choice for low-budget films, as they focus on narrative. Science fiction films, which were once the domain of B movies, frequently require a big budget to accommodate their special effects, but low-cost do-it-yourself computer-generated imagery can make them affordable, especially when they focus on story and characterization. Plot devices like shooting as found footage can lower production costs, and scripts that rely on extended dialogue, such as Reservoir Dogs or Sex, Lies, and Videotape, can entertain audiences without many sets.[1]

The money flow in filmmaking is a unique system because of the uncertainty of demand. The makers of the film do not know how well the film they release will be received. They may predict a film will do very well and pay back the cost of production, but only get a portion back. Or the opposite may happen where a project that few think will go far can bring in more profit than imaginable. A big gambling variable that is also involved is the use of stars. Frequently stars are brought on to a project to gain the film publicity and fame. This process can be profitable, but it is not a foolproof mechanism to successful funding.[2] Well-known actors may join a low-budget film for a portion of the gross.[3]

Notable low-budget films

One of the most successful low-budget films was 1999's The Blair Witch Project. It had a budget of around US$60,000 but grossed almost $249 million worldwide. It spawned books, a trilogy of video games, and a less-popular sequel. Possibly an even more successful low-budget film was the 1972 film Deep Throat which cost only $22,500 to produce, yet was rumored to have grossed over $600 million, though this figure is often disputed.[4]

Wayne Wang directs actors in an early indie film (Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart) in San Francisco, California 1983. Photos by Nancy Wong.

Another early example of a very successful low-budget film was the 1975 Bollywood Dacoit Western film Sholay, which cost ₹20 million ($400,000)[5] to produce and grossed ₹3 billion ($67 million), making it one of the highest-grossing films of all time in Indian cinema.[6] Other examples of successful low-budget Asian films include the Chinese films Enter the Dragon (1973) starring Bruce Lee, which had a budget of $850,000 and grossed $90 million worldwide.[7] Wayne Wang's film Chan Is Missing, set on the streets of San Francisco's Chinatown, was made for $20,000 in 1982. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen wrote that the budget would not have paid for the shoe laces in the film, "Annie".

Rocky was shot on a budget of $1 million and eventually grossed $225 million worldwide, making Sylvester Stallone a star.[8][9] Halloween was produced on a budget of $325,000 and grossed $70 million worldwide.[10][11] Napoleon Dynamite cost less than $400,000 to make but its gross revenue was $46 million.[12] Divisions of major film studios that specialize in such films, such as Fox Searchlight Pictures, Miramax, and New Line Cinema, have made the distribution of low budget films competitive.[13]

The UK film Monsters is a recent successful example of bringing what was once considered the exclusive preserve of the big studios—the expensive, special effects blockbuster—to independent, low-budget cinema.[14] The film's budget was reported to be approximately $500,000,[15] but it grossed $4,188,738[15] at the box office.

A considerable number of low- and modest-budget films have been forgotten by their makers and fallen into the public domain. This has been especially true of low-budget films made in the United States from 1923 to 1978 (films and other works made in the US during this period fell into public domain if their copyrights weren't renewed 28 years after the original production). Examples include a number of films made by Ed Wood or Roger Corman.

Some low-budget films have failed miserably at the box office and been quickly forgotten, only to increase in popularity decades later. A number of cheaply made movies have attained cult-film status after being considered some of the worst features ever made for many years. The most famous examples of this later-day popularity of low-budget box-office failures include Plan 9 from Outer Space and Manos: The Hands of Fate.

Additionally, some low-cost films that have had little (or modest) success upon their initial release have later been considered classics. The Last Man on Earth was the first adaptation of the novel I am Legend by Richard Matheson. Due to budgetary constraints, the vampires in the film were zombie-like creatures instead of fast and agile monsters portrayed in the novel. This approach (and film) was not considered a success at the time, but it inspired George A. Romero's work in his film Night of the Living Dead. Thus The Last Man on Earth became a precursor to numerous zombie films, and fans of those films later re-discovered the original, making it a cult classic.

The 2015 fantasy Western film Western Religion by writer-director James O'Brien, produced for $250,000,[16] premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was subsequently bought by Screen Media Films and given a national theatrical release.[17] The 2017 Indian film Secret Superstar became one of the most profitable films of all time,[18][19][20][21] grossing ₹9.65 billion[22] ($154 million)[23] worldwide on a limited budget of 15 crore (US$2.2 million), with over 6,000% return on investment (ROI).[18][24]

Micro budget

A micro budget film is that which is made on an extremely low budget, sometimes as little as a few thousand dollars. An example of such would be the popular 1992 film El Mariachi, in which the director Robert Rodriguez was unable to afford second takes due to the $7000 budget. Despite this, it was a success both critically and commercially, and started the young director's career.

