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The 10 Best Movies Made for Under $50,000 | Features

The 10 Best Movies Made for Under $50,000 | Features

And yet, at a time when studios are spending more and more on fewer and fewer pictures, there remains a small pocket of filmmakers who do the seemingly impossible, cobbling together tiny amounts of money to create great films. The Independent Spirit Awards honor some of these gems each year with their John Cassavetes Award, its nominees having made movies that cost less than a million dollars. But for some auteurs, even that’s an exorbitant budget—if they spend more than $50,000, that’s extravagant.

This past weekend, the comedy “Dad & Step-Dad” made its debut on VOD. Directed by Tynan DeLong, and co-written by DeLong, Colin Burgess and Anthony Oberbeck, the film stars Burgess and Oberbeck as rival fathers who spend a weekend in the woods battling for dad supremacy with their shared son.  

The heavily improvised comedy has made news because it only cost $18,000 to shoot, an absurdly low amount, putting “Dad & Step-Dad” in rarefied company. In the 1990s, Sundance darlings like “Clerks” were shot on shoestrings, becoming overnight indie sensations in the process. But such stories are the exceptions, and it inspired me to come up with a ranking of the 10 best films made for less than $50,000.

Of course, there need to be some caveats to such a list. I’m only talking about how much it cost to shoot the film—many of the most famous no-budget indies racked up additional expenses because of post-production costs, a pricey sound mix or licensing song rights. And there can be contradictory information about a particular classic indie’s budget. (Without accusing anyone of fudging numbers, let’s just say that, in some cases, it behooved a director to under-report his masterpiece’s budget in order to make himself seem even more like a genius: “Oh my god, you only spent ___ and it turned out this great?!?”) Also, we need to acknowledge that $50,000 went further in 1982, say, than in 1992 due to inflation. But in the end, I could only go by the numbers I’ve seen reported elsewhere to determine which films qualified. 

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