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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.

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.

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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.

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

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