Making art with friends – how I made my short film on a budget

Life as a Creative during the pandemic was like being a bird in a cage. I had all these big, beautiful ideas fluttering around in my head, but nowhere to go with them. So when covid restrictions finally started lifting, and production started coming back to life, I needed to stop my brain from melting and get back to what I loved doing: making movies. So I put on my big-boy pants, reconnected with my network of like-minded creatives, and made my new short film Life With Wifey. Here’s how I made it happen.

Making an “art thing.” You see, I’m like a Golden Retriever – if you’re excited, I’m even more excited. And nothing gives me the zoomies more than collaborating with a group of like-minded creatives who get just as pumped as I do about making movies. So when my kids were finally back in school, I emerged from my pandemic cocoon, and reconnected with my network of filmmaking buddies. I’d been insular for so long, so my main objective was to jump back into in-person art-making. Let’s just say, making this film was like a big slobbery dog finally getting to play with his favorite squeaky toy again.

Living below my means. I squirreled my money and cut back on unnecessary expenses for the entire year. This meant when it came down to production, I could get that one lens and lighting package for my DP who “definitely needs it or he’ll faint” (Hi Richie). Living frugally also meant that I didn’t have to make sacrifices that would affect the quality of my film, like casting my sister’s dog Wrigley as the lead actor. In fact, I still drive my trusty 2005 Honda Accord (zero to sixty in three minutes beep-beep), which not only saves me money on unnecessary car payments, but also helps me to feel good about being a part of the “save the planet” movement. And let’s be real, who needs a fancy car when I have a wife who is over how I look anyway?

The power of goal setting. One of the key ways I stayed organized and on track throughout this journey was through journaling and goal setting—a daily habit which I’ve been doing for years now. For the film, I made it a routine to jot down my progress and key milestones to help me stay focused and motivated. I also set specific deadlines for myself. I knew that by June 1st, I would have a finished script, by September 1st, I would be in production (we shot the film over Labor Day weekend), and by December 25th, I would give myself the ultimate Christmas gift – a completed film. This helped me to put consistent energy into the project without feeling overwhelmed. I became my own hype-man. 

Getting support from family. It was so important for me to have a support system in place to help me through the entire filmmaking process. In my case, my mother in-law is my secret weapon, taking on the role of a full-time babysitter while I was in pre-production and allowing me to focus on the film. Not only did she love spending time with her grandkids, but she also kept asking when the premiere was so she could “bring her Temple friends.” I mean, who needs a red carpet when you have a group of elderly women ready to cheer you on? Essentially, relying on family is like winning the lottery. Not only do you get the support you need, but also the love and appreciation from the people that matter the most.

What’s next for the film? An Oscar? Probably not. Will it take Sundance by storm? Doubtful. My goal isn’t to win awards. Instead, I collaborated with a team to bring a film to life and that’s something I can share with my kids. Self-funding a short film is a wild ride and if you’re determined to make it happen, it’s possible. Keep a job (whatever it is), live like a college student, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Because as they say, ‘if you’re not creating, you’re waiting.’ And who wants to wait when you can make art with friends. 

Oh, and my last bit of advice is also this: Don’t get anyone pregnant. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but trust me, kids are expensive, and they will eat up all your production design budget because you have to feed them or whatever. Stick to the film-making, and leave the baby-making to the pros. After all, you’ve got a movie to make.

Click to watch the full film.

Below are some BTS shots from set. Thumbs up!

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