#Scriptchat Transcript with Morgan Dameron @MorganDameron - Writing for a Budget

Writer/director/producer Morgan Dameron shares insights into writing for a budget. Containing and getting creative with your big ideas so you can make a low-budget feature. Enjoy!

  1. It’s #SCRIPTCHAT O’CLOCK w writer/director/producer @MorganDameron - TOPIC: Writing for a budget. Containing and getting creative with your big ideas so you can actually make your low budget feature. Chat here:  http://www.tchat.io/rooms/scriptchat β€¦
  2. πŸ‘‹ Hi! Excited to talk about my experience writing @DiffrentFlowers and how to deal with the creative conundrum of writing for a budget! #scriptchat  https://twitter.com/scriptchat/status/932413184874565633 β€¦
  3. #scriptchat I think I compromised to much on my script to match a very low budget, and the end result was a disaster.
  4. all my scripts are budget friendly and easy enough locations. Only one script will need a muscle car. :P #scriptchat
  5. @DevSeventyFive @scriptchat @MorganDameron Thanks! Stoked to be here in this virtual hangout with screenwriting enthusiasts! #scriptchat
  6. So it might be a little light tonight with the upcoming holiday. So @MorganDameron please tell us a little bit about yourself #Scriptchat
  7. @Angie_Lavallee I've been trying to work on a budget friendly short rewrite. Finding a character flaw for my third char is hard #scriptchat
  8. @MsZoeyRose @MorganDameron I'm from #KansasCity, went to USC to study film. Make web series, shorts, branded content & a feature #scriptchat
  9. Did a rewrite on an overly complicated script with budget in mind. #scriptchat
  10. @MorganDameron @MsZoeyRose Q: What web series did you work on, and how has that helped when writing for budget? #scriptchat
  11. But still needs an expensive looking care, even if they use a junker. #scriptchat
  12. Phew, made it #Scriptchat for the first time in three weeks! Good to be home!
  13. @MorganDameron @MsZoeyRose For my feature, @DiffrentFlowers, I decided I was going to make it myself before I wrote the script. #scriptchat
  14. @MorganDameron And totally your call. You can chat away for a bit or jumpy right into questions on the topic. #scriptchat
  15. @filmwritr4 @MorganDameron @MsZoeyRose I directed Season 2 of The Fat One, which was a whole season in about 8 days, I think. #scriptchat
  16. I gather we're talking writing to a budget this week? One of my favourite topics! #scriptchat
  17. #scriptchat My original script wasn't the script I shot -- I changed it alot to accomodate budget.
  18. @MorganDameron @filmwritr4 It helped a ton bc it's an exercise in getting creative with what you've got. #scriptchat
  19. People think a low budget has to mean a bad film. It doesn't. Look at The Breakfast Club - it cost $1m back in the day (1/2) #scriptchat
  20. I produced one script that would have cost a mint as CGI. Not quite the same, but glad to see it completed. #scriptchat
  21. You could make that film, BTL, for about $15,000 these days. And it's thirty years old. #scriptchat
  22. @chasinglamely I had no idea. Lots of low budget films are quality, and some exceed their budget in box office gross #scriptchat
  23. #scriptchat I ended up with something like My Dinner with Andre, but mine was not as good.
  24. @janaconematt Totally hear that. Locations change, actors inform characters, combining scenes is really helpful. #scriptchat
  25. @filmwritr4 Indeed, and Clerks. $28k back in 93. Most of that was production costs, because of film. Now with digital... $500? #scriptchat
  26. If the script is lame the movie will be lame whatever the budget. #scriptchat
  27. @chasinglamely Both Clerks and Brothers McMullen were pretty low budget, if I recall. Good films. #scriptchat
  28. @MorganDameron @janaconematt Q: From your experiences, what are some of the best ways to write w/budget in mind? #scriptchat
  29. @DevSeventyFive Nobody you'd ever heard of for the kids, Rainn Wilson for the teacher. #scriptchat
  30. @MorganDameron what was one of the biggest takeaways you learned by going from web series to a low budget feature? #scriptchat
  31. #scriptchat My version of My Dinner with Andre ended up being My Session with a Shrink.
