By Christopher McKittrick
Budget is always an issue for film students, so finding ways to stretch your limited funds on your student films is just as important of a skill as basic camera techniques. It’s not just about finding money to spend—it’s also about spending the money you do have wisely.
One way to learn how to effectively manage a low-budget film project is to take a look at how an amateur-turned-professional filmmaker put those skills into practice. Filmmaker Oren Peli may be the only person in film history who can claim that he shot a blockbuster movie—2007’s Paranormal Activity—entirely in his own house for a fraction of what a Hollywood production spends on catering.
The resulting film was so effectively made that, although DreamWorks initially hired Peli to remake the film with a larger budget, a successful test screening of the original version proved that remaking the film wasn’t necessary. The final release is largely Peli’s original film with some re-edits and a reshot ending.
When released in theatres in 2009, Paranormal Activity grossed nearly $200 million worldwide against a production budget of just $15,000, making it one of the most profitable movies ever released.