When should I make my First Feature Film?
I get this question on many occasions from keen enthusiastic emerging filmmakers. The answer is as follows.
One should go as soon as you have made a successful short film of 10 minutes – 20 minutes, that wins Film Festivals and gets seen on major online Platforms This most likely will be your 2nd film or possibly even your third short film. This would also assume that the filmmaker attended and participated in a really great film course.
Some amazing people may be able to crack this code on their first short film. As soon as you have achieved the above, do not hang around making short films. Move to your first Feature length film or documentary film as soon as you can.
The most important thing is that you learn how to make a Feature Film on a very cheap budget. These days the streamers are looking for maximum content. If you can make an inexpensive film, streamers like Prime Video Apple TV and Roku and Tubi , will gladly take more films that have no stars. Why not go out and make your film for very little and get it seen around the world. You will also get respect, once you are making a feature film.
Here are Ten Important Factors, when shooting your super-low budget film.
1 Shoot Quick. Shoot 5 minutes Per day.
Shoot in 16 Days maximum. Shoot 80 minutes.
2 On your First Feature Film, keep it relatively easy to shoot.
Keep your cast small and tight. You can always have 2 – 4 main actors and then some minor actors who have a small part.
3 Vary Locations provided you keep in one per day of Shooting.
You can vary locations provided you avoid location changes during a day of shooting. In other words, if you are shooting in a house, stay there for at least the day and maybe tag on a street scene that can be shot directly outside the house at the end of the day or a park scene 200 meters away. Keep in one base per day. Moving locations will cost one to two hours.
If you are on super low budget, shoot 4 Days every seven weeks. You could shoot on a holiday weekend Friday Saturday Sunday Monday. There are two reasons to shoot on the weekend. People work, so your crew will not want to give up their paying jobs for four days.
Cause minimum disruption to the day jobs of the people who are in your crew.
Secondly you can organize each shoot in four day blocks.
Shoot one may have 4 locations and you only have to find 4 locations. You produce 4 days at a time which is so much easier than 16 days. It is like making four short films with the same cast and crew. This is so much easier as each production will be seven weeks apart.
- Shoot One January 2nd – January 5th
- Shoot TwoMarch 2nd – March 5th
- Shoot Three June 2nd – June 5th
- Shoot FourAugust 2nd – August 5th
I have placed them 9 weeks apart but you could tighten this to 7 weeks or even 5 weeks apart. I have done this on two of my feature films and everyone loved it and really wanted to stay with the film.
4 Recruit a tiny effective Crew.
If you shoot on a Mobile Phone shoot your budget will be very small. Keep your crew small and one way of ensuring this is to shoot on mobile phones. See my post on this here
Nobody asks what you shot on and there are many examples of shooting feature films on phones that have been hugely successful. Make a great film and it will be seen everywhere.
Keep the crew Small
- make sure you shoot on the camera and direct. Saves the need for a video village.
- A behind the scenes camera person who can at times work as Camera B
- A Clapper/lighting person combined.
- A Sound Person
- A Makeup Person who can double as Production Assistant, Runner.
5 Mobile phones shoot still require gear.
You will need a tripod and a stabilizer. You will need great sound equipment and a cheap lighting kit that will have 3-point lighting with background lighting capability. Most of the photos on this page are from feature films shot on mobile phones and have been very successful
You will need the best possible casting. Advertise far and wide and run a casting. We teach this on our Filmmaking Course
7 Pay your Cast and Crew with 20% of First Dollar Return.
You are going to spend years on this shoot and spend money on this film. You deserve a great return of 80%.
Your actors and crew will spend 16 days on this film over several months and will have lots of fun shooting. If you make a feature film, you will make money especially if you go for a great course like this one.
On this course you will learn exactly what to do to maximize your return. Pay your actors out of first dollar return.
That means if you get $5,000 return of your first quarter return, pay your cast and crew 20%. That is $1000. Every quarter for many years to come, they can look forward to some money such as the return for Quarter One. These actors will most likely have never acted in a quality feature film before This film is going to win film festivals and get on streamers such as Prime Video. This will be a great return for them and you.
8 Learn to Edit and post produce your own films
This is essential for filmmakers to learn how to do. You must learn to edit on a great course where you learn the essentials of editing Learning how to do your own editing means you can save so much money and get your film made in the comfort of your own home or on the road when you have spare time.
9 Get the film into film festivals and find a Distributor that is honest.
One of the most important things is to get a the film noticed. There is technique to do this and it must be learnt, from someone who knows the market out there. Do all of the above and you can make your first feature film very inexpensively on a super low budget and have a feature film in the next year that gets seen around the world like our most recent film Tabernacle 101.
Colm O’Murchu is an Indie Filmmaker who makes regular feature films and teaches filmmaking. His new 5 Month Filmmaking Course Starts soon