Despite what’s going on around the world, we live in a fortunate era for filmmakers. A mere couple of decades ago, this question would not have even been asked. Movies simply required too much money to make. But the advent of digital video cameras has decentralised an art-form previously only reserved for big Hollywood studios. From The Blair Witch Project to Paranormal Activity, film is more accessible than ever. But it’s not just found footage. Once can realistically make a good film in any genre, for almost any budget. But what matters most? Do you need a big budget to guarantee success? Or can you make a successful, enjoyable film simply out of sheer will?
Past The Obvious
As I mentioned before, when we think about small budgets, we gravitate toward found footage films. And while that has certainly been the case again and again, it’s not the only way to manage a small budget to make a feature.
This weekend, I had the pleasure of getting an early peak at The Last Matinee, an upcoming film from our friends over at Bloody Disgusting and Dark Star Pictures. Shot entirely in one location by Uruguayan filmmaker Maximiliano Contenti, Al Morir la Matinée (its original Spanish name) goes all out on an early 90s aesthetic. And it made me realise something special: you don’t need a big budget when you’ve got a big heart.
Big Budget vs. Big Heart
I bring this up because, as we know, nostalgia is all the rage nowadays, and it has been for a few years. From Stranger Things to It and everything in between, Hollywood’s appetite for capitalising on our nostalgia knows no bounds. Therefore, purse strings are usually pretty loose, allowing filmmakers to enjoy the benefits of having enormous resources to bring their visions to life.
But The Last Matinee has, in all honesty, nothing to envy from its big budget siblings. A full review of this gem will follow at a later date, but let me assure you, it is a treat. It’s visually stunning, too: from sets to costuming, and with neon lights that would make Rick Deckard blush, I am in awe of what can now be achieved by filmmakers despite their limitations.
Of course, there are difficulties inherent to smaller budgets. Sometimes, those limitations end up on film, as was the case for They Live Inside Us, for example. But big budgets aren’t a guarantee of quality, either. One must only look at 2017’s The Mummy to realise just how big budgets cannot save a film on their own. Actually, they can be detrimental. We know this quite well. So, in the end, what matters most? Budget? Heart? Vision?
People Make the Difference
Call me a dreamer, but I think people make the difference. Time and time again, we’ve seen how films with big budgets disappoint. And time and time again, we’ve seen how creative filmmakers are able to rise above their financial limitations to deliver a remarkable cinematic experience.
Limitations need not be financial, either: Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie taught us that passion can overcome anything. It taught us, that which we may perceive as insurmountable, is merely an obstacle waiting to be jumped over, destroyed or vanished into thin air.
Despite not being able to give you a full review of The Last Matinee just yet, I’m grateful to have been able to check it out. Not only did it put a huge smile on my face, but it also made me remember why I’ve loved horror films my whole life: it’s the people, and not the money, that make the difference.
EDIT (5-31-21, 12:40PM PST): The Last Matinee‘s next stop on the festival circuit will be at Cine Las Americas International Film Festival (June 9-13, 2021) in their Narrative Feature Showcase, where it’s playing alongside a plethora of other great films from Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula.