The return of the No Budget Film Contest

In 2010 and 2011, I ran a “no budget film contest”. I was annoyed that even with the existence of cheap video cameras & free video editing software the perception remained that even low-budget indie films had to be expensive, so I wanted to showcase good films made for no money at all.

(Then I got busy with work & ended up failing to announce the 2012 one on time, so it stopped.)

Today, the problem is even more extreme: despite most of us in the west already owning phones capable of shooting better video than the equipment used for Clerks, we aren’t seeing a lot of indie films shot with such an expressly low budget, and the mainstream film industry keeps piling more and more money into expensive bombs. Even youtube channels spend money on expensive equipment & buy time from professional animators and editors in order to make their content look a little more slick.

Just as it’s possible to put on a compelling stage play with a single set and one or two actors, it’s also possible to create a compelling film without spending any money at all. It’s a luxury that independent filmmakers as recently as 15 years ago would have killed for: film (and therefore shooting on film) is expensive, and developing prints likewise, so until the advent of cheap digital cameras and the widespread accessibility of large hard disks it really wasn’t possible. But it’s possible now, and we’re not taking sufficient advantage of it.

Budget can be an advantage, but it can also be a disadvantage: spending money on a film, rather than just time, means a greater emphasis on making sure it has a good reception, which (outside of the recklessly overconfident) leads to a conservative attitude and less experimentation. With no budget, you are free to make your film as strange and experimental as you like, so long as it doesn’t cost you any money.

Today, on April 20th of 2017, I am launching the First Annual New No-Budget Film Competition. The submission deadline is July 4th, and I will announce the winners by September 1st.


  1. Your film must be yours. I won’t accept mashups of other people’s video (well… I might, but you will have to impress the judges a lot more). Likewise, don’t do anything illegal in the films, or pornographic — I don’t want to get in trouble.
  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. In other words, no budget allowed.
    You may do it in live action or animation. Really, you can do it with any method you choose.
  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 Best No-Budget Film of 2017, Second Best No-Budget Film of 2017, and Third Best No-Budget Film of 2017. 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)

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

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