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ULB Filmmaker’s Hub:

Mastering the Art of Ultra-Low-Budget Writing and Filmmaking

Welcome to the 'ULB Filmmaker’s Hub' blog, your go-to resource for navigating, preparing, and mastering the nuanced details of creating a film with a budget under $500,000.

 

We illuminate the often-overlooked aspects and essential details in the filmmaking journey, including drawing back the curtain on the real costs of making a ULB indie film. 

 

From the initial stages of screenwriting, through pre-production, production, and into the post-production phase we emphasize the crucial, commonly missed elements that can significantly impact the success of your project.

From Health Career to Silver Screen: The 6-year Odyssey of Writing, Producing, Directing, and Acting in my Breakout Feature Film

6-year career transition, 9 months writing this script, 9 weeks of pre-production, 9 days of filming, and a 6-figure investment (my life savings). Now, here I am in post-production ready to share my journey with you and pass my learnings on so you can extract the most success possible out of your film.


Welcome to my filmmaking journey, a tale that spans six years of transformation, dedication, and the passionate pursuit of a dream. In this blog post, I'll take you behind the scenes of my debut movie, sharing the time, effort, and investment it took to bring this project from a seed of an idea to a full-fledged cinematic reality. Join me on this rollercoaster ride that encapsulates how a 80 minute movie took me nearly 7 years to make (and I am still not finished). I anticipate two more months before witnessing the final cut. But one thing I can share is the teaser trailer...



Filmmaker's Evolution: A Six-Year Odyssey into the Unknown

Six years ago, I made the courageous decision to sell my small health and wellness businesses and discover who I wanted to be. I sold my businesses with no plan other than pursuing a road inward, an excursion to find what fills my soul with more excitement and energy. I naively thought I was going to find my passion quickly… I’m still a little confused about what exactly my passion is… but I am getting closer. I wish I always knew that I wanted to make movies or act, but it’s not the case, in fact, it is quite the opposite.


A Little History…

My mother was an actress and dancer on the WestEnd (the British equivalent of Broadway); she retired at age 30 because of my brother and me. At what age was I when I discovered some love for acting? Yup, you guessed it, age 30 (a little serendipitous). What really happened was… Covid hit, and I still hadn’t had any luck in finding a spark, so I did the last thing I ever thought I would do: I took an acting class.


Luck or fate, I found instant success with an award-winning writer and filmmaker Sam Tahhan (IMDb), who created a memorable character for me in a sci-fi short film Test Drive (Watch Here). Acting across Bacherlotte's Tasos Hernandez. Test Drive was a brilliant first exposure and test for the growing fire in my belly. The short film has gone on to win multiple awards. Next up, I won a supporting role on a UpTV Movie for Television The Engagement Plot (IMDb), which became UpTV's biggest and best release. This didn’t fuel the fire as much on the acting side, but it set off a wildfire for my obsession with writing and production. After I was on set, I got the bug, I knew I was heading in the right direction, and now I knew I could make something myself.


We moved to Austin, Texas, for 18 months, and I did multiple background jobs on huge multi-million dollar productions such as Robert Rodriguez’s Hypnotic (IMDb) starring Ben Affleck. This gave me some insider access to see how the cogs work in the machine. Finally, before moving to Atlanta to make my first film, I beat out the competition for a highly anticipated indie sci-fi film Ohryis Project, acting across Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts (IMDb). In this production, I was able to get personally close with the writers, directors, and producers to get a real, first-hand understanding of what it takes to get a production off the ground and bring it to life.


The final and most important step was the crafting of my screenwriting. While all the above was unfolding, I spent all my free time (other than parenting) deep down YouTube screenwriting rabbit holes. I absorbed and obsessed with screenwriting master classes and tutorials, from formatting basics to structure to dialogue, I took it all on board as I wrote my first two screenplays over three years.


Writing ALL HAIL ANASTASIA: Nine-Month Writing Intensive

The heart of any film lies in its story. For nine months, I immersed myself in a story that I could film myself. Navigating through plot twists, character arcs, and dialogue that would eventually breathe life into my vision. It was a process of refinement and re-writes as I curated the story around what was possible on a limited budget and using my own home as the key location.


As the story started to surface, I realized that the characters I had written needed a specific and different voice than my own. If they were going to become authentic, real characters I needed help. I reached out to my acting instructor at the time, Khidhar Jabari, and he joined the team. It wasn’t until Khidhar joined me in finishing the story that I realized what we had and the story's root was planted. Khidhar pointed out an interesting culturally relevant problem that was beginning to show up in the story. Without hitting it too hard on the nose and keeping a delicate approach, we started to re-write and aim the story at Anastasia and all of the characters' relationship with her. We highlighted some issues and enforced some foundational support in the arc of the story and we finally stepped away with a beautiful piece of storytelling.



Pre-Production Precision: Nine Weeks of Preparation

With the screenplay in hand, the next crucial phase was pre-production. This was the phase I was most scared of, the phase that I was most in the dark. Luckily, I joined teams with the incredible Tyla Harris (IMDb), a rising star actress, and producer. With a decade of experience in the industry of Atlanta’s thriving entertainment world, she had the connections and know-how to get the project moving fast. In the short amount of time we had, we built a phenomenally talented crew and partnered with some truly inspirational artists. Including our ultra talented Director of Photography, Mya-Breyana Morton, a Forbes 30 under 30 and webby award winner.


Within nine weeks, we meticulously planned every aspect of the shoot— casting, location scouting, contracts, assembling the crew, and fine-tuning logistics. This preparatory period was vital to ensure a smooth transition from script to set. It ended up being anything but smooth… but we made it! (Lessons to share in other posts).


The Investment: Six Figures and a Leap of Faith

Investing in my dream meant investing my life savings, selling assets at unfortunate times, and relying on a mother's love and trust in her son. Six figures that represented not only monetary value but also the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice. Ten years of building and saving financial security, and in ten months, we spent it all. This financial commitment became the bedrock on which my cinematic vision would stand.


The Intensity: Nine Days of Acting, Directing, and Filming

The heart of production unfolded over nine intense days. As the producer, director, and actor, each day had its nuances and difficulties but overall, we had built a brilliant team, and the ship was in safe hands every time I switched hats. Lessons were learned each day, and they compounded into a wealth of knowledge and experience. The challenges were met with determination, and the triumphs fueled the realization that every step had led to this point. Gratitude was the key element in getting through the nine days alive. Gratitude for the people who made it happen and who were making it happen. (More blogs to come)




Post-Production Patience: Anticipating the Final Cut

As we step into the post-production phase, the journey is far from over. Over the next nine months, the film will undergo meticulous editing, sound design, and visual enhancements, shaping it into the final masterpiece that will grace the screen. The hardest part is being patient, staying grounded, and being prepared to pivot at any time. The good news it we partnered with an incredible editor who has grabbed the film by its reel and it slicing together a masterpiece, Kathleen McAuley. Kathleen has been instrumental in solving some big post production issues, putting together the first cut of the film and creating the trailer you see above. That is all her work.


Conclusion: This journey has been a testament to the belief that with perseverance, dedication, and a willingness to invest—both emotionally and financially—dreams can materialize. My debut movie is not just a film; it's a culmination of years of passion, hard work, and the unwavering pursuit of a vision. Join me as I navigate the final leg of this cinematic odyssey, eagerly awaiting the day when the world will witness the story that began six years ago with a courageous career shift. Stay tuned for more updates and insights into how to overcome the pains of ULB filmmaking.

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