Kevin Smith recently posted the cost breakdown for his low-budget comedy Clerks, which went on to gross over $3 million at the US Box Office when it was released back in 1994.
Smith used all means necessary to lower the cost of production; including enrolling in a course just to get a student discount on Kodak film (he dropped the course straight after). Smith rented an Arri SR camera and shot the movie in 16mm black and white.
In his Facebook post, Smith reveals that Clerks had a budget of US $27,575—which was considered shoestring at the time. He signed off in the comments section…”You can make a movie for WAY less money these days, kids – and all the tech you need is right on your smart phone. So… What’s stopping you?”
…and he has a point. Smith needed to rent equipment to shoot his movie, but fast forward to 1999 and The Blair Witch Project was shot entirely on hand-held cameras for roughly US $25,000*.
Flash forward again to 2004 and Primer was filmed for just US $7,000 with a Super 16mm! Although, the low-budget mostly comes down to filmmaker Shane Carruth’s extremely conservative use of film stock during the shoot.
Bootstrap filmmakers now have the freedom to shoot their movies digitally for a fraction of what Clerks cost, professional gear and editing software have also become more affordable.
The Neistat Brothers, 2010
That said, filmmakers are faced with heightened competition from their peers. One wonders if indie filmmakers would have a harder time shopping a Clerks-style movie if it was shot today.
Can something like Clerks happen again? @ 1.06 – 1.17 hrs
*although reshoots and studio changes inflated production cost to US $60,000.
Title photo via Movieclips (Clerks, Miramax)