Hollywood often believes if they spend enough money on a movie, hire enough A-list actors, hire a “hot” director, and pour a lot of money into marketing, they can make a great film. The truth is that nothing matters if the screenplay sucks.
Even the best actor can’t make a horrible screenplay work. So before you think about special effects, car crashes, and massive explosions, think first about telling a great story that grabs people’s attention and never lets go.
One of the best low-budget films is “One Cut of the Dead,” a low-budget Japanese zombie movie. What’s amazing is that this movie isn’t just about zombies, but about telling an intriguing story where what you see isn’t what actually happens.
On the surface, “One Cut of the Dead” is about a low-budget zombie movie being filmed in a remote location. Then a real zombie apocalypse breaks out. Then the story twists even further when what appears to be a real zombie apocalypse turns out to be nothing more than a film crew making a low-budget zombie movie.
These constant twists and turns make almost every scene serve double or even triple duties. So what you see the first time isn’t what really happened. Then what you see the second time may not even be what really happened. By constantly surprising the audience, “One Cut of the Dead” keeps the story fresh and interesting. Just when you think you’ve figured out what’s going on, the story twists in an entirely new direction.
What’s most fascinating about the story is that it doesn’t rely on expensive special effects. Other than blood and guts, the special effects are minimal.
When writing your own story, focus less on exotic locations and special effects, and more on telling an intriguing story. Imagine you’re a low-budget director. How could you tell a story without spending a lot of money? if you can tell a story without relying on a lot of money, you can tell a great story with a lot of money.
Money never equals quality. Big budgets can never guarantee success. However, if you start with a great script, that’s the only way there’s even a chance to create a great movie.