Tucked up on a hill at Barnsdall Art Park, I had the great pleasure of attending the No Budget Film Festival on Sunday October 18th. The festival focuses on fostering community and screens films that have been created with virtually no budget. The NBFF is in its 6th year, and it began in a tiny black box theater in Westwood in 2010 where they screened all 16 submissions.
“There was a spark of something there that I was really excited about,” shared Rachel Walker, the Festival Director. She spoke enthusiastically about creating a space where you can watch great films that were made for little or no money.
“We didn’t want to just stop there because there’s a lot of festivals that just take those films and put them up on a screen and then that’s kind of it, you’re done,” continued Negin Singh, the passionate Executive and Artistic Director of the festival. “We wanted to use our background in experiential and events to do an immersive experience so that these filmmakers feel like ‘Wow, these (festival) people actually care about us and there actually is a red carpet and all of this art around us, and free drinks and sponsors and people.’
“We wanted to bring that red carpet fun experience to the independent world.”
But working with a small or nonexistent budget did not mean that the films screened were subpar. In fact, several of the films in the festival had previously screened at major fests including Sundance, Slamdance, Berlin, Tribecca, and the LA Film Festival.
How do you create a great film on a small budget? “A lot of borrowed things and engaging your community – (the no budget film experience) really fosters community,” Communications Director Anam Syed chimed in.
And the No Budget Film Festival certainly had a very fun vibe, with a view of the famous Hollywood sign behind us, the festival programmers invited different artists to showcase their art in the area outside the theater. “This year we wanted people to feel like they had been transported from the second they got here,” explained Negin. “That was our goal- to make you feel like you can’t forget it, (that this festival) was special, there was something about it,”
“We’ve moved almost every year, we like to keep things fresh and surprise people. Every year have a different slant to the festival,” explained Negin. “The last couple of weeks we’ve been having these really awesome pop up, intimate events throughout the city that totally break the mold of what a panel or a workshop at a film festival really is, and just really brought people together.”
The first event was an epic game of capture the flag where they brought in stunt folks to teach some basic stunts, which were then incorporated into the game. They also had a workshop at the Apple store with the producer of Tangerine all about the possibilities of shooting on an iPhone. They had challenges at a vintage clothing store in addition to a storytelling hour about how to survive in the business while “making it”.
“And everything was free!” Negin exclaimed. “We’ve never had so much free programming. I think that energy (from those events) really molded today’s energy — it just feels really relaxed and cool.”
And I certainly got the feeling that this was a community. Many of the filmmakers hung around chatting until the last possible second before the screenings began. The films were met with enthusiastic applause, and the festival programmers encouraged everyone to engage in a way you normally wouldn’t. With a lack of money comes a need for innovation, which was a common theme that filmmakers discussed and bonded over.
“I think being relevant is really important. We constantly look at who is our core audience, what are the types of films that we’re getting (submitted to us) — it’s a very organic, collaborative process,” Negin continued. “We really take stock every single year, and we actually ask ourselves the question: Do we even want to do the festival this year? So that we can resoundingly say YES, we do.”
I certainly hope they continue putting on events like the one I attended. It was full of heart, innovation, and a truly supportive community of filmmakers. I’ll definitely be back next year, wherever that may be!