  32. @DevSeventyFive If I had to have a 'name' among the core 5, I'd have Britt Robertson playing Allison. #scriptchat
  33. @filmwritr4 @MorganDameron You have to be careful not to compromise your script too much, which I thought I did with my film Mango. #scriptchat
  34. @collinlieberg @chasinglamely Clerks is an excellent example of working with what you got. Brilliant script. #scriptchat
  35. I know I could have done a much better job with my film with more $$$ #scriptchat
  36. @MorganDameron @collinlieberg It was, and solid ingenuity. Like I said, you could make it for about $500 these days. Easily. #scriptchat
  37. @janaconematt Money isn't always the answer - you can write around almost any problem. #scriptchat
  38. @janaconematt @MorganDameron I will definitely keep that in mind. Right now, I'm hoping to rewrite a short that involves 3 characters and one location. One of those characters is voice-only until the second half of the film #scriptchat
  39. @filmwritr4 @MorganDameron @janaconematt The standard rules are few locations, few cast, and think hard about location/ setting. #scriptchat
  40. I went from shooting about 5 locations down to mainly 1 -- shrink's office. #scriptchat
  41. @MorganDameron @filmwritr4 @janaconematt Indeed. I once wrote an entire feature set in a fallout shelter. Four characters. #scriptchat
  42. The solutions actually came with I was shooting, when things just weren't working. I do know what I ended up with was the best I could do #scriptchat
  43. Ooh, will have to come back to read the transcript of this chat. Currently doing pre-production on a webseries set in mostly one condo. #scriptchat
  44. @MsZoeyRose @MorganDameron Have there been any changes you needed to make during filming bc of budget issues? #scriptchat
  45. @FlutterFerret Anywhere that costs money or where there are lots of people. If you can shoot it in your apartment, do it. #scriptchat
  46. @FlutterFerret This'll change from person to person depending on their connections, but probably things like museums, police stations, hospitals. #scriptchat
  47. @MorganDameron beyond locations, what are other things for writer to consider for cutting costs? #scriptchat
  48. I am actually proud that I saw the film through instead of getting frustrated and quitting #scriptchat
  49. When you know what you're looking for, you can cut the budget for most films in half by doing a couple of script passes. #scriptchat
  50. @jeannevb @MorganDameron Cut back on crew as much as possible, but not too much where it slows you down. #scriptchat
  51. The key solution to my film was the main character telling his story, a conversation he had with a woman, to a shrink #scriptchat
  52. @jeannevb Character decisions become huge, even one offs, bc if you're SAG that's ~$125 for every day of work for a speaking role. #scriptchat
  53. Don't know if our guest is having problems, but we can continue discussing the topic at hand #scriptchat
  54. I find simple things are the most often overlooked: Are the characters driving? Could they walk instead? #scriptchat
  55. @jeannevb That being said I broke both the location and cast rule in @DiffrentFlowers but was hugely helped by setting it in a place I knew would support our production #scriptchat
  56. Do you need a gunfight, or can it be a fistfight? Can anyone really tell that Gucci bag is real, or will a market stall one do? #scriptchat
  57. #scriptchat I would also like to add I shot my film 'Mango' with a Moto X smartphone
  58. @MsZoeyRose @jeannevb Yes! Food is also a big factor bc every person you add to the team you have to feed breakfast and lunch. We ended up finding a caterer that was willing to work with our budget. #scriptchat
  59. @janaconematt Exactly. My phone actually has better video quality than my camera. #scriptchat
  60. How can you apply these budget cutting principles to a supernatural monster movie? What about SFX? #scriptchat
  61. @MsZoeyRose @jeannevb When writing, I set things at diners thinking we could potentially feed people at the same place we filmed. #scriptchat
  62. @NaomiVondell Depends on the monster, depends on the movie. Depends on the scale of the FX #scriptchat
  63. @jeannevb Another film that does one location, few characters, and low budget well is #HouseOnPineStreet. The crew stayed in the house that was the main location! #scriptchat
  64. @MorganDameron We did that for my short film, too. Made it so much less stressful. Also brought on film students to PA, etc. for free. Will work for food haha #scriptchat
  65. @NaomiVondell Yes, as much off screen as possible. That tension is scarier too! Use sound. #scriptchat
  66. @NaomiVondell I think the Twilight Zone had a fairly low budget (for the time) but managed to have scary twists. #scriptchat
  67. @chasinglamely Yes, page length is huge too! The fewer the pages, the fewer there is to shoot, and fewer production days. #scriptchat
  68. @MorganDameron @chasinglamely Consolidation is key. Can a scene do two things in one? Fuse character development with action. #scriptchat
  69. @MorganDameron also, use theatre trained actors, not screen trained ones. They can memorise more pages, and retain direction. #scriptchat
  70. @collinlieberg @NaomiVondell Absolutely. Great example. Check out MONSTERS too for a recent example. #scriptchat
  71. @MorganDameron @chasinglamely I still came in at a feature-length film at 96 pages if almost pure dialogue. #scriptchat
  72. I love this kind of creative #setlife problem-solving combined with storytelling!!! Nice. πŸ˜ŽπŸ˜‚πŸŽ¬ #scriptchat #filmmaking  https://twitter.com/MorganDameron/status/932422467829641217 β€¦
  73. @chasinglamely @MorganDameron I disagree here. Love me theater actors but cameras can throw people. Experienced actors help. #scriptchat
  74. @MorganDameron In an ideal world, I'd find actors with experience of both, of course! #scriptchat
  75. #scriptchat A time-tested stage technique works for no budget films β€” instead of filming the huge battler, a messenger describes the huge battle he or she just escaped. Use sparingly, as you are (gasp!) telling and not showing.
