As we know, some actors struggled before succeeding, but on the other side of the camera it’s just as valid because some directors made their first film with a very tight budget and huge financial risks. We invite you to take a brief look at these people who broke through and managed to reach the heights of Hollywood starting from films made in a hurry with a micro-budget.
1. Spike Lee – Nola Darling does as she pleases
While he was looking to make his first “real” film after his graduation project, Spike Lee had managed to nab some light funding. He was then forced to ask several members of his family to act and help direct to avoid paying too many people, while limiting the shooting time to 12 days, which is very, very short. In the end, he made his film with $175,000 to finally collect $7.1 million. A successful bet knowing that during the filming, he sent a friend to bring empty soda cans back to the grocery store to collect the deposit and buy more film.
2. Robert Rodriguez – The Mariachi
Robert Rodriguez started from very far away to make his film: he had no money, no technical team or equipment. He took part in a program to test drugs in order to raise $7,000, the total budget for the film. He shot the film in a hurry, asking the actors to also act as a technical team, recording the dialogues after the shooting of the scenes and keeping the failed scenes in the final cut, for lack of film. His goal was not even to get the film to the cinema but to succeed in reaching the video rental market, except that Columbia spotted his work and offered him to produce the second one.
3. Kevin Smith – Clerks
By making his first film, the young Kevin Smith had managed to collect 27,000 dollars, a derisory sum to make a feature film. He worked in a grocery store and had a passion for movies, so he decided to shoot his own right at his workplace at night during closing hours. He financed the film by enrolling in a film school to benefit from gear rental discounts and sold his comic book collection to make some money. Clerks caused a stir at Sundance and audiences wondered why it hadn’t been shot in color (because it was cheaper) and presto, Smith’s career was launched.
4. David Lynch – Eraserhead
David Lynch needed barely $10,000 to make his first SUPER CHICK movie but it was still a big hassle to finance. Basically, it must be said that it was just supposed to be a short film, so from the moment it evolved into a feature film, it became a big mess. Lynch’s friends gave him money, and the lead actor’s wife also donated part of her waitressing salary to fund the project, which still took six years to complete. It made for a really weird movie, but one that really launched Lynch’s career.
5. Christopher Nolan – Following
After a few small projects and an early career as a director of institutional films, Nolan wanted to make a REAL film. He collected some money, $6,000 to be exact, and started shooting his first full-length work. The problem is that everyone on the set did this in their spare time and had a “real job” so the work could only be done on weekends and that’s why it took a year to do this bullshit there.
6. Quentin Tarantino – Reservoir Dogs
Young film enthusiast employed by a video club, Quentin Tarantino watched a bunch of films before having the chance to make his own. After writing True Romance he decides to put all the money that the screenplay brought him into the budget ($50,000) and wants to shoot the project as an amateur. His dream would be to have Harvey Keitel on board and through two or three acquaintances he manages to send him the script which the actor really likes. From the moment Keitel is on board the production changes completely since he wants to co-produce and brings another producer with him, increasing the budget from $50,000 to $1,500,000. The script was solid, that’s what made it work.
7. Sam Raimi – Evil Dead
Say that shootingEvil Dead was simple would be bullshit. Sam Raimi took nearly a year and a half to finally complete his film, suffering constant hassles both from lack of money and from the departure of actors and crew members. Fortunately, its main actor Bruce Campbell remained faithful, which is why he made him appear in all his following films, even in Doctor Strange 2.
8. Rian Johnson – Brick
By making his first film Brick with a very young Joseph Gordon Levitt Rian Johnson did not have much money, in fact he had even taxed a lot of money to his family to succeed in achieving it. A bit of a hassle and tight budget shoot for a guy who really believed in himself, result a few years later he was making a movie Star Wars. Whether we like it or not, we can recognize him for having achieved a nice rise in Hollywood.
9. Shane Carruth – Primer
Ok, he’s probably a director that most people have never heard of and I imagine the movie Primer doesn’t ring a lot of viewers’ ears either. The film was written, directed, starred and edited by Shane Carruth for a budget of $7,000 and was a BIG hit at Sundance. It is now considered one of the best films on the theme of time travel but a word of advice, if you watch it, take notes. And watch it several times.
10. George Miller – Mad Max
It’s what we call a lesson: $350,000 budget, more than $100 million in profits, a franchise of several films in a row… All for a film shot in a hurry with a micro-budget , scenes filmed sometimes without authorization but it was enough to make a classic. Finally if, it was Mel Gibson who had the role in an improbable way: he accompanied a friend who had to pass the casting and as he had fought the day before he had marks of blows that the director liked.