From Small Beginnings. Low Budget Debuts…
Everyone’s got to start somewhere and these low budget debuts opened the door to some of Hollywood’s biggest budgets.
Well known for propelling it’s director into the big league, Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” famously cost just $1.5 million to create, but actually came very close to shooting on an even smaller budget. Tarantino originally intended to make it for just $30,000 until Harvey Keitel, impressed by QT’s script, stepped in to co-produce.
At heart Tarantino’s a film geek who loves to magpie from various sources. With “Reservoir Dogs” particularly drawing inspiration from Kubrick’s “The Killing” and the original “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three”. A heist film that omits the actual heist, our first of these low budget debuts has all the signatures of Tarantino in place here; long pop cultural discussions, extreme violence, exquisite soundtrack, nonlinear structure and even dubiously casting himself.
Whilst “Reservoir Dogs” was reportedly filmed in just 35 days, David Lynch’s feature took five years to be completed. As with most low budget debuts, there were some constraints on Lynch. Filmed on and off over this five year period due to financial and personal set backs, including the sudden death of cinematographer Hervert Cardwell, Jack Nance had to maintain his characters signature high fuzzy hair throughout these years.
Full of disturbing, dream-like imagery, this film set the tone for the rest of Lynch’s career. It follows the travails of Henry Spencer, as he endures an oppressively grim industrial environment, his girlfriend’s anger, a tiny singing lady in his radiator and most shockingly, his vile newly born mutant son.
Darren Aronofsky started as he meant to go on, making the audience as uncomfortable as possible with a film that is about as edgy and paranoid as you can get.
Like “EraserHead”, it’s filmed in scratchy black and white and is similarly nightmarish, albeit more grounded in reality than Lynch’s debut. The film follows an increasingly disturbed mathematician as he is harassed by both a powerful Wall Street firm and a Hasidic cabal due to his discovery of a unifying code that could explain all existence.
Aronofsky raised the $60,000 it took to make the film by asking friend’s and family for $100 contributions, which he then paid back with $50 interest upon the film’s sale to Artisan Entertainment.
The Evil Dead
It’s remarkable that Sam Raimi is now chiefly known for creating high budget family fair considering his debut was decried as a “video nasty” upon it’s VHS release.
Horror offers a great starting point for young filmmakers and this is one of the best. Highly inventive with it’s shoestring budget, the ingenuity of the special effects means that they stand up well today. The film’s true genius comes from the balance the humour provides within the film, leaving you scared and entertained simultaneously.
Much of this humour shines through in the film’s star Bruce Campbell, who actually put up his family’s property as collateral so that the film could be finished.
Spielberg’s feature debut is a tense horror tinged thriller. A TV movie in the States, but a theatrical release in Europe, you can already see the trademarks emerging that served Spielberg so well in his breakout hit “Jaws”, which followed “Duel” four years later.
With a screenplay by novelist Richard Matheson, the film follows a terrified motorist as he is terrorised by an unseen assailant within a large mysterious tanker truck. It’s a fairly straightforward premise, but produced with intensity and flair, proving that a simple concept can go a long way.
Do you have your own low budget film that launched a career? Go on, share it with us in the comments below.