Comedian Jason Nash Talks How to Make Your First Low-Budget Film

My movie, Jason Nash is Married, was released digitally by Comedy Central last month.

My movie, Jason Nash is Married, was released digitally by Comedy Central last month. It was self-financed and shot over the course of three years. Making an indie film is hell, and I strongly advise against it. Instead, I recommend marijuana and random sex. That said, it was the best experience of my life and this is what I learned making my first film.

10. Time is Everything: You have no money, so time is your currency. Work fast. Two close-ups, one wide shot. Three takes; first take is usually best. Don’t keep actors long. Tell them you need them for one or two hours and stick to your word. Your goal is not your script. It’s to get them in their car and back to their lives before they resent you.

9. Don’t Start Early and Don’t Work Late: Don’t start before 11am and don’t work past 5pm. Fuck around a lot. Spend a good half hour shooting the shit with the crew. Yes, time is valuable but so is creating a vibe. You know that job you had in college where you hung out and nobody cared if you worked or not? That’s this.

8. No Improv, No Lights, No Makeup, No Wardrobe, No Casting: We shot fully improvised scenes. Used none of it. (That said, a couple lines of improv off the script are great.) Don’t rehearse. Block and shoot. Gives you less time to second guess. No lights or makeup. Again, no time.

Use a boom. Lav mics take forever and are invasive. Some goateed sound man with piercings going up a lady’s shirt? Not cool for the vibe. Have people come in the clothes they are going to wear for the scene. Do not ask actors to bring a change of clothes, you fucking megalomaniac. No one wants to schlep shit. Casting sessions are just a chance for you to lord your power over nice actors who won’t get the part. Find an actor and write the part for them.

7. Be Effusive, Buy Food: Be passionate, humble, and grateful at every turn. Tell everyone how excited you are to have them there. You’re not really a director yet, more like a human resources manager who’s got everyone’s back. Spend all your money on food. Gourmet items. Cheeses. Gluten-free chips. Healthy shit. Cold washed grapes drying in a bowl resting on paper towels. Have your mom cook. Put on Steely Dan.

6. No Shitty Tech Nerds: Shitty tech nerds are people who are negative, don’t think you’re funny, and want to spend an hour waiting for the right light. Get rid of these people. You don’t have money to entertain assholes. Assholes cost money.

5. Don’t Take Money: Don’t take money you can’t pay back. Use a very small amount of your own money. Or borrow a little bit of money that you don’t have to pay back. Like from your uncle who doesn’t have kids and won’t marry his longtime girlfriend. Don’t ask your friends for Kickstarter money. The only way Kickstarter is OK is if you already have an audience. I have no problem with Zach Braff’s Kickstarter, because his audience wanted the film. Your problem is not with Zach Braff, it’s with the unfairness of the world and, if so, I suspect you might be a shitty tech nerd.

4. Fuck Film Festivals: Complete waste of time. Film festivals want to make money off your $75 submission fee. Film festivals do not watch all the movies. They probably will not watch yours. I was rejected from every film festival I applied too. Film festival rejection starts a spiral effect where you think your film is bad, and it’s not. It’s just that you’ve never eaten pot cookies with the programmer.

3. Get Out of the Way, You Unskilled Moron: An indie film is an actor’s chance to have no restrictions. They know more than you, so get out of their way and let them be the best versions of themselves. Remember, up until now you’ve been a colossal failure. If this film is halfway decent, people will applaud you. Go watch Clerks. Clerks is not the greatest movie ever. But it was memorable and like nothing you ever saw. That’s all you’re going for.

2. Cut It From Your Stomach: Make something deadly important to you. Don’t make a movie about a guy who sleeps with cougars so he can pay for college. Don’t tell a story about a girl who falls in love with a Sasquatch. People don’t want to see that shit. I’m not saying those movies can’t be funny, but high-concept movies go against people’s definition of indie film. Listen to Judd Apatow on Marc Maron’s WTF (Pt. 2). All Judd Apatow wants to do is go further with his material. To take it to a place so personal it makes him uncomfortable. If you don’t want to do that, then don’t bother. Just go get a pot card and enjoy your life.

1. Don’t Read “How To” Articles On Film Websites: Chances are the director who wrote it got incredibly lucky by meeting a great lead actress (Busy Philipps) who made the whole movie happen. Every film is different. And what do I know? Up until now I have been a colossal failure.


Photo of Jason Nash by Derek Hui.

Jason Nash, a stand-up comedian and actor who’s known for his work on television and online, recently made his debut as writer/writer with Jason Nash is Married. Thanks to characters like Soda Dad, he’s amassed more than a million fans on Vine and other social media platforms. In 2013 he created the GQ web series How to Be a Man, featuring such guests as Andy Richter and David Koechner. Previously he wrote, produced and starred in The Shaman, an eight-episode web series for CC:Studios. (Photo by Derek Hui.)