Filmmaking with the Burghart Brothers

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The Burghart Brothers are a filmmaking team from Offerle, Kansas which has a population of 200 people (the nearest famous city is Dodge City which is about 20 miles away), and started making films with they were little children. The team has successfully made many vibrant, highly entertaining shorts -- usually with little money. Many of the films Fun Size Horror has been thrilled to share. 

Fun Size Horror was able to speak with the Burghart Brothers (Jacob and Ben) who are embarking on their first feature in collaboration with Rockhaven Films. The pair has learned many skills that help them navigate the indie film scene that all we filmmakers can benefit from hearing. 

(Interview Below)

- What tips or advice can you provide to filmmakers that are making movies with limited to zero budgets?

The first thing you need to do is have the right mindset when it comes to deciding what you want your film to be. The worst thing you could do is write a scene that will require an insane amount of money, special effects, or an unobtainable location when filming with no budget. Scale down your idea, I’m sure there is a core idea you want executed in a scene or a set piece. Take that idea and find out how you could do it with no money. That could mean changing a location, using less actors, building your own set, utilizing unique editing/sound design or even coming up with a different idea that will still progress the story to the next beat in a different way. We always tell ourselves when writing that if we can’t execute an idea with our current resources then we shouldn’t put it in the film because we can’t reach that point in production, not have the ability to film the scene and have it derail the entire project. In the back of my head I usually have 3 or 4 backups on how to execute a difficult scene. So much of filmmaking is problem solving and if you can't think outside the box (as cliche as that sounds) you won’t make it far.

Some more practical ways of saving money is to visit thrift stores, garage sales, and Goodwills for props and costumes. I can’t tell you how many weird and unique items we have found that end up elevating our films in terms of production value. The best way to hide a budget is to not be lazy when it comes to your sets and costumes. I have seen so many short films where the characters walk out in a t-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes in their house and it doesn’t feel like a story. Once you get props and costumes you need HANG ON TO THEM. We have accumulated an eclectic variety of costumes that often get repurposed and reused in entirely different styles for different films. Another tip on increasing production value is to take time with your titles and credits. We’ve seen our fair share of cringe worth title cards and credit sequences. Take some time to study typography and title sequences, it doesn’t cost money to be aware of good design, or get someone who is aware and ask them. The last thing I would say is that my secret weapon is the Dollar Tree Store, where everything inside is literally $1, that place rocks.

- What's it like being a directing duo? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

The coolest part is that we are constantly bouncing ideas off of each other, all the time, for a number of different running film ideas. We keep an archive of all the ideas we have. Usually we will have a huge list of ideas, set pieces, character notes, music, videos, locations, and reference pictures (oh…the amount of reference pictures is ridiculous). Eventually we take all these elements and connect our main set pieces into a cohesive story which then transforms into an outline that reads like story, which we then use to make the script/film. I cannot recommend enough writing down your ideas, if you're at work, about to fall asleep, in the shower, you need to write it down, trust me. I’m always typing an idea in my phone or writing on a piece of paper and putting it in my pocket to add to my big archive for later.

What’s interesting about being brothers is that we are brutally honest when we pitch ideas to each other because we always want to whittle an idea into the best possible version. When we wake up the next morning we will still be brothers and we’re stuck with each other so we get over disagreements quickly. In the end it’s rare that we stay split after the execution of an idea, the best idea usually always wins. Also, having someone to backup an idea when pitching to others is always a plus.

One disadvantage is that sometimes we feel that we are on the same page on how to execute an idea and don’t dive into the details because we are both so excited about the idea. Then right before we explain what we are going to do on set to the crew we realize that we were not excited about the same thing and have two completely different ideas. In that cause we step aside and talk or bring in someone we trust creatively to help choose the best option.

- Neon Veins is a very visual film that showcases your style well. What did you learn from that experience, and did Neon Veins give you guys the confidence to tackle a feature?

What’s so fun about Neon Veins is that we actually made a smaller scale trailer for the concept and realized that the idea had potential for major expansion. We have made films in the 15-30 min range but not with this many distinct locations and actors. We learned the value of collaboration, and working with Rockhaven Films definitely pushed our style technically and creatively to new heights. I think one of the main reasons we are proud of the film is that because there is so much visual storytelling, you could watch the film on mute and follow the story from beginning to end. Additionally we made the film in 48 days for a festival for $300, a third of which I’m pretty sure was used to feed the crew for two of the bigger shooting days.

We knew as we got older that we would have to keep stepping up our abilities as filmmakers and the next logical step was to do a feature. We feel that we have accumulated enough experience and connections to successfully execute a 90 minute feature film. The ideas and passion were always there and the real world logistics have finally caught up.

- What's your next project and where are you in the process? 

FOLLOW THE