How to Make a Gorgeous Low-Budget Movie

Horror Film School is a new feature in which talent in front of and behind the camera share the ins and outs of creating the biggest onscreen scares.

Creative duo Lee Roy Kunz and Cru Ennis wrote and directed the religious indie horror film “Deliver Us,” which was just released in select theaters and VOD. The story — a nun mysteriously gets pregnant with twins and is investigated by a representative of the Vatican (played by Kunz), worried that one will be the Messiah and one will be the Antichrist — sounds like it would touch on many of the same ideas as other films released this year, such as “The Pope’s Exorcist” and the upcoming “The Exorcist: Believer.” But the visually-stirring work relies on impressive sets, creative camerawork, dynamic lighting and an appreciation for Biblical images in order to maintain a constant sense of fear and unease. Here, the duo recommend key ways they were able to make a gorgeous-looking film on a shoestring budget.

DO shoot in a location which gives you bang for your buck

The duo had previously shot a project in Estonia, and chose to film “Deliver Us” there for a number of reasons.

“Beyond the tax credit there, the quality of people working and the quality of life is really great,” Kunz said. “The last time we shot in Estonia, there was a producer who was our local fixer named Elina Litvinova. When we went back, we used her as our go-between in order to recruit everyone in Estonia, the best they had to offer. We ended up getting an incredible crew.”

DON’T blow all of your money without planning

It was important to the duo to have special effects look real in the most impactful parts.

“We looked at cost of visual versus practical effects,” Ennis said. “We wanted everything in our movie to be as real as possible. We wanted all the practical effects, so we picked the most important moments and then scaled from there. Then we said, ‘OK, how can we how can we do this on a budget?’ And then we then we’d shoot around it in order to make it work each day.”

DO hire a DP who shares your vision

The team worked with Isaac Bauman, who has lensed similarly-paced horror television shows like “Servant” and “Channel Zero.”

“He’s very fast,” Ennis said. “So we picked time-consuming shots and we would capture those first. We would have a hit list of importance, and things that we didn’t get then we just didn’t get them. They were on a wish list. That’s how we operated through the whole thing, but we had luck on our side.”

DON’T follow conventions if you want to stand out

Despite many religious horror films not having a frame of reference beyond 1973’s “The Exorcist,” Kunz and Ennis went to a much older text for inspiration.

“I don’t think enough films examine Biblical themes with authenticity,” Ennis said. “The things that are described in most major religions are, if you’re confronted with them eventually, pretty tough to take in. For us to do that, unapologetically…I think that’s what really sets us apart from everything else right now.”

DO learn from your collaborators

Kunz and Ennis are happy to push back at the myth of the “all-knowing” director.

“When you’re making a film, really try to give as much freedom to really talented creatives, and try to work with older creatives,” Kunz said. “They can guide you. Get an older editor, an older DP, an older set designer. They’ve done other things and can sit you down and say, ‘No, please don’t do this’ when you need to hear it.”

Watch the trailer for “Deliver Us” below.

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