Movies to Study (For Budget to Special Effects)

So I’ve started putting together a list of movies with two criteria. One, the movie must have special effects and great settings, preferably in a fantasy setting. And two, the budget on the movie must be cheap. I would drag out these movies and watch the “making of” to gather ideas and some know-how. Although there are other movies I’d want to pull my inspirations from, these movies are crucial to look at from a financial light.

Because the new one was not as amazing...

Because the new one was not as amazing…

Here is the list thus far, not adjusted for inflation.
Conan the Barbarian: $20,000,000.
Conan the Destroyer: $18,000,000 (est).
Following: $6,000 (est).
Rocky: $1,000,000.
Night of the Living Dead: $4,200,000.
Excalibur: $11,000,000.
The Blair Witch Project: $750,000 (max est).
Paranormal Activity: $15,000.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: $17,000,000.
Halloween: $320,000.
 
Of the movies listed, you maybe wondering about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the Conan movies. Compared to the average fan film makers budget, these price tags are still quite high. However, they are a degree of mentionable quality that can be achieved at a decent enough price.
 
Let’s discuss what each of the films brings to the table and why. The first thing of mention is that the horror films are among the cheapest. Halloween, The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity all have price tags well below a million.
 
Yet these horror movies bring a few mentionable qualities to them: TBWP brought strong use of the setting to it. Halloween manages its bloody special effects while Paranormal Activity uses a few clever illusions with their camera work. While Night of the Living Dead is critical for its application of makeup.
 
There are three that really stand out for different reasons.
 
The first is Following, one of Nolan’s earliest films. The Wikipedia article on it currently mentions that the most expensive aspect of the movie was the film that Nolan used, jacking up the price to approximately $6,000 which is a maximum estimate at best. I’ve yet to see this but it’s on my to do list.
 
Rocky is a critical reminder of the importance of an interesting, central character. A movie can be defined by only a strong central character, and frequently is. This means that a well design, well prepared and well acted main character can be a tremendous deciding factor if all else fails.
 
The last movie is Excalibur. While $11,000,000 is still high of a price tag, it was a movie filled with tremendous props and setting. Amazing costumes, splended settings and violent, glorious battles. And yet it maybe filled with more battles and bloodshed than even Conan the Barbarian and yet almost half the price.
 
Unfortunately, only the Conan movies are in my collection. I’ll have to rectify this…
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2 responses to “Movies to Study (For Budget to Special Effects)

  1. If you ever get a chance, grab a copy of Lloyd Kaufman’s book “All I Need to Know About Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger: The True Story of Troma Studios.” He talks a lot about minimum budget film making and FX, including his work on Rocky and some other notables. Good luck!

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