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Film a Mini Movie

You can make a professional-quality film for less than $1,000 with the right equipment.

Perhaps you've seen Fox's reality-TV show On the Lot and thought, I would like to become a movie director, too. But can you realistically make a professional-quality movie for $1,000 or less? The experts say yes, if you know how to spend it.

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To stay under budget, plan a one-day shoot with two actors and as few locations as possible, says Frank Chindamo, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Chindamo runs FunLittleMovies.com, a Los Angeles-based Web site that produces short comedic films for mobile phones.

It's best to use professional thespians, he says, and you can hire members of the Screen Actors Guild for as little as $100 a day. No SAG chapters in your town? Try a local theater group instead.

T.J. Brady, a part-time screenwriter in Los Angeles, made the short comedy Pink Butterfly for $850 a couple of years ago. Brady worked with his friend Rasheed Newson, who had penned a short, PG-13 script about a clueless guy's quest to satisfy his girlfriend in the bedroom. Brady rented a camera on a Friday for $100 a day, but because it wasn't due back until Monday he shot all weekend. He edited the movie himself using Final Cut Express ($250), and he got the actors to work free. Brady suggests you feed your cast and crew to keep them happy.

Pink Butterfly premiered at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival in 2005.

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