Independent Feature Film


Last May we published the complete line budget of The Puffy Chair, the first film by the Duplass Brothers. The film below was made on a similar budget, but in a much more expensive city. Some similarities are obvious: the bulk of the budget was spent on hard drives and food.

Breaking Upwards was written by Daryl Wein, Zoe Lister-Jones, and Peter Duchan. A graduate of the NYU-Tisch School of the Arts, Wein also directed and edited the film. (Free labor is one very effective way to minimize costs.)

Low budgets can liberate filmmakers, because they aren’t beholden to investors or production companies who expect a certain return in ticket sales. With an intimate narrative-propelled film, a small budget may not be a setback, but rather can make a film feel more honest and real. As Wein and Lister-Jones were a couple writing about their own relationship, this may be particularly true of Breaking Upwards. Acting as themselves, the couple explored an open relationship and the boundaries on relationships.

This film adheres to industry standards (union pay and insurance) that was not evident in the Duplass’ Brothers budget. But the filmmakers still had to employ some DIY maneuvers to cut costs: no wardrobe, hair, or makeup. Also, by teaming up with another film, they trimmed the immense cost of production insurance. They prove there is a way to do what you want without cutting too many corners.

Breaking Upwards was an Official Selection at SXSW 2009 and will be distributed by IFC Films in April 2010.

This budget is the ninth installment of Creative Accounting, a series dedicated to the financial ledgers behind the creative industries. In the end, we will compile the accounts into a single volume, published by Believer Books.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

— M. Rebekah Otto

M. Rebekah Otto lives in Berkeley, California. She is the assistant books editor of the Rumpus and an editorial aide at Atlas Obscura.

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