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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

No Budget Film Festival Urges Filmmakers To 'Never Stop Shooting'

Judy Cai |
November 24, 2014 | 7:26 p.m. PST

Filmmakers and festival contestants Matt Glass (left) and Jordan Long (right). (Judy Cai/Neon Tommy)
Filmmakers and festival contestants Matt Glass (left) and Jordan Long (right). (Judy Cai/Neon Tommy)
Mack Sennett Studios is a charming building that stands proudly on the corner of Bates Avenue in Los Angeles. For the past 100 years, the studio has played host to myriad theatre, film and music productions. This past weekend, it served as the setting for the fifth annual No Budget Film Festival.

Multimedia production company Collaborative Arts LA (cARTel) established the No Budget Film Festival (NBFF) in 2010, and the festival’s popularity has grown exponentially ever since. This year’s program consisted of film screenings, panels run by film and media industry professionals as well as workshops designed to help rising filmmakers. For two days, filmmakers and creators from all walks of life converged to demonstrate their passion for filmmaking. 

The festival encourages the exchange of ideas between creators in different sectors of the industry. It also seeks to challenge independent filmmakers’ innovation and resourcefulness by removing a large aspect of film production: the budget. While there was no set limit on budget, the goal was to spend as little as possible. Five hundred submissions from 33 different countries competed for six awards—a staggering increase from the 16 submissions received five years ago when the festival first started. 

Matthew James Thompson, a New York-based creative production company director, is one of the talented individuals whose film was shortlisted and screened at the festival. The film, "Reflecting," shot against the sultry background of New York's Gramercy Park Hotel, explores a magnetic yet elusive interaction between two lovers. The lovers, though perfectly compatible, are separated by the confines of reality. 

“I’ve always wanted to know, what if you met the perfect woman or the perfect significant other but they exist in another world?” Thompson explained. 

Thompson became captivated by films from an early age and decided to pursue filmmaking after learning about the art form in college.  

“My dad was worried about me at a young age because I liked watching movies so much: he was like 'Oh my God, he’s never going to go anything, he’s just going to sit inside and watch movies,'" Thompson said. "There’s something about the moving image. As I learned more about the technical aspects behind filmmaking, I just started having this insatiable appetite for creating things and digesting movies and culture, and all sorts of cool stuff.”

Fellow participants of the NBFF share Thompson’s insatiable desire. For Matt Glass and Jordan Wayne Long, creators of the short documentary "The Glass Cabin: Nick Olson & Lilah Horwitz," filmmaking is a way of life. Glass and Long’s documentary recounts a couple’s construction of a glass cabin in West Virginia. The cabin, built to capture an immersive sunset, is a testament to the simple yet potent power of two people.  

Long says his documentary raised questions about stereotypes of artists among the online community. 

“A lot of people on the Internet don’t think people like [Olson], who have a hipster mentality, actually get anything done," Long said. "I think that’s why it [the documentary] kind of went viral; I think that’s why people were so confused because these people [artists] have a lot of drive. I think [the documentary] provides an interesting contrast to what people normally think of artists.” 

Glass and Long began collaborating nearly two years ago after moving out to LA in search of filmmaking opportunities. The duo claims the combination of their individual skills is key to their growing success.

“Jordan’s clearly more outgoing. That’s why he takes over the job of the interview, and he’s the guy who befriends the subjects (in their documentary productions),” Glass remarks.

“Matt is a better editor than I am, and he makes music. I do marketing and other things. Everything combines and we become a nice unit.” Long said. 

When asked what advice they would give to aspiring filmmakers, Glass and Long said spontaneity and courage are fundamental. 

“Shoot quick, shoot little and just see what comes out of it," Glass said. "If you think the first thing you make is going to be amazing, it’s not. You learn from failure; if you make a video and nobody laughs at it except one part you can take that part and expand on it. In the next video maybe they’ll laugh at more, and you just keep doing that. It’s not about spending years to make something perfect: just make something.” 

Long agrees with his partner. “If I have an idea, I have to go out and make it as soon as possible. If you wait too long you’ll never end up doing it. You’ll lose interest in the idea, you’ll never get the things you want or you’ll start to believe your idea is too great to achieve."

Evangeline LaRoque, winner of the festival's “Audience Choice” award, cites patience and perseverance as the major influences of a successful no-budget film. LaRoque’s film, a musical stop-motion ode to a guy’s beard whimsically breathes life into a typically mundane object. 

“The most challenging part was keeping going when I was right in the middle, getting to the point where I was spending really long nights and I was started to hurt my neck and hanging out really late into the night," LaRoque said. "Also, I think just being alone: I was so isolated during the process of making it, towards the end it was hard to see it [the overall picture] clearly." 

However, despite the hardships, all the filmmakers espoused a similar attitude toward no-budget/low-budget film production. They said it's a liberating process which allows for the maximization of personal creativity, talents and interests. 

“We still eat tortillas and cheese but we don’t care. It doesn’t matter, because we’re not sacrificing anything: we’re doing exactly what we want to do," Glass said. "We’ve had the option to take jobs that would take away creative freedom in return for more money and we’ve turned them down. We think it’s the right decision; it’s going to be a slower road to get to where we want to be but we don’t want to sacrifice that [personal freedom].” 

Reach Staff Writer Judy Cai here.



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