Indie avoids ‘Breaking’ the bank

Donations help mumblecore pic

Independent filmmakers often brag about what they’re able to do on a shoestring, but if you probe a bit deeper, you’ll sometimes find that their budgets are deflated.

Take “Breaking Upwards,” the relationship comedy in which a real-life couple portray themselves conducting an experimental gradual break-up by taking “days off” from each other.

The film’s miniscule $15,000 budget was made possible by a host of discounts and donated goods and services — starting with contributions from d.p. Alex Bergman.

The reason we were able to make it for so cheap is that Alex donated all of his equipment and time for free,” said Daryl Wein, the film’s writer, director, male lead and editor. “We didn’t have to go to any rental houses for cameras and lights.”

Bergman had already sacrificed part of his education just to set himself up as a d.p. “I bought a bunch of equipment with the 30 grand I was about to go to college with,” he said. “I knew what I wanted to do, so I got a good camera.”

“We had other crew members also working for free,” Wein said. “Alex’s girlfriend at the time assisted camera … we got two people off Craigslist who worked for the love of film, and our actors all worked for the lowest possible SAG rate of $120 a day.” Thesps included legit vets Peter Friedman, Andrea Martin and Julie White.

So where did the $15,000 go? “Toward food, and to our sound mixer,” Wein said. “It’s really tough to get a good sound mixer.”

Savings also came from improvised tech solutions. Bergman built dolly tracks using skateboard wheels and PVC plumbing pipe. He shot with a Panasonic HVX-200 digital high-def camera onto solid-state P2 cards.

Locations — all in Gotham — were also gratis. “We went into restaurants and stores and said, ‘we want to shoot here if possible,’ and everyone was generous enough to donate their premises,” Wein said. “We also shot in the apartments of friends and relatives.”

Wein got shooting permits by “piggybacking on the insurance policy” of a friend working on another feature. “They put us on for like a hundred bucks, so we could go to the mayor’s office for permits, although we didn’t have to use them often. We were a small crew and people on the street just assumed we were a student production. We went out guerrilla-style and shot where we wanted.”

One thing I learned from the movie is that you never really need a permit,” Bergman said. “You can shoot anywhere you want in New York. We shot for days without being stopped at all.”

It depends on the size of the production,” Wein cautioned. “No Hollywood film could get away without permits.”

Wein edited “Breaking Upwards” on Apple Final Cut Pro in his home, trying to get the film ready for a Sundance deadline — but it ended up at South by Southwest. That’s where IFC Films picked it up in March for VOD and theatrical release.

Bookings & Signings

Innovative Artists bookings: UPM Kevin Reidy on Mario Van Peebles’ “Things Fall Apart”; line producers Samson Mucke on Joe Nussbaum’s “Prom” and Brian Parker on Lifetime movie “The 19th Wife”; d.p.’s Matthew Irving on Van Peebles’ “Things Fall Apart” and John Pogue’s “Terminal,” Levie Isaacks on Melanie Mayron’s “Meaner Girls” and Paula Huidobro on Patricia Martinez de Velasco’s “Under One Roof.”

Percentary has also booked production designers Tony Medina on FX’s “Sons of Anarchy,” Stefania Cella on Paolo Sorrentino’s “This Must Be the Place” and Clay Griffith on Cameron Crowe’s “We Bought a Zoo”; editors John Valerio on Fox pilot “Most Likely to Succeed” and TNT’s “Men of a Certain Age,” Lauren Schaffer on TNT’s “Rizzoli and Isles,” Dorian Harris on Fox pilot “Ride Along,” Edgar Burcksen on Lehka Singh’s docu “Forgiveness and Justice” and Ned Bastille on Spike TV pilot “Playing With Guns”; and costume designers Luke Reichle on ABC pilot “Scoundrels” and Linda Bass on Showtime’s “Weeds.”

IA signings: line producers Butch Kaplan (“Babylon A.D.”), Patti Allen (“Snow Falling on Cedars”) and Ron McLeod (“The X-Files: I Want to Believe”); d.p. Joe Pennella (“Monk”); production designer Ed Verreaux (“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”); and second unit director/stunt coordinator Jack Gill (“Date Night”).

Dattner Dispoto has signed d.p. Nancy Schreiber (“Serious Moonlight”).

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