‘Lambent Fuse’ is an Independent film released onto the festival circuit late last year, selling out the Twin Cities Film Festival and winning Best Dramatic Feature at the Highway 61 Film Festival. I recently had the chance to see the movie and chat with the film’s director Matt Cici. What I was most interested in was finding out how the production team made their limited funds go so far on screen.
What is a $10k feature? I would wager that you guessed it is a film that took $10,000 in cash to make, right? I can already hear my readers screaming ‘but professionally made movies take far more than that!’ So how do you make a quality feature for so little? Well, according to ‘Lambent Fuse’ director and executive producer Matt Cici $10k means $10k in cash plus $90k in favors.
It is a tall order to call in $90k worth of favors in such a short period but here are a few key things that make it possible. First, grow your network & help others that can help you. The film’s production started with a core of just four people, but eventually grew to more than 100. They did this by collaborating with locals enthusiastic about film production, and by planning to give back to the local filmmaking community in general. Exciting projects will draw people to them regardless of the funds available. Make sure your project has that innate ability to draw people into it. This matters both in getting your project made, and in finding an audience.
Still ten thousand bucks will only go so far, and the favors you call in can only get you so much. Eventually you will face some tradeoffs, so make sure you have a great script. You cannot always get the best actors, you cannot always reshoot, and you cannot always just ‘fix it in post.’ The film was 100% Minnesotan – from the actors to the crew to the locations. In some ways this is a trade off that comes with a low budget, but the film has used this fact as something of a marketing ploy – selling out screenings at local film festivals despite facing competition from bigger movies such as ‘Like Crazy.’ Use your constraints to your advantage.
The script was the real strong point of this film, hiding some minor editing issues and a few scenes that the actors did not really sell to me. Having a great script means writing what you know, what is close to you and what you find interesting. For Matt Cici he has been interested in mental illness – going so far as to say that if he were not making movies he would be working somewhere in the field of psychology.
The film’s script focuses on interconnected characters with varying forms of mental illness – some more generally accepted than others. The balancing of these character arcs is really the highlight of the film. It is subtle at first, masquerading as grief and anti social behavior up until it clearly is not. While not commonly seen as a mental illness, obsession can be a very powerful and frightening one. It has been a common theme in films throughout the years, ‘Aguirre: The Wrath of God’ and ‘The Fountain’ being a couple that come to mind. All three films feature a main character so absorbed in the correctness of their actions that they fail to see the destructive path any sane person could see that they are traveling.
The film had that sort of creepy, slow motion train wreck feel to it – kind of reminding me of ‘Requiem For A Dream’ but without the real punch to the gut. These characters are generally happy and hopeful but completely mentally incapable of handling adversity. It is scary to ask yourself how you would deal with life giving you a heavy blow. Would you stay strong and battle through it, or would it envelope and consume you?
Filmmakers are constantly facing the problem of limited funds but that does not mean that your team is without resources. Your passion for your project can be infectious if you expose it to the right people. Some things will always be out of your control but if you do your best at the things you can control, at the end you will have something worthwhile – something to be proud of, and that is the case with ‘Lambent Fuse.’ If you are interested in the film you can check it out at their webpage http://lambentfuse.com , or like them on facebook.