Curtis Choy and Chris Chow prepare to interview Wendy Yoshimura
Preparing to record the 1976 Wendy Yoshimura documentary, "Wendy...uh...What's Her Name" in Fresno, California,1976.

Some of the most critically acclaimed micro-budget films were by the Bengali film director Satyajit Ray, his most famous being The Apu Trilogy (1955–1959). The first film in the trilogy, Pather Panchali (1955), was produced on a shoestring budget[25] of Rs. 200,000 ($3000)[26] using an amateur cast and crew.[27] The three films are now frequently listed among the greatest films of all time.[28][29][30][31] All his other films that followed also had micro-budgets or low-budgets, with his most expensive films being The Adventures Of Goopy And Bagha (1968) at Rs. 600,000 ($12,000)[32] and Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977) at Rs. 2 million ($40,000).[33]

Another example would be the 1977 cult film Eraserhead, which cost only $10,000 to produce. Director David Lynch had so much trouble securing funds that the film had to be made over a six-year period, whenever Lynch could afford to shoot scenes. In 2014, journalist Kyle Smith estimated the film has grossed over $7 million.[34]

Slacker, a 1991 comedy-drama film written and directed by Richard Linklater, was produced for $23,000.[35] The film was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2012.[36] Influenced by the success of Slacker, Clerks was written and directed by Kevin Smith for $27,575 in 1994 which he paid for on his credit card and grossed $3.2 million in theatres. Clerks launched Smith's career as a director and he has made several considerable higher budget films.[37]

In Russia, the 1997 crime film Brother was made with a budget of around $10,000, and was extremely successful when it was first released.[38]

In 1998, Christopher Nolan's first film Following was filmed on a budget of £3,000. Nolan then received another £3,000 to "blow it up to 35mm".[39]

Primer is a 2004 American science fiction film about the accidental invention of time travel. The film was written, directed and produced by Shane Carruth, a former mathematician and engineer, and was completed on a budget of only $7,000.[40]

Also in 2004, the documentary Tarnation had a budget of $218.32,[41][42] but grossed $1,200,000.

Paranormal Activity, a 2007 horror film written and directed by Oren Peli, was made for $15,000 and grossing about $193,355,800 (adjusted by inflation: $225,806,704).[43] Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman gave Paranormal Activity an A− rating (A being the highest mark) and called it "frightening...freaky and terrifying" and said that "Paranormal Activity scrapes away 30 years of encrusted nightmare clichés."[44] One Cut of the Dead (2017), a low-budget Japanese zombie comedy film, was produced on a budget of ¥3 million ($25,000) and went on to gross over ¥3.12 billion ($28 million) at the Japanese box office, where it made history by earning over a thousand times its budget.[45][46]

