No-Budget thrillers and ‘Street Shooting’

James Smith on alternative and ambitious ways to produce features films with no budget!

Obtaining finance for feature films is often a prolonged and fickle process: in Hollywood, trying to attach named talent to give the financiers and producers a warm feeling; in the UK, perhaps trying to tick numerous boxes to placate the gatekeepers of subsided schemes. Neither route is easy, nor guaranteed to deliver saleable films, such is the subjective nature of this business.

Screengrab from Agent Kelly, a no-budget film written, produced, and starring Caroline Spence. The challenging shoot involved 30-40 degree heat, a plague of mosquitoes, and improvised run-and-gun techniques in Spanish cities.

There is, however, another radical approach: shoot with no-budget, out in the street, in private residential properties, with help of friends, family, local businesses, students, and others enthusiastic or daft enough to believe in you. This approach is not for the fainthearted as I can attest: I have shot three no-budget films in as many years and am lining up a fourth. The first was a tough learning experience and is shelved to be re-shot, the second and third pushed me to mental and physical limits that, even now when I reflect, make my eyes water. Despite this, two films are now in post-production and due for release in 2018.

Let’s be clear about ‘no-budget’: this is ZERO. Not £500,000 (the approx. budget of Gareth Edwards‘ excellent Monsters) or $100,000 (the approx. budget of Sean Baker‘s fantastic comedy, crime drama Tangerine shot on an iPhone), but ZILCH.

So why do this? Well, this strategy may not be so daft, since the discipline allows complete creative freedom, thus hopefully fostering original ideas and innovative ways to make films. Furthermore, the intention is to use our no-budget projects as a showcase for our work at Raya Films and a stepping stone for our slate of ‘funded’ films, which will require full production budgets. Oh, and if by chance our no-budget films go on to earn revenue, then all involved will be reimbursed as well as receiving the valuable experience and IMDb credits already attained.

Many cast and crew members (including make-up artist & runner, Rachel Goodger, pictured here) received valuable experience on no-budget film ‘Do Something, Jake’

I am lucky enough to be partnered in these endeavours with Caroline Spence who not only writes all of the material for Raya Films (she has a large portfolio of original screenplays to her name) but also produces, acts, script supervises, and often boom operates when the sound department needs a rest!

Our films Do Something, Jake and Agent Kelly have been massive undertakings with only the support and enthusiasm of the aforementioned people, and yet they are filmed with an extensive cast and crew in locations spanning Leicestershire, London, and even Andalucía in southern Spain. How we (the cast, crew, everyone involved) did this with all of the barriers and obstacles faced, I still struggle to comprehend, but somehow I feel that the story of what we all have collectively achieved will unfold, and potentially set a new pattern for innovation in British film-making.

Last day of the shoot on no-budget film ‘Do Something, Jake’ Photo: David Ward

James Smith

Join the Twitter discussion with the hashtag #StreetShootingFilm


3 thoughts on “No-Budget thrillers and ‘Street Shooting’

  1. Sounds great when one reads it. I can’t even interest a film company enough to help me find a Line Producer with two very good scripts. I have a synopsis for both. Are you interested? Please contact me at the email address below. The scripts are ‘Chimera’ and ‘Robert Burns’. If I have a producer for ‘Robert Burns’, Creative Scotland may fund him. Thanks! Janet

    • Hi Janet

      Yes, it is super tough in this business, but do keep pushing ahead, as persistence and talent win through. Unfortunately, we’re tied up with our slate at the moment so cannot help, but keep in touch and let us know how you progress.

      The Team @RayaFilms

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