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Shoestring’ Features

 Brief explorations into Independent (low budget) films and film making.


cial media platforms have given Independent Film Makers many more ways to make their films accessible for audiences. These ventures include what have become known as ARG’s (Alternate Reality Games), or Web Series, originally known as ‘unfiction’. Some use YouTube, some Twitter, others a mix of platforms to tell their stories.

ARG’s can be - to varying degrees - interactive. Audiences playing a part in shaping a story’s development. This interactivity can include cryptic clues, hidden links and puzzles viewers must solve to move on.

Often set in a real time world environment, audiences are participants, sometimes communicating with the protagonist and offering advice. Some have become extremely popular and gained audiences in their hundreds of thousands.

More recently some mainstream movies have promoted films through this format, to create interest in a film, and even give plot insights. ‘The Blair Witch’ (1999) was an early example, although not typically an ARG, more a device to uncover story background and exposition, using the feel and presentation of a real world event, giving the impression that the story was a factual account. One of the earliest known examples of what could be described as an ARG is ‘Ong’s Hat’ (1980’s).
ARG’s and Web Series can range from creative episodic story telling and puzzle solving, to bulk standard sensationalism, dependent on shock value to grab attention. Some have a goal and objective, others leave any interpretation open and unclear. Which of these is most satisfying depends on the viewer.

These forms of storytelling can go beyond more orthodox methods, but use the same tropes as mainstream genres such as Mystery, paranormal and Sci-fi. ARG’s provide very effective ways for film makers to produce content with virtually no budgets, often with very little and basic equipment. Due to this new examples of ARG’s are popping up all the time.

As mentioned with Blair Witch and other early entries, ARG’s can be presented to trick viewers into believing that events portrayed could be real. Making the presentation more dramatic and shocking, like real life incidents caught on camera. ‘Ash Vlogs’ (2018/present - includes disturbing content) for instance is deliberately structured in this way. The outcome can be that when an audience realizes the documented events are not real, their interest in the story is peaked and fact or fiction is no longer relevant. Other entries are clearly fictional from the outset and rely on believable performances and creative storytelling to carry the audiences with them, such as ‘Daisy Brown’ (2017/2018) and ‘Hi I’m Mary Mary’ (2016/2020). These entries rely on novel presentation, not shock.

Certainly web series and ARG’s are very practical and affordable vehicles for promoting and launching independent film productions, gaining funding, and to include as part of a Film Makers CV.

The examples included in this brief review vary greatly in content and subject matter. They only give a taste of the genre so far.

A few more ARG, web series entries not included above are;

Alan Tutorial (YouTube) 2011/2014

The Sun Vanished (Twitter) 2018 - present

A more detailed account of ARG; ‘Wiki’


Fantastic Planet is a psychedelic dive into the surreal and nightmarish world of blue giants ‘Draags’ and tiny human-like ‘Oms’ on the planet Ygam. The Draags have kidnapped the Oms from another planet and keep them in captivity as pets. This view of the Oms as play things and toys brings with it a mix of indifference, cruel, or benevolent behavior from the Draags

The films narrator is an Om named Terr, and the story follows his life and eventual break out of captivity, subsequent revolt and final escape from the Draags genocidal reaction towards the rebellious Oms, now viewed as pests, and a threat.

Based on Stefan Wul’s 1957 novel Oms en série (Oms by the dozen). The animated film was the creation of René Laloux titled Le Planète sauvage (The Savage Planet), who teamed up with writer and cartoonist Roland Topor. The collaborative French-Czech co-production took five years to complete. The animation used cut-out artwork to bring the creation to life. Le Planète sauvage won the special prize at 1973 Cannes Film Festival.

The English dubbed version of the film (for the US market) was produced by Roger Corman, and the title changed to ‘Fantastic Planet’ for distribution by New World Pictures. René Laloux died on 14 March 2004, aged 74. Roland Topor died on 16 April 1997, aged 59.