See also


  1. ^ Billson, Anne (June 9, 2014). "How to make a low-budget film in three easy steps". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  2. ^ Mckenzie, Jordi. "The Economics Of Movies: A Literature Survey." Journal of Economic Surveys 26.1 (2012): 42-70. EBSCO. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.
  3. ^ McNary, Dave (April 11, 2013). "Hit Microbudget Pics Offer Healthy Backend for Name Actors". Variety. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  4. ^ Hiltzik, Michael (2005-02-24). "Deep Throat Numbers Just Don't Add Up". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 8, 2011.
  5. ^ "Sholay". International Business Overview Standard. Archived from the original on 2012-06-30. Retrieved 2007-12-06.
  6. ^ "Sholay adjusted gross". The Times Of India. 2009-01-12. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  7. ^ "Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon To Be Remade". Rotten Tomatoes. August 10, 2007.
  8. ^ King, Susan (April 26, 2001). "Sly's Once-Rocky Life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  9. ^ "Rocky (1976)". The Numbers. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  10. ^ Yamato, Jen (October 31, 2014). "John Carpenter Q&A: Why 'Halloween' Didn't Need Sequels & What Scares The Master Of Horror". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  11. ^ "Halloween (1978)". The Numbersaccessdate=August 17, 2015.
  12. ^ Lowe, Alexander (July 2, 2013). "Napoleon Dynamite". We Got This Covered. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  13. ^ King, Geoff; Molloy, Claire; Tzioumakis, Yannis (2013). American Independent Cinema: Indie, Indiewood and Beyond. Routledge. p. 206. ISBN 9780415684286.
  14. ^ Kohn, Eric (October 13, 2010). "Making Movies With Laptops and Ingenuity". The New York Times. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  15. ^ a b "Monsters (2010)". Box Office Mojo. 2010-11-21. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
  16. ^ "Western Religion (2015)". The Numbers. Retrieved 2016-02-16.
  17. ^ McNary, Dave. Variety. https://variety.com/2015/film/news/western-religion-screen-media-1201558808/
  18. ^ a b Cain, Robert (21 January 2018). "'Secret Superstar' Is Hot On 'Tiger's Tail With Explosive ₹173 Crore/$27M China Debut Weekend". Medium.
  19. ^ Ren, Shuli (26 February 2018). "China's New Year Box-Office Boom Hides a Twist". Bloomberg. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  20. ^ "Analysis: There's a Plot Twist to the Chinese New Year Movie Boom". The Washington Post. 22 February 2018.
  21. ^ "You Asked It - Padmaavat Is Bigger Than Mughal E Azam?". Box Office India. 8 March 2018.
  22. ^ "Deepika Padukone's Padmaavat beats Aamir Khan's Dhoom 3 and Salman Khan's Tiger Zinda Hai at the box office". Times Now. 27 February 2018.
  23. ^ "All time box office revenue of the highest grossing Bollywood movies worldwide as of June 2018 (in million U.S. dollars)". Statista. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  24. ^ Aaglave, Ganesh (15 February 2018). "Aamir Khan and Zaira Wasim's Secret Superstar crosses the Rs 750 crore mark in China". Bollywood Life.
  25. ^ Robinson, A (2003), Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye: The Biography of a Master Film-Maker, I. B. Tauris, p. 77, ISBN 1-86064-965-3
  26. ^ Pradip Biswas (September 16, 2005). "50 years of Pather Panchali". Screen Weekly. Archived from the original on June 2, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
  27. ^ Robinson, A (2003), Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye: The Biography of a Master Film-Maker, I. B. Tauris, pp. 78–9, ISBN 1-86064-965-3
  28. ^ "The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll: 1992". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 2012-03-09. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
  29. ^ "Take One: The First Annual Village Voice Film Critics' Poll". The Village Voice. 1999. Archived from the original on 2007-08-26. Retrieved 2006-07-27.
  30. ^ The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made By the film critics of the New York Times, The New York Times, 2002.
  31. ^ "All-time 100 Movies". Time. Time Inc. 2005-02-12. Retrieved 2008-05-19.
  32. ^ Mohammed Wajihuddin (September 7, 2004). "The university called Satyajit Ray". Express India. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  33. ^ "Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players)". Satyajit Ray official site. Retrieved 2009-04-24.
  34. ^ Smith, Kyle (September 15, 2014). "How David Lynch's low-budget 'Eraserhead' created a genre". The New York Post. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  35. ^ "Low-budget 'Slacker' attracting cult following". The Baltimore Sun. August 8, 1991. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  36. ^ Truitt, Brian (December 19, 2012). "'Dirty Harry,' 'Matrix' added to National Film Registry". USA Today. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  37. ^ Lowe, Alexander (July 2, 2013). "Clerks". We Got This Covered. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  38. ^ "Brother (Brat)". Russia's biggest box office hit in 1997, Aleksei Balabanov's (Dead Man's Bluff) "Brother" is an American-style gangster flick mixed with a pointed social consciousness.
  39. ^ "Christopher Nolan". metro.co.uk. 29 July 2003. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  40. ^ Caro, Mark (January 26, 2004). "$7,000 movie wins top Sundance prize". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  41. ^ Ian Youngs (18 May 2004). "Micro-budget film wows Cannes". BBC News. Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  42. ^ CNET staff (21 January 2004). "New and Noteworthy: iPod industry standard?: Wired's Vaporware 2003; iMovie movie at Sundance". CNET. Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  43. ^ "Paranormal Activity". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-11-23.
  44. ^ Owen Gleiberman (October 23, 2009). "Paranormal Activity". ew.com. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
  45. ^ Nguyen, Hanh (31 December 2018). "'One Cut of the Dead': A Bootleg of the Japanese Zombie Comedy Mysteriously Appeared on Amazon". IndieWire. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  46. ^ "2018". Eiren. Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
28th Academy Awards

The 28th Academy Awards were presented at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Marty, a simple and low-budget film usually uncharacteristic of Best Picture awardees, became the shortest film (as well as the second Palme d'Or winner) to win the top honor.

