The List: Five low-budget films selected by Tim Greene

El Mariachi

(directed by Robert Rodriguez)

The first low-budget feature film I remember hearing of was Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi back in 1992. It was a pretty dreadful film, but I was completely inspired by the stories that swirled around it (many of them just good PR no doubt) of how Rodriguez sold his own blood to raise the $7 000 that the film cost to make.


(directed by Richard Linklater)

What really inspired me about Richard Linklater’s Slacker was the meandering plotline. It challenged everything I thought I knew about film storytelling. There were no lead characters and the camera would follow someone for a while and just then peel off and follow someone else. Having grown up on a diet of Hollywood studio movies, I found this extremely liberating. It had a budget of $23 000. 


(directed by Kevin Smith)

In 1994 Miramax released Kevin Smith’s grunge comedy Clerks, a grainy black and white movie about a couple of slackers working in a convenience store. The film cost $27 000 and was shot in the store where the director worked in real life. It really opened my eyes to the possibility of just getting it done, using whatever one had at one’s disposal.

The Blair Witch Project

(directed by Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick)

In 1999 The Blair Witch Project revealed to me the extraordinary possibilities of telling compelling stories without using any of the usual filmmaking gear or aesthetics. No grips, no dollies, no establishing shots, just a handheld video camera. Ironically, although the film was designed to look incredibly cheap, it actually cost $60 000 to make.  Which I guess is still nothing, compared to the $250-million it earned.


(directed by Shane Carruth) 

Lastly, there’s Primer, which I consider one of the best sci-fi films I’ve ever seen. It  was made for just $7 000 back in 2004. It tells the story of two engineers who accidentally build a time machine in their garage and use it to travel back in time, creating all sorts of fascinating paradoxes and philosophical conundrums. Primer is proof that what really matters are the ideas behind the film, not the budget.

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Tim Greene
Timothy John Greene is a South African actor, film director, and writer.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Gaseous explosion probably caused death of 21 young people at...

Expert says it will be a few weeks before a final determination is made on the cause of death

Eskom wage deadlock ends, setting SA back on course to...

This is according to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who placed the blame for stage six load-shedding on unprotected strike action

Nearly 800 years later, the fires of the Benin bronze...

Ancient art has been carried out in the same street by smiths for dozens of generations

Pensioner again used in alleged multimillion-rand police corruption

Salamina Khoza’s RDP home in Soshanguve, Tshwane, emerged as the SAPS’s alleged fraud headquarters

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…