  76. @MorganDameron @chasinglamely In later drafts, think like the audience. Where am I bored? What makes my mom change the channel? #scriptchat
  77. @MorganDameron If it bores me, I bin it. It probably wasn't contributing anyway. #scriptchat
  78. @chasinglamely @MorganDameron Totally. Also helps to think as if you're in post & defending this scene to your editor. Can you? #scriptchat
  79. @MorganDameron I agree entirely. If I'd cut it in the editing room, I just cut it from the script. No point wasting time or $$$ #scriptchat
  80. @DevSeventyFive @jeannevb @MorganDameron It can, but I think length of the scene is probably a bigger factor when scheduling. #scriptchat
  81. Final ten minutes. @MorganDameron is killing it regarding low budget tips and tricks. #scriptchat
  82. @MorganDameron When should you *start* thinking about budgeting? Outlining? Writing? Revisions? #scriptchat
  83. #Scriptchat Cop Car was fairly parsimonious (5 char? 6 or 7 locations?) and better than many costly films. Also Blue Ruin. And of course Locke!
  84. @collinlieberg Well, if you intend to produce it yourself, I wouldn't set it in space. Unless it's one room in space. #scriptchat
  85. @collinlieberg ;) But I think honestly a second or third draft. Write within general perimeters, then form it to what you HAVE. #scriptchat
  86. @collinlieberg @MorganDameron If you'd like to sell it, don't consider budget, in my opinion! Make it as big as the story needs. #scriptchat
  87. F5: How do you write a fight scene? SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING - under $10! "The best book on the practical nuts-and-bolts mechanics of writing a screenplay I've ever read," Ted Elliott. "Shrek", "Pirates Of The Caribbean".  https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Action-Screenwriting-fully-revised-ebook/dp/B006KTHKSA/secretsofactions β€¦ #scriptchat #amwriting
  88. @MorganDameron @collinlieberg Agreed. The lower the budget on the page, the less they'll think they have to pay you ;-) #scriptchat
  89. I have returned to screenwriting and will only make a film if the finances will support it. I don't want to compromise the writing #scriptchat
  90. RT anicat: I love this kind of creative #setlife problem-solving combined with storytelling!!! Nice. πŸ˜ŽπŸ˜‚πŸŽ¬ #scriptchat #filmmaking  https://twitter.com/MorganDameron/status/932422467829641217 β€¦
  91. I also cannot recommend rehearsal enough. Put your scenes up on your feet w/ actors. Just to hear it. My script changed so much. #scriptchat
  92. @MorganDameron @collinlieberg I know TV shows use "bottle episodes" a lot to cut down on costs. But that'd make a bad pilot prob #scriptchat
  93. @MorganDameron any tips you were able to gleam from your old boss to make your film, even though they're not known for lower budget stuff. #scriptchat
  94. @MorganDameron If you don't have a practice space, do it in your living room. The directing workshop I co-founded started there. #scriptchat
  95. @collinlieberg @MorganDameron Depends on the genre. Most sitcoms ARE bottle episodes. Most of the OC's pilot was three locations #scriptchat
  96. #Scriptchat Writers must study editing. Editing is writing. You want those tools. Leave nothing unwritten. That’s my view.
  97. Thank you @MorganDameron for your wisdom tonight. There will be no #scriptchat next week because of the holiday.
  98. I'm away from my desk so I'll post the transcript later... unless one of the other mods gets to it before me. #scriptchat
  99. Wow, top of the hour already. @MorganDameron, you've been awesome, we've been here. Fun had by all. WooHoo. #scriptchat
  100. @MsZoeyRose @MorganDameron Thank you for having me! Loved the conversation. Enjoy the holiday everyone! Get writing done! #scriptchat
  101. Oh... Thanksgiving. I always forget that's in November. #scriptchat
  102. I always get confused with Canadian Thanksgiving, which I gather is both in October and every seven seconds. #scriptchat
  103. Thanks for tuning into this convo about writing for a budget. The most important thing is to DO IT. No excuses! #scriptchat
  104. I don’t know about you, but waking up every day and getting paid to do what I love for a living is my childhood #filmmaking dream realized. Keep filling your blank pages on your road to #screenwriting success. #scriptchat #screenwriter
  105. I have to make sleep now. Lecture in seven hours, followed by a whole night of work. Bloody uni interrupting my writing! #scriptchat
  106. @jeannevb Heard good things about #scriptchat, so I might have to join one sometime in the near future. Also, Happy Thanksgiving!