This was the final year in which the Best Foreign Language Film was a Special/Honorary award. Beginning with the 29th Academy Awards, it became a competitive category.

A Wicked Tale

A Wicked Tale is a 2005 Singaporean experimental short film written and directed by Tzang Merwyn Tong.

The film premiered to at the 34th Rotterdam International Film Festival.

This low-budget film is a dark reimagining of the Little Red Riding Hood fable. Critics have compared it to the work of Takashi Miike and Guy Maddin. It has received equal amounts of praise and criticism for its strange storyline, surreal imagery, and psycho-eccentric visual treatment. A Wicked Tale was released in its uncut version on DVD in December 2005 in Singapore along with INRI studio's debut film, e'TZAINTES.

It won a Gold Remi Award at the 2005 WorldFest in Houston, US.

Appointment with Murder

Appointment with Murder is a 1948 American crime film directed by Jack Bernhard and starring John Calvert, Catherine Craig and Jack Reitzen. The film is one of three made by the low-budget Film Classics company featuring Calvert as The Falcon who had previously been played by George Sanders and Tom Conway for RKO.

Die Screaming, Marianne

Die Screaming, Marianne (also Die, Beautiful Marianne) is a 1971 British low-budget film by minor cult director Pete Walker. Although Walker’s films were mostly in the horror or sexploitation genres, this is a straight thriller, with mild horror undertones.

Eggshells (film)

Eggshells is an independent low-budget film released in 1969. It is the first film directed by Tobe Hooper. It was written by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper (writers of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre). It was produced by David L. Ford. It had a budget of $40,000. Tobe Hooper described Eggshells as "a hippie movie". David Ford called it a "head film". In 2013, Arrow Films released a 3-disc blu-ray edition of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and included the digitally restored Eggshells as a bonus feature (alongside Hooper's early short film The Heisters).

Fear (1946 film)

Fear is a 1946 low-budget film noir directed by Alfred Zeisler. The film is considered a loose adaptation of Dostoyevsky's book Crime and Punishment.

I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me

"I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me" is a 1926 popular song composed by Jimmy McHugh, with lyrics by Clarence Gaskill.More than 20 recordings were made of "I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me" in the 16 years following its publication. Early recordings included Roger Wolfe Kahn and His Orchestra (1926), Louis Armstrong (1930), Nat Gonella (1932), Earl Hines (1932), Artie Shaw (1938), Teddy Wilson (1938), and Ella Fitzgerald (1941).It is sung twice by Claudia Drake in Edgar G. Ulmer's low-budget film noir classic Detour (1945); it is also featured in The Caine Mutiny (1954). in the 1967 film Thoroughly Modern Millie it is sung by an uncredited male vocalist on the gramophone.

Joan Micklin Silver

Joan Micklin Silver (born May 24, 1935) is an American director.

She was born Joan Micklin in Omaha, Nebraska, the daughter of Doris (Shoshone) and Maurice David Micklin. She received her B.A. From Sarah Lawrence College. In 1956, she married Raphael D. Silver, with whom she has 3 daughters; Raphael's father was Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver.

Her early low-budget film Hester Street received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for actress Carol Kane. Her 1977 film Between the Lines was entered into the 27th Berlin International Film Festival. She is also known for the film Crossing Delancey which was released in 1988 and stars Amy Irving. She also conceived and directed the musical revue A... My Name Is Alice with Julianne Boyd.

King Solomon's Treasure

King Solomon's Treasure is a 1979 British-Canadian low-budget film based on the novels King Solomon's Mines and Allan Quatermain by H. Rider Haggard. It stars John Colicos as Allan Quatermain, as well as David McCallum, Britt Ekland, and Patrick Macnee who replaced Terry-Thomas.

Mr. Washington Goes to Town

Mr. Washington Goes to Town is a 1942 American comedy film directed by Jed Buell and William Beaudine and starring F. E. Miller, Mantan Moreland and Maceo Bruce Sheffield. It was a low-budget film aimed primarily at black audiences, which was written and shot in six days at a cost of $15,000.


