Unlocking the Secrets to Micro-budget Filmmaking

We live in a world where everything runs on convenience, and the entertainment market is one of the most dynamic. New technologies are changing cultural trends, which reflect in the entertainment industry at an incredible speed. This is what makes the market so fast-paced.

Today, many new artists are entering the industry and moving towards micro-budgeting filmmaking techniques. This type of filmmaking is not for the faint of heart. The creator ends up wearing multiple hats, asking friends to work for free, taking on debt, and toiling away on a project—likely for years—not to mention it’s highly unlikely to attach a star of any level to such low-budgeted films. As a result, getting press or festival attention for even a successful film with a small budget can be very challenging.

Making a film with a higher budget comes easy. It’s easier to attract talent, get better equipment, manage the crew, and market the film. However, with advances in technology, more and more of these micro-budget features are being produced every year, and the argument has been made that the market is saturated.

It’s not 1994 anymore, and the likelihood of having a Clerks experience at Sundance is far from realistic. And yet many micro-budget filmmakers persist, and some find real value or career advancements through making these films.

Choosing to make a micro-budget film in the face of all these challenges requires nerve and a bit of daring, but it can also be a strategic move to further your career, especially if you know your initial goals.

With these ambitions, Don Tjernagel—born on July 5, 1975 in Oelwein, Iowa—became a stand-up producer, comedian, author, and director. Tjernagel grew up in Oelwein, and early in his life, he went to the University of Northern Iowa on a football scholarship.

However, due to an injury, he switched to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and completed a bachelor’s degree in film studies. At that time, he didn’t know his life would take an unexpected turn and that he would soon be known by the name of Donzilla in the entertainment world.

Some of Tjernagel’s recent work includes low-budget films like Flirts, Singles, Tom, Sin, and Red. His aim behind making micro-budget films is to familiarize the audience with the concept. The term’s origin dates back to the 1980s in American independent film, when filmmakers were forced to work with minuscule budgets due to a lack of funding.

As technology has advanced and distribution has dropped dramatically, especially through digital media, micro budgets have increased in popularity for producing featured films outside Hollywood.

Tjernagel’s love for DIY filmmaking has made his films noticeable. For instance, in his recent release, Flirts, he incorporated the strong message that no matter what people do to make their living, their profession does not deserve judgment. The best thing about the movie is that it was made using a total budget of just $8,000, which is a great feather in Tjernagel’s cap. It took the director only four months to complete the film. 

Undoubtedly, a micro-budget feature film can enhance the capabilities of a director to unimaginable extents. It involves the director in all aspects of their film, from lighting to sound, from casting to editing.

More importantly, making a micro-budget film is a great way to understand the stamina a full-length film requires. Until you’ve done it, you can’t know the decision fatigue these types of films demand. It also enables directors to defend their vision repeatedly.

Tjernagel’s expertise has proven that making a feature film requires one to be open to all sorts of risks, and a micro-budget film could be an avenue to embody those traits faster.

Nancy Yates

Nancy Yates is a trend researcher by passion, a digital marketing expert, and a professional business and tech blogger. As a tech knowledge, Nancy Yates eagerly looks for the ins and outs of modern tech growths.