Announcing the 2019 No-Budget Film Contest

John Ohno
3 min readDec 11, 2018


We live in paradoxical times: the equipment necessary to produce films is in all of our pockets, yet professional and indie films alike have ballooning budgets and increasingly conservative aims. When I first ran the No-Budget Film Contest in 2010, this was already the case; when I revived it eight years later, the landscape had not improved.

Luckily, the easiest way to convince people that filmmaking is accessible to the masses is also the most effective: demonstration.

Here’s the incentive: the person who Most Unexceptional demonstrates that an entertaining, engaging film can be made with no budget gets a tiny cash prize, a picture of a no-longer-circulating coin, and a very dubious title: Most Unexceptional No-Budget Film of 2019.

The submission deadline is July 4th, and I will announce the winners by September 1st.


  1. Your film must be yours. I don’t accept mashups of stock footage or fan edits of existing media. (I don’t mind sweded films, but I hold them to a higher standard than totally original works.)
  2. You must not buy or rent anything specifically for this film (with an exception for a camera, if you don’t own one). You also cannot have any paid actors. Props may not be bought for the purpose of the film, although you can use props that you obtained for some other purpose. No budget means no budget — not one red cent.
  3. Submissions start April 20th and end July 4th. If you send your submission in outside of this time slot, it might not be considered. You may submit a film created prior to the submission period, if it was made with no budget and has not yet been entered into this contest. (I also don’t care if it was entered into other contests.)

I will announce the winners by September 1st. First prize will be $5, transferred via paypal. The top three submissions (judged any way I like) will be posted on this blog, and will get the titles of Most Unexceptional No-Budget Film of 2019, Second Most Unexceptional No-Budget Film of 2019, and Third Most Unexceptional No-Budget Film of 2019. They will also get a picture of a golden coin trophy.

How to submit:
Upload your finished films to youtube or vimeo (or some other streaming video site), and post the link in the comment thread of this post. The films may be of any length, and you can enter as many times as you like. (If you cannot post comments on Medium for some reason but still want to enter, contact me on twitter or mastodon)

About payment:
If you win, I will contact you by replying to your comment on this thread, unless you’ve specified some other way. I’ll need to get the email address associated with your paypal account, so that I can send you $5. Alternately, you can provide me with a link.

Some guidelines:
I would like to be surprised by these films. They won’t be judged on the same merits as professional productions — special effects are still pretty expensive — but using interesting-yet-cheap experimental techniques or having an impressive script or conceit will get my attention. I will prefer original works over spoofs and swedes. I will rank films much higher if they strike me as genuinely good, rather than merely impressive due to budget constraints.



John Ohno

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software.