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How Mark Duplass makes movies on a microbudget

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Making movies isn’t for the faint of heart.

Filmmakers have to raise huge amounts of money and yet maintain creative control — all the while negotiating the twists and turns of a byzantine industry.

Mark Duplass does that and more, while writing, producing and directing independent films like Cyrus” and “The Puffy Chair with his brother Jay. 

Not to mention that he acts a bit, too. He plays football player Pete in FXX’s “The League,” which debuted its sixth season Wednesday, and he co-stars with Elisabeth Moss from “Mad Men” in the film “The One I Love.” 


How does he do it? We’ve paraphrased some of his advice here — and you can listen to all of it in the audio player above.

A short guide to getting your film financed, via Mark Duplass:

Step 1 — Find yourself a star.

Decide to make a $5 million movie. Go to a movie star like Elisabeth Moss and offer “Schedule F,” or $65,000.

Step 2 — Begin budget cuts.

When the $5 million budget gets cut down to $3.5 million, go back to the hopefully still-interested Elisabeth Moss and offer “scale,” or about $3,000 a week. Then throw in “a point,” or backend profits.

Don’t dwell on the fact that with creative accounting at these companies, you’ll never see that money. 

Thus, Elisabeth Moss is now working on this $5 million movie for four weeks and making making $12,000.

Step 3 — The twist.

Return to the agent and offer the minimum pay, with something extra added on. Everybody — Elisabeth Moss, a PA or Ted Danson — is going to make $100 per day, but they also get big points on the backend. And because they’ve made it so cheaply, profits will roll in sooner. 

The agents will say, “How do I know I’ll see the points?”

Show them the documents from your other films. If you’re Mark Duplass, that’s “Safety Not Guaranteed,” “Your Sister’s Sister” and so on, including what everyone made. It dwarfs the Schedule F pay they were going to make in the first place.

Step 4 — Repeat.

Keep playing the game; keep producing.

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