7.17.2011

The Polish Bros. and their money-making NO-Budget film

This week, a movie made it onto the iTunes Top 100 charts with no budget whatsoever--that's right, it was literally made for $0. The Polish Brothers' For Lovers Only is a black-and-white, French New Wave inspired romance shot in 12 days with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. It stars Michael Polish and Castle's Stana Katic and was shot and directed by Mark Polish--otherwise known as the film's entire crew.


for lovers only... from Polish Brothers on Vimeo.

from an interview with the Polish Brothers by Steve Pond for the Wrap:


On their stealth mode: "It looked like I was just shooting a married couple, or a couple getting married," Michael said. "So we were able to go into a church, and people would stay out of our way, because they'd think I was shooting stills."


On the budget: "The film had no artificial lighting – because, said Michael, locations like French churches were made for natural light. The one exception: a nightclub scene was lit by Michael's iPhone.  The brothers said that their hotels and some meals were comped; they shot and edited with equipment they already owned; and they don't consider the few grand worth of meals, taxis and the like to be part of an actual budget. "There was not one dime that came out of our pocket specifically for this movie -- besides the food we ate, but we had to eat, anyway," Michael said.  In the end, Michael and Mark even had to make up some names for the film's title sequence, which they wanted to stretch out to a reasonable length in order to fit the score that had been written by their friend Kubilay Uner.  They even got the film classified as an experimental film by the Screen Actors Guild, which meant they didn't have to pay Katic, who shared an agent with Mark and brought her own wardrobe. 


On distributing and marketing the film: ""I said, 'OK, I'm gonna tweet it.' Then I called Stana and told her to tweet it – and that's when it took off."  Katic's rabid Twitter and Facebook followings spread the word – and when Mark Polish found that the film was drawing almost 1,000 tweets an hour, he made up posters using the Twitter raves in place of critics' quotes. Those posters themselves went viral on Twitter and Tumblr, and helped prompt a healthy iTunes presale.  "They'd put 26 reviews up on iTunes before the movie was even out," said Mark. "The fans who'd already seen it were going around like a swarm of bees attacking IMDb, Facebook, Twitter … . It's a very passionate crowd, and they felt like they’d discovered it."  It wasn't even supposed to be officially released until Tuesday, but the volume of pre-orders prompted iTunes to make it available early."


My assessment as filmmakers consider modeling their projects after "for lovers only": It's important to note that film did cost money, just that it was not considered much, hence, to the Polish Bros. a couple thousands on transportation and food is "not much." However, to YOU it might be.  They also had their own professional equipment and came up with a vision that was doable with an experienced one-member crew and on-location. Is your project really like that?  Finally, and most important, both the Polish Bros. and the star of the film have a HUGE twitter and facebook following; that in itself is a HUGE resource that ensures the film will be seen, bought and discussed.  Maybe the most important lesson here is that YOU need to generate a huge following yourself, as well as, CAST YOUR FILM WITH ACTORS/ACTRESSES WHO HAVE A HUGE FOLLOWING ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK.  


P.S. The experimental film agreement does not mean Katic does not get paid; now that the film is making money, she will get paid.  It only means that they did not have to pay her before or during the making of the film.  The agreements have clauses that ensure the actors get paid IF the film makes money. USE THE SAG AGREEMENTS, DON'T FEAR THEM.

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