As filmmakers, we all want to make great films. What is a great film? We know that a big budget and amazing special effects, huge explosions and epic scale does not guarantee a great or successful film. Success can sometimes come DESPITE the lack of budget or not-so-great special effects. In the film industry, success can sometimes be found in failure. Here are six films whose limitations and/or failures ended up playing a key part in their success.
Jaws is well-known for having major troubles on set. During the shoot, the shark malfunctioned multiple times. It happened so frequently Spielberg decided to just not show it for most of the film. Despite this, the film went on to become a huge hit and people realized movies could be just as terrifying without showing the monster. A lesson Ridley Scott would put to good use a few years later on Alien.
“You should get to the point where everyone else would quit, and your not going to stop there!” – Shia Labeouf
Alien is one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time. It has spawned a seemingly endless franchise. However, as many fans of the film know, it was not an easy shoot. There was tension on set due to a style of directing from Ridley Scott the crew was not used to. Another issue was the alien itself. If you saw too much of it, it looked like a guy in a rubber suit, and it was kind of hokey. Like Jaws, the director chose to show the creature as little as possible and really perfect the few shots it was in. As we all know it all turned out all right and the alien was absolutely terrifying. Check out this deleted scene to see how it could have turned out had Ridley Scott not embraced his limits. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eR5jYeIMBKk
“Some people dream of success, While your gonna work hard at hit!” – Shia Labeouf
The Blair Witch Project (1982)
This one is a pretty obvious choice. Shot on a small budget and crew, with an RCA Hi-8 camcorder, and starring very inexperienced actors. Thanks to both the creative drive of the creators of the film as well as the excellent marketing campaign the Blair Witch Project shows just how much can be done within limited means. In the end, The Blair Witch Project made $248 million worldwide, not bad on a $60,000 budget.
“If you’re tired of starting over, Stop giving up!” – Shia Labeouf
Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
One of the most well-known franchises on the planet almost never came to be. People thought George Lucas was crazy with his tale of golden robots and walking carpets and they told him so. Luckily for us, he didn’t listen and he persisted. He made Star Wars, the entire time dealing with problems creating the innovative and ambitious special effects, tension with the cast and crew, as well as conflicts with the studio over the budget. He pushed through and what he created with the original Star Wars cannot be overstated. With a script no one understood and everyone told him was nonsense, he persisted with his vision and in the end, with the massive success of Star Wars, he was rightfully recognized as a legend in cinema.
“Don’t let your dreams be dreams” – Shia Labeouf
Primer is a 2004 feature length science fiction film written, produced, directed, edited starring, and with music by Shane Carruth. The film was shot on a budget of $7000 and made $424,000 at the box office. The film was shot on 16mm film with a crew of 5. To put that into perspective, My crew and I ended up spending a little over $7000 on an 8-minute 16mm short film I directed while in school, and we had a crew of 14. Never let a lack of budget or crew be an excuse for lack of creativity.
“Yesterday you said tomorrow, So just do it! – Shia Labeouf
The musician Jack White once said (and I’m paraphrasing) ‘I like to keep myself in a box when I am recording; I like having limits. You’re forced to find creative solutions when you know you have limited means to work with’. Cube is a Canadian science fiction film that was made literally and figuratively in a box. Shot on a $350,000 budget, it used a single 14×14 set lit with different colors to portray a maze of different rooms, and it works great. It wasn’t a huge success at the box office when released but ended up with a large cult following.
“Yes, you can!” – Shia Labeouf