Mumblecore is a subgenre of independent film characterized by naturalistic acting and dialogue (sometimes improvised), low-budget film production, an emphasis on dialogue over plot, and a focus on the personal relationships of people in their 20s and 30s. Filmmakers associated with the genre include Andrew Bujalski, Lynn Shelton, Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Greta Gerwig, Aaron Katz, Joe Swanberg, and Ry Russo-Young; in many cases, though, these directors reject the term.The genre is a mostly American phenomenon, but Indian and German mumblecore films have also been produced.

The term mumblegore has been used for films mixing the mumblecore and horror genres.

Paul Brooks

Paul Brooks (born 1959) is a British-born film producer.

Brooks has a Humanities degree in English/Philosophy/Psychology and Sociology from the University of London. He then went into real estate development before moving into film.In 1992 he executive produced low-budget film for Vadim Jean & Gary Sinyor "Leon The Pig Farmer" which became an unexpected hit in the UK box office.

In 1993 he formed a film company Metrodome Films which made films likes the controversial film Beyond Bedlam, Proteus, the cult horror Darklands directed by Julian Richards and Killing Time. Most of these films were usually starred Craig Fairbrass

Brooks has been the president of Gold Circle Films since March 2001. He has produced a number of films, including the Academy Award-nominated Shadow of the Vampire and My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Paul Rachman

Paul Rachman (born in New York, New York, on September 13, 1962) is an American film director who directed the highly praised 2006 documentary on punk music American Hardcore, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was released by Sony Pictures Classics. He is also one of the founders of the Slamdance Film Festival. He started his career as a music video director with low-budget videos for hardcore punk bands Gang Green and the Bad Brains. He was later signed to Los Angeles–based Propaganda Films, where he directed music videos for bands Sepultura, Alice in Chains, Temple of the Dog, The Replacements, Kiss, Pantera, Joan Jett, and Roger Waters, among many others. He made his feature film debut with the low-budget film noir Four Dogs Playing Poker, starring Forest Whitaker, Tim Curry and Balthazar Getty, released by Warner Home Video. He lives in New York City.

Planning the Low-Budget Film

Planning the Low-Budget Film, Second Edition is a book by Robert Latham Brown describing the processes involved in scheduling and budgeting motion pictures.

Brown is a 30-year veteran of motion picture production and he uses his experiences on many well-known films to illustrate his points. The book is a wealth of information and covers topics ranging from breaking down a film script to creating a budget, finding locations, dealing with the personalities,and hiring the crew. It also includes a large appendix, glossary, and index.

Search for Danger

Search for Danger is a 1949 American crime film directed by Jack Bernhard and starring John Calvert, Albert Dekker and Myrna Dell. The film was the last of three made by the low-budget Film Classics company featuring Calvert as The Falcon who had previously been played by George Sanders and Tom Conway for RKO. The film's art direction was by Boris Leven.

Stone (1974 film)

Stone is a 1974 Australian biker film written, directed and produced by Sandy Harbutt. It is a low budget film by company Hedon Productions.

Police officer Stone goes undercover with the Gravediggers outlaw motorcycle gang, to find out who is murdering their members, one by one.

The film stars Ken Shorter and features Rebecca Gilling, Bill Hunter and Helen Morse. The film's soundtrack was composed by Billy Green and featured some members of his group Sanctuary. Motorcycles featured include the legendary Kawasaki Z1(900). Stone initially rides a Norton.

The promotional trailer video features narration by radio and media personality John Laws. The film was featured in the documentary, Not Quite Hollywood, in which Quentin Tarantino enthuses about his admiration for the film.


Subramaniapuram is a 2008 Tamil-language period drama film produced, written, and directed by M. Sasikumar. The low-budget film received critical acclaim for its original script, expert direction, screenplay, editing, accurate sets and costumes to resurrect Madurai from the 1980s. Sasikumar cast then relatively new actors Jai, Swathi, Ganja Karuppu and himself in pivotal roles. Shot in 85 days, it became one of the biggest commercial successes of the year. The movie was dubbed into Malayalam under the same name and remade in Kannada in 2012 as Prem Adda. Director Anurag Kashyap had revealed twice that this movie was the inspiration for his Gangs of Wasseypur series - once in 2010 and once on the 10th anniversary of this movie.

Wicked Woman (film)

Wicked Woman is a 1953 American low-budget film noir film directed by Russell Rouse and starring Beverly Michaels, Richard Egan, Percy Helton, and Evelyn Scott. The film was written by Rouse and Clarence Greene.

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