Tuesday, April 26, 2011

No budget example: SURROGATE VALENTINE

Surrogate Valentine Trailer HD from goh nakamura on Vimeo.

Dave Boyle's film Surrogate Valentine is a good example of "no budget" filmmaking. Though we never like to disclose actual budget amounts, Dave is fond of saying it cost less than buying a car (certainly not my car, but more on that later). Surrogate Valentine started in two ways, first) when Dave and singer/songwriter Goh Nakamura met at the premiere of our film White on Rice and Dave started to have this weird impression that Goh could carry a feature film by himself, and two) as Dave and I started talking about wanting to make a movie with a budget that was low enough that a substantial part of its cost could be made back by selling DVDs at festival screenings (more on that in a later post as well).

Once the financing was more or less in place we started to think about what type of movie we could make on such a small scale. Dave's plan was actually quite ambitious: a road movie. Instead of spending the entire movie indoors in just a few locations, we went on the road and shot over fifteen days in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. While this seems like an unlikely decision it actually gave the film an epic quality and an increased production value.

Dave and our cinematographer Bill Otto decided to keep the movie black and white for multiple artistic reasons, but also because it would make shooting quicker to not have to worry about color temperatures or wardrobe colors etc.

We kept everything either an interior or exterior day to facilitate quick lighting set ups. Even though it messes with the story a bit we changed nights to days without sweating that it didn't really make sense. In one sequence Goh is asked what he's doing that night, he says he's playing a show. After the show there are several dialogue scenes out side, all of them in daylight, like we're in the Alaskan winter or something, but no one has ever complained about it.

All driving dialogue we did at night to take advantage of DP Bill Otto's mad poor man process skills (making it look like you're driving at night, but you're actually sitting in a garage). We had all hands on decks waving HMIs at random times, or waving pen lights to look like headlights behind the car. This was a very hard day on the actors, who had to sit in an un-air conditioned car, in an un-air conditioned studio in the middle of July for twelve hours.

DP Bill Otto makes poor man process magic -- note the coffee cup at his feet. Bill hates Duane's poor man coffee.

Finally our post production came in for so low because so many people on our team know how to use all of Apple's desktop applications. It would be hard to pull off a low budget project like Surrogate Valentine if we expected to pay someone to handle all of our post needs. We only paid for some sound sweetening, some simple visual effects, and to print the final version on HDCam.

Surrogate Valentine premiered at SXSW, won an audience award at SFIAAFF, and a special jury prize for Goh's acting at DIFF. Look for it at a film festival near you.

Surrogate Valentine from goh nakamura on Vimeo.

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