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Guerrilla Filmmaking With No Budget and No Time | A Few Tips

On Monday, I was walking around the block with my wife. We were talking about our projects and goals. It occurred to me that I needed to make a book trailer for my novel, GIDEON VERSUS THE GODS OF COOL (which is set to be released on April 26th by Beacon Publishing Group in New York). I would be moderating a panel about making book trailers at a writing conference on Friday (Life, the Universe and Everything Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium in Provo), and I needed something good to show. Teresa told me it was utterly impractical to undertake a video production like this under such a time constraint. This was my reply:

So after the walk, I continued alone through the neighborhood to enlist actors from neighborhood kids. As soon as I shared the vision, everyone I talked to was unequivocally in. On Tuesday, while waiting for my daughters to finish their gymnastics classes, my four-year-old son and I scoped out the locations at UVU (where, thirteen years prior, I used to “run and gun” similar productions). On Wednesday evening, we shot the footage. On Thursday, after spending the bulk of the day at the conference, I used the evening to edit. On Friday morning, I went to my sister in-law’s house to shoot the final scene (with her as the goddess of fashion). When it was time for my panel, the video was launched and ready to go. The total budget was sixteen dollars (fifteen for two Papa Johns pizzas for the neighborhood kids and one dollar for my gangster cap I wore as the god of coolness).

During the panel, we watched a series of popular book trailers. After each, I asked the audience to show, by raised hands, who would pick up the book being advertised. Many of the trailers had meager responses. For my video, the majority of hands were raised. So the moral of the story is: while I don’t actually recommend procrastination, we can do much more in a small amount of time than we think we can. Now here’s the video:

And now a few tips to the indie filmmaker: (1) all of the effects were from creative-commons-licensed videos I downloaded from Youtube. While I do know how to create my own partical effects in Adobe After Effects, when one has a deadline, there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel.

(2) I downloaded the music from the Free Music Archive ( While I usually like to compose my own music, again, when one has a deadline …

(3) The green screen scenes were shot in my laundry room. The small space has actually proved to be a blessing, because it allows me to light the screen by bouncing light off of the walls, which creates a soft, evenly-lit diffusion with minimal shadows.

(4) I didn’t get permission to shoot in any of the locations. The great thing about shooting at universities is that there’s always productions and events going on, so no one will ask questions. Even if they do, you’ll open so many more doors in life when you ask for forgiveness instead of permission :-). Actually I did get permission to shoot in the board room, and if anyone asked, I was going to tell them this. What they wouldn’t need to know was that I got this permission thirteen years ago.