Filming with no Budget

Written By Dominic Jackson

Polar was born from a creative frustration and a need to express.
Myself and my friends Drew Horner and Rotimi Pearce had the skills
and knew a lot of actors but had no budget or script.


Personally having many years’ experience with sound engineering, video operating, photography and filmmaking,
I had a decent all-round knowledge to execute a film.

We just needed a story to tell.

Drew Horner would be the lead actor, co-producer and co-creator – I say co-creator because, without his connections and input, Polar simply wouldn’t have happened. The film was very much a joint venture and organic process where no one really knew what would come out.

Every environment and every person added a unique imprint to Polar, it’s ever-changing nature made it exciting to make and was a truly liberating experience. Trying to give everyone creative freedom, I didn’t write dialogue for certain parts so the actors ​had​ to improvise.

I definitely used a light touch style of directing, capturing unique impromptu moments more than rehearsed, tightly executed renditions of the script. This made making a feature film more possible, a lot of restrictions that normally surround shooting a movie were released. Some of the best one-liners and wittiest comebacks came from letting the actors breathe and express themselves, stuff I couldn’t have written in 100 years, the ad-hoc nature lending itself towards the realism of the film.

For me, it was a magical experience to not quite know what we would be filming that day, how it would be shot and executed, what would happen in the environment around us and hence exactly how it will look and feel.

No storyboard, no permits and no budget – this is the story of how we made Polar.

Myself, Rotimi and Drew all had the same dream: We wanted to show off our skills and let out our inner creativity and passion for film. We all had our various training and experience but none of us had worked on a feature film. We knew we needed a script, people and equipment.

The script was the hardest part! First, we started writing and brainstorming with various ideas, mostly genre stuff;
a horror about a haunted bank note called “blood money”, a gangster film about murder and fleeing the country.

The only issue was that we were writing films that we couldn’t make, not without some serious funding. And
who was going to fund us? So we went through a phase
of doing screen tests, shooting some test shots of narrative concepts and only very slowly moving forward.

The clock was ticking, I was going to start my Masters in Cinematography in September of 2016 and we only had a few months to get something made until I would be busy for at least 1 year.

I think deep down we all really wanted to make a feature-length film because we were frustrated and bored with making shorts. Another short would be restrictive creatively and in regards to our progress professionally. We didn’t want to make another film set in a forest or a house with one or two actors and way too much dialogue.

Not to say they are all bad but this is what most zero-budget short and feature films turn out to be.

We wanted something that could tell a real story, with various scenes and characters.

I knew that to drive a story forwards and really grab the attention of the viewer, you ideally want stuff to happen: various locations and scenes giving different moods that all impart their own message and help the overarching story – like a proper film!

Without this, it all seemed pointless and very limiting in a creative way.

Finally one day it all clicked for me.

I realized how I could write a feature film that could be shot on zero budget and still have rich characters and a story.

My light bulb moment came from discovering the writer/director/actor duo​ The Duplass Brothers​ who’s debut film ”The Puffy Chair​” is still one of my favourites.

The style of their films is known as “Mumblecore, a raw storytelling format; it was almost a real-life day to day account of personal problems but twisted with a hint of humour, a “dramedy” with exceptional acting and a raw engaging momentum.

“Mumblecore” was inspired and influenced by a movement “Dogme 95” – very much a farce, a subtle balance of comedy and drama.

The great thing about it is that some people come away thinking it’s a tragedy and some that it is a knee-slapping comedy.

I hope everyone feels little of both and experiences a well-rounded narrative.







Social Media for Polar


— To be continued in our June 2020 Issue of Cut Frame Magazine. —

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