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20 September 2017
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Energising and inspiring low-budget film masterclasses


In conjunction with the 53rd Sydney Film Festival, the AFC's IndiVision presented the Indie Screen Director Dialogues - two professional masterclasses for filmmakers about low-budget filmmaking.

On 13 June 2006, guest director Kelly Reichardt from the US gave an overview of her career to date and the process of making her film Old Joy on a budget of A$40,000. AFC Project Manager Jackie McKimmie conducted the session with Kelly, who discussed the importance of writing the film so that it would be achievable on the available budget and resources, and the benefits of using existing locations that didn't need dressing. Reichardt felt creatively liberated by the small budget; knowing that large amounts of money were not at risk and allowing her to be true to her creative vision rather than diluting it to fit the agendas of investors. In casting relatively unknown actors, Reichardt was able to avoid the logistical issues of bringing a US 'name' on board. She teaches during most of the year in order to afford to make films that she knows are unlikely to provide her with an income.

The second masterclass, on 21 June, featured Israeli filmmaker Danny Lerner, writer/director of Frozen Days and his producer brother, Alon Lerner. It was convened by producer Liz Watts. Frozen Days was made for just US$25,000, but won a prestigious prize at the Haifa Film Festival, beating off competition from much higher-budget films. Like Reichardt, Lerner also developed the script with limited resources in mind, ensuring the film was achievable with a crew of just eight and with existing locations that didn't require dressing. Holding down a day job meant that Lerner had to shoot the film entirely at night, but he wrote the film with this in mind. Production had to be staggered over a number of months, but Lerner was able to maintain energy and momentum in the film through using a dedicated cast and crew. The gaps in shooting allowed him to edit as they went, and he found this helped maintain continuity and a clear vision for the film.

Both Reichardt and Lerner claimed they wouldn't have done anything creatively different even with a bigger budget.

Both of the Director Dialogues attracted 60 attendees, and were held in the AFC's refurbished Theatrette in Sydney. A networking opportunity followed both, with participants reporting that they were energised and inspired by the directors' low-budget production methodologies and the possibilities that were available.

A still from Old Joy by US director Kelly Reichardt


Danny Lerner's low-budget Israeli film Frozen Days