The history of micro-budget mainstream movies is a chequered one: for every Blair Witch Project there's a Birdemic: Shock and Terror, the famously inept 2010 homage to Hitchcock's The Birds which cost just $10,000 to make and featured horror scenes in which iffy CGI avians appeared to have been glued randomly onto the screen. The key to making a good film without spending much money seems to be in the scale: the first Paranormal Activity ($15,000) worked so brilliantly precisely because the major action utilised just a single camera setup, while Kevin Smith's Clerks ($27,000) was so tightly-focused on two adjacent New Jersey stores that one wondered where the money actually went.
Joss Whedon's forthcoming adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing looks, at first glance, like a pretty grand project. It's rare that the Bard's works find their way onto the big screen without millions being lavished on expensive location shoots, period costumes and A-list actors. Kenneth Branagh's 1993 take on the play was pretty cheap at just £8m – you can tell because there was clearly no money left over for to pay Keanu Reeves's accent coach. Michael Radford's The Merchant of Venice cost a respectable $30m in 2004.
Whedon hasn't revealed quite how much he spent on his latest film, but given it was shot in just 12 days on location at his Santa Monica home during a break from filming The Avengers, with a cast of Whedon regulars and in black and white, one suspects there will be few tears at the film-maker's local branch of Bank of America. A press release put out through Whedon's website speaks of "hilariously miniature paycheques" and a "DIY ethos". It all sounds delightfully distant from the usual Hollywood cash carousel.
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