Click the image below to head over to our Cosmos Instagram feed and see how we’ve made a feature film with a handful of people and next to no money – we’ve documented the entire process of making this film, from Script to Screen and everything in between.
WHY MAKE COSMOS?
Cosmos came into existence because we wanted to take back control over our filmmaking career. All filmmakers need to make their first feature and we’d spent between 2010 and 2013 in development on a 120 minute sci-fi-thriller called Encounter. We’d written the script, attached a list of industry talent and developed an investment strategy with a corporate finance company.
But despite the strength of the story, the team and the plan, we were then just 22 and 24 seeking a seven-figure budget with no feature experience and, understandably, we faced skepticism from potential investors.
ENCOUNTER concept art
We knew we could carry Encounter successfully from script to screen but we were also not naive to the risks of film production and the concerns of investors. Our growing frustration with this impasse was the feeling that our deep emotional need to tell stories and express ourselves through film was being held up by the financial business of the industry.
So in 2013, after almost three years in development, we decided that instead of pushing ahead trying to secure an unrealistic level of finance for two young untested directors, we’d detour and make a new film at the opposite end of the indie spectrum. This “no-budget” feature, although much smaller in scale, would be no less ambitious in story or creativity and with it, we could prove to the industry we had the talent, drive and vision as feature directors. We could then leverage this smaller film and finally secure the finance for Encounter.
ZERO BUDGET: HOW & WHY?
Having spent so long trying to secure finance for Encounter, the last place we wanted to find ourselves was with yet another project needing the support of other parties for a budget. This time we would follow the golden rules of indie filmmaking; Cosmos would be a simple contemporary story, set in a single location over one night with minimal characters, under 100 pages long and utilise resources we had to hand.
To self-produce this film completely independently, not needing any production or financial support, we’d have to be savvy and meticulous, but if we could pull it off, it would give us the complete creative control to express our storytelling tastes and sensibilities.
Technology has democratised filmmaking like never before and inspired by the independent spirit of filmmakers like Robert Rodriguezand Gareth Edwards, we’d undertake every crew role throughout production except composing the soundtrack.
We scripted 100 pages, storyboarded 1055 cells, cast 4 actors, location scouted, prop designed and built, costumed, production managed, set dressed, directed, shot, focus pulled, blocked and lit, sound recorded, coordinated practical effects and car to car filming, edited, graded, sound designed, re recorded and mixed, created and designed all visual effects and heavily collaborated with the composer on the writing of 90+ minutes of orchestral score.
We used the equipment we had; gear that other filmmakers might dismiss as below the minimum requirement to make a polished feature film, but we knew when used shrewdly and to its fullest potential, we could give Cosmos the shine of a modestly budgeted independent feature.
We lit entire night shoots with 3 battery powered LED panel lights and a gas powered smoke machine. We used iPads as light sources. Our matte box was made from cardboard. Our wind machine was a leaf blower. Our camera dolly was a wheelchair.
Our BMPCC rig was handmade from copper piping and used ankle weights for handheld counterbalance. Whichever of us was on camera would also focus pull (close to wide open as we had limited light). The other of us would be watching performance while boom swinging and recording sound. Our actors slated the shots. Our camera slider was often propped in the middle by paintpots. We shot entire car chase sequences inside a triple garage. Our mom monitored continuity, hair and make-up and would often slate, focus pull and operate lights. It was the most basic, ad hoc, guerilla filmmaking imaginable and it was seriously hard work.
But when, despite the cold and the tiredness and the endless tinkering, you managed to roll on a setup and bag it exactly how you imagined, the feeling of pride and comradery and achievement was palpable.
We did anything and everything that needed to be done to see the film made. It took dedication and focus, we called upon every trick and technique we’d ever learnt or needed to learn – the only thing it cost us was time. We wanted to direct Cosmos from end to end, to have our fingerprints all over it and showcase our talent and abilities as directors and storytellers. We want to demonstrate that there’s no link between the strength and depth of a human story and the size of a production budget.
And after almost exactly 5 years since deciding to make Cosmos, a core team of just 3 actors, ourselves, our Mom and our composer have delivered an ambitious and entertaining sci-fi film of a production standard that few would dare demand on such minimal resources and zero financial support. We’ve never work as hard before in our lives.
We hope the way in which we’ve made Cosmos and the incredibly high standard to which it has been made will demonstrate our creativity, competence, commitment, passion and potential as directors and assist us in obtaining support for our next, larger scale productions.
We didn’t make Cosmos on our own because we wanted to show off that we could. We made Cosmos on our own because we didn’t want to wait any longer to pursue our passion and wanted to prove to the industry that we could direct films and direct them well and show the lengths we would go to in order to make that happen.
We wanted this film to be transparent, we wanted to strip away the usual support directors receive from heads of department and producers to show our abilities in their most stripped back nature.
We wanted to show what we could do with nothing.