How to make a Film for the Hundred Dollar Film Festival – Part 1

Contingency edit

When the Hundred Dollar Film Festival first began, the idea was that you could make a film for under $100. Now, twenty-one years later, is that still possible? In this and later posts, I will to talk about how to make a film for the festival. As I wrote this post, it began to get very long, so I decided to break it up into several separate posts. In this post, I will look at what kind of film I will discuss.

As the deadline for the twenty-first festival looms, this may seem a bit late to talk about how to make a film. But, there is always the twenty-second festival.

What qualifies me to talk about this subject?

I’ve had eight films in the festival over the years, with films in both the first festival in 1992 and the twentieth in 2012. I also started the festival.

The Festival Rules

The festival rules have changed over the years and it doesn’t need to be constrained by the original intentions, but I hope that films made to the original limits will always be welcome at the festival.

When I first came up with the idea for the festival, the kind of filmmaker I aimed it at was someone who had just begun to make films. That was what I was back in 1991. Maybe they were someone who had never made a film, or who had only made a few small films. Their interest would be to learn and develop their skills, and, of course, to have an audience for their films.

I became aware of a different group of filmmakers who were interested in the festival. These were experienced people looking for a challenge, or a chance to have some fun when they made a film. I know that some looked at these films as a way to reinvigorate themselves after a frustrating project.

The challenge came in the constraints on how they could make the film. In the first festival, the cost was not the limitation, as implied by the name. Instead, we set a limit on how much film the filmmakers could use to make the film. The limits were five rolls of black and white, four rolls of colour, or three rolls of sound. With a shooting ratio of 3 to 5, the final films would be 2 ¼ to 5 minutes long.

Can It Still Be Done?

A lot has changed since 1992. Can you still make a film the way it was back then? I believe so, although not as cheaply. Super 8 is still available, and you can make films on 16mm in the same spirit as Super 8. I did that for my film Contingency for the 2012 festival.

I estimate that films made to the original rules would cost $300 to $550. You can still make a film for under $100, if you shot only one roll of film. Shipping the film to the lab and back can cost more than the film and developing!

There are some further limitations on the films now. Super 8 sound film isn’t available any more. If you want sound, you need to put it on a CD, or have live sound. With pre-recorded sound, you can’t guarantee sync. It is not as easy to get a 16mm film negative cut and printed these days, so you can’t do effects like dissolves or title overlays, unless you can do them in-camera.

In the next post, I will review how I made each of my films. In later posts, I will use my experience to provide advice on how to make a film for the Hundred Dollar Film Festival.

I know that I don’t know everything there is to know about how to make a film, so I would appreciate any comments that build on my suggestions.

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