Blum Talks Micro-Budget Filmmaking at Ringling College

Film

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING WEDNESDAY FEB 1, 2017

The new soundstage and post-production complex at Ringling College of Art and Design may not yet be complete but it’s already garnering attention from within the film industry, with Academy Award-nominated and two-time Emmy and Peabody Award-winning producer Jason Blum visiting campus this week to meet with students of the Ringling College film department.

The innovator behind the micro-budget model of filmmaking, wherein budgets are kept to an absolute minimum, Blum’s credits include the highly successful horror franchises Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Ouija. As a testament to the model, the first Paranormal Activity earned close to $200 million globally off of a $15,000 budget.

But the concerns are not entirely economic. By keeping budgets low, Blum keeps the risk profile of the film low, with fewer investors to answer to. “As a result,” he says, “we get to do what we want.” Blum then passes this freedom on to the director and other artists, who will sink and swim based on the merits of their work with minimal studio interference. “It’s a purer way to make films,” Blum says. “In return for betting on yourself, you get to be yourself.” There’s admittedly less money for special effects, but such “toys” can be a distraction and the micro-budget forces directors to focus on the fundamentals of storytelling. Blum’s recent credits also include 2014’s Oscar-nominated Whiplash.

Exploring Ringling College on this first trip to the campus, “I felt like they had a similar philosophy,” Blum says. With the capabilities of the new soundstage and post-production facility, students will be able to embark on their own personal projects in the same lean filmmaking style, with the resources to see them through but free of interference from studio gatekeepers. Most importantly, he says, Ringling College was right to focus on digital filmmaking as it prepares the next generation. “Most people are chasing big-budget movies,” he says, which is an overcrowded pond. “But the growth area is digital.”

Whether or not Sarasota will achieve its dreams of silver screen glory remains to be seen, but “when you build a facility like this it has a ripple effect through the community in a terrific way,” says Blum. There are economic boons, but more importantly cultural advantages as people from around the world are drawn to tell their stories, just as he was.

Sitting within the cavernous space of the unfinished soundstage with students waiting for Blum to take the floor, he reflects on what he wants to say. “I hope they leave with a little more hope that there’s opportunity for young people,” he says. “They’re in the right place for what has been a terrific career for me and hopefully will be for them too.”

Pictured: Jason Blum. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.

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