For more information about this film;

Mark Kermode reviews Fantastic Planet (1973) | BFI Player

Fantastic Planet (1973) trailer

Sci-Fi Classic Review: LA PLANÈTE SAUVAGE


Back in 1998 Stefen Avalos and Lance Weiler released their film ‘The Last Broadcast’. Touted as the first desk-top motion picture with a budget of $900. A feature film made with consumer equipment and early affordable computer NLE (Non-Linear Editing) software. It also became the first digital film to be premièred (on the 23rd October 1998) in a cinema using video projection. The filmmakers established another first when the film was played in a number of theatres via a satellite beaming the film to multiple venues and audiences.

The film and its production was a glimpse into the future of what has become normal in low budget accessible film production. Avalos and Weiler also used the internet to market and promote the film, exploring the story online to create an interest in the story and movies release.

Unlike practically all found footage, or POV films, The Last Broadcast ends with an original and surprising narrative twist.

Two shorts (links included below) from 1998 explore the background, people and methods behind making The Last Broadcast.

Making of "The Last Broadcast"

Stefan Avalos & Lance Weiler on "The Last Broadcast"

The Filmmakers

Stefan Avalos;

Lance Weiler;


How We Made An Epic WW2 Movie On A Low Budget | The Making of Turning Tide
A detailed look behind the scenes of all aspects involved in the making of ‘Turning Tide’ (2018) Written and Directed by Andrew Muir, Produced and VFX Supervisor David Ross.


Growing up in wartime Scotland, ten-year-old David McKellar's life takes a dramatic turn when a massive German air squadron flies over his home on their way to a bombing raid. The situation rapidly escalates when they are intercepted by British Spitfires over the sea, resulting in a spectacular air battle in which one of the enemy bombers is shot from the sky.

As David watches from a nearby hillside, an injured pilot escapes from the sinking wreckage and makes it to shore, immediately going on the run. As the fugitive disappears further into the distance, the young boy must make the fateful decision on whether or not to follow... Watch the short film ‘Turning Tide’ here;


‘Shoestring’ Features. Low budget films past and present HOMEPAGE

Three free editing software download links in POST PRODUCTION

Screenwiriting software added to Screenplay

Make & buy your own Clapperboard added to Clapperboards

One International link (FilmFreeway) added to Festivals and Events

Eleven UK Film Festivals added to Festivals and Events

The EDITING section links and information have been moved to the POST-PRODUCTION section of the LINKS page.

Tutorials and Insights
(These tutorial and Insight links are included in relevant sections of the site as well)

Depth of Field Explained: Ultimate Guide to Camera Focus [Shot List Ep. 4]

3 Brilliant Moments of Blocking (in Kurosawa's High and Low)

How Kubrick, Spielberg, and Inarritu Stage their Scenes

The Difference Between Anamorphic And Spherical Lenses Explained

How to Use A Film Slate

How To Slate Properly

Save the Cat Beat Sheet — Interstellar Explained in 15 Beats (Script Ending Explained)

Lighting Concepts Every Cinematographer Needs To Know

Cinematic lighting explained – Basics, tutorial and ultra mobile lighting kit

Camera sensor and film size explained – From 1/3 inch over super35 to IMAX

Aspect Ratios - Tomorrow's Filmmakers

The importance of sound.

Film Sound. Learning Space dedicated to the Art of Film Sound Design

Recording Audio For A Short Film
- especially when the whole picture has to be shot in a day.

Learn the 5 Fundamental Ways of Using Sound in Your Film.

Filmmaking Tips for Better Audio with DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex camera).

Free Sound Effects (Attribution)

What Is a Film Makeup Artist? The Role of Makeup Artists on Film and Television Productions

Makeup for Television and Film.

Getting the right shots and coverage.

5 Overlooked Tips for VFX.

Camera Gear: Every Type of Camera Rig Explained [The Shot List, Ep 5].

Ultimate Guide to Camera Movement - Every Camera Movement Technique Explained [The Shot List Ep6].

Can you be an introvert Director?

How to protect your screenplay with Shane Stanley.

10 Lessons from top film editors.

How to shoot a scene - blocking actors


Countdown Clocks/Slates from standard to high definition and 4k (.BMP .MOV file formats)

Release Forms Templates (in .PDF .RTF .TXT formats)

Storyboard Templates (4:3 and 16:9) for print (.PDF .JPG formats)

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UPDATED: 2/3/2021


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