Coherence is a micro-budget science-fiction film, released in 2013, about eight friends who gather for a dinner party on the night a comet is passing over Earth. What ensues is a mind-bending deconstruction of what humans are capable of when anything is possible, and when infinity is the limit. It is an incredible story that has received plenty of praise since its release, earning a 65/100 on Metascore, an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 7.2/10 on IMDB. It grossed roughly $68,000 at the box office.
Coherence is the kind of film that gives independent filmmakers, like myself, a beacon of hope. This is because Coherence was made on a budget of $50,000, and was shot over five nights using the director's home as the main location. Furthermore, the majority of the film was improvised, with actors going off of general scene descriptions and character motivations to propel the story. To compound these parameters, the director's wife gave birth to their child during shooting.
This film is proof of an important rule of filmmaking, though an unspoken one: you don't need a huge budget to tell a damn good story. You just need a good story.
That's perhaps the most important aspect of this film, and its production: James Ward Byrkit and Alex Manugian developed this story over the course of a year, shooting test footage in the process. Doing this helped them fully develop their story, its many intricacies, and the underlying character moments that the narrative is exploring.
When it comes to the filmmaking process, one of the most difficult aspects of pre-production is raising the necessary funds to cover your budgetary needs. There are a variety of costs to cover, whether that is the cast's salary, or the technical costs associated with the crew, or production design, or any of the other myriad of factors associated with a film's production. When you write your script, or develop your story idea, it can be easy to become discouraged. It's hard to raise money for films, and if you don't have any major studio backing it can be even harder. It's not impossible, though.
Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, writers/directors of the horror film, The Void, were about to raise over $80,000 on Indiegogo.com, a crowd-funding website. That film is now available to be viewed on Netflix. The 2014 Veronica Mars film's $6 million was raised in large part through crowdfunding.
In essence, because of the powerful reach of the Internet, it is possible to raise large portions of a budget, or entire budgets, through crowdfunding sites.
But the real importance that filmmakers should keep in mind is this simple truth: talent and perseverance will always overcome budgetary restrictions. Even with all of difficulties that came with shooting Coherence, the cast and crew were still able to create a unique film that garnered a respectable amount of praise. Not only that, it managed to make back its budget, and then some, at the box office.
A filmmaker who has the passion and drive to make it in this business will be able to make gold out of straw, no matter their budgetary constraints, or their production constraints. That is, perhaps, one of the most important things young filmmakers can learn about this business.
If you are a filmmaker, particularly a young filmmaker, don't allow a small budget, or tight parameters, deter you from making the film you want to make. It may take you a year of figuring out the specifics of your story, but the end result will display your talent, your perseverance, and your ambition.