Blood Cousins: A Feature film for $5,000

Two Three years ago my friends decided to produce a feature film…

Blood Cousins (2012)

They had written a nice script they were happy with and coming off the success of the short films and commercials we had produced together, everyone felt it was a good time to tackle the lessons that are sure to come with a first feature.

Well, tackle it we did, after many lessons and wonderfully hectic days solving the problems of how to produce an 84 minute feature for less than $5,000. The only way it could happen was for me to produce the movie for no daily fee. Offering my cinematography, along with my camera, lenses, lighting, steadicam, dolly, jib, and audio equipment at no charge. (sorry, unless you’re a non-profit, this won’t happen again)

It was a great experience for all of us. But it’s also a great lesson in the value of having a balanced budget for any production. A majority of this movie was shot with the four actors… and myself. Literally. If there aren’t extras in the scene, then odds are that scene was shot with five guys in the room(or car), four of whom were acting or trading off their directions of each other. The fifth carrying a DSLR rig and headphones while setting up each shot.

This means that for the car scenes, I was in the trunk monitoring video and audio on a laptop with headphones. It means that the DP was the cinematographer was the grip was the set designer was the blocking director was the… you get the point. And shooting on a DSLR? Well, that meant no studio monitor. So it meant, we’d run through a scene, then I’d play it back and discuss options/changes. Although it sounds like a very slow process, we’d manage to shoot up to eight minutes of usable video per day, which isn’t bad relative to most productions. This is why most of the film is shoulder mount or tripod. As the story gets going I wanted the audience to feel like they’re there with the guys, to feel like they’re a part of the “wolf pack” to quote another movie.

After four months of quality weekend-warrior film making  the actors grew busy with their daily lives and we took a hiatus from the production and focused on editing. Six months later, we had 95% of the movie completed… but were missing all the “as-yet-not-filmed” flashback scenes, kind of important, and various other pickups to finesse the story and pacing. After about a year and a half of simply working on other projects, we regrouped and began a schedule of one weekend a month dedicated to finishing this project. After another six months, we had ourselves a finished feature film. Written, acted, and directed by four guys. Edited by two. Shot by one. I have to admit there were times I wondered if we’d ever complete this monumental undertaking.

But I’m glad we finished it, even if the quality of the lenses/lights/microphones/etc. changed dramatically over those two years, even though some of the actors weight and hair changed dramatically throughout… Experience is the best form of instruction. And I think we all learned a lot.

Of course we won’t win awards or fame. But I sincerely look forward to sharing this movie with you.

I hope you enjoy it.