Pushing Boundaries with No Budget at the No Budget Film Festival 2015

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Filmmakers are generally an inspiring bunch. They all, we all, have ideas beating around in our heads just waiting for a chance to escape. These ideas are inspiring and thought-provoking but they often stay lodged inside our brains because we don’t have the right location, or it isn’t the right time, or we don’t have the funds to bring our ideas to life. After attending the 6th annual No Budget Film Festival at Barnsdale Art Park on October 18th, I can officially say that these limitations exist only in our minds.

I had the pleasure of watching 21 films that absolutely astounded me not only because they were made with no budget, but because they were a group of the most innovative shorts I have ever seen. This leads me to my first take away from the day: when working on a film with no budget, you must throw innovation at your problems instead of money. Every film will have its issues and too often we rely on money to get us out of those tricky situations. When a financial escape is not an option, you are forced to think outside the box and creativity takes over.

The films this year ranged from animation to documentary to comedic and dramatic shorts that followed a more traditional format. The mix of films was balanced perfectly and the slate of films organized by the director of programming, Josh Wilmott, took me on a wild ride of emotions and wonder. This diverse mix led to my second take away of the day: focus on what you are good at. These shorts were clearly passion projects and they highlighted the filmmaking style of each creator. Even though each short was a fully formed story in itself, they gave me a glimpse into the filmmaking characteristics of the creators. As was mentioned many times during the Q&A, the filmmakers were able to create a film exactly like they wanted because they didn’t have to answer to financers.

Of course, the creation of those shorts still had the challenges of any other film. They evolved as they moved through the inception, filming, and editing process. Many of the filmmakers talked about the need for passion and perseverance in their projects. These filmmakers lived and breathed by their films and felt that their stories had to be told. Without love and passion, these films would not have come to be because they were the driving force behind them. Many of the films had a creative team or actors that brought the story to life, but there were others that were animated and completely solo projects. Either way, the lesson was clear: if you have a story that you passionately want to tell, that you MUST tell, just go do it. No excuses.

The atmosphere of the festival was pure comradery. Many of the filmmakers have been bringing shorts to the festival for years and there was a true sense of support for each other. There was no feel of pessimism or ego but rather encouragement for each other mixed with a dose of healthy competition. Competition was mentioned many times by various filmmakers throughout the day and it reminded me why a bit of competition is important in any industry

Competition helps us thrive because we challenge ourselves to do something because everyone else can do it. Competition is a key part of any film festival but it was not at the forefront at the No Budget Film Festival. Instead, this festival focused on a celebration of art and the people who created it.

I must say, after soaking in the shorts from the No Budget Film Festival I have two goals: to attend again next year, and to create a film, no excuses, fueled by innovation, not finance.

Deborah Lee Smith

About Deborah Lee Smith

Deborah Lee Smith is an actress and producer whose love of performing, storytelling, and new experiences has led to filming projects around the world. Originally from LA, she studied Theater and English Lit at UC Berkeley before moving to Australia to pursue her master’s degree in Film Production. She started acting in the Australian film industry before returning to LA and diving head first into acting and discovered a love of producing. Currently, she has two films in post-production that she has starred in, and has received several awards for her acting and producing work. Additionally, she has partnered with another incredible female producer to create Deep Sea Pictures, a full-service production company that has several projects in various stages of development. She believes in working hard, playing hard, exploring the world, and supporting others to tell stories that expand our understanding of the world and the people, places, and things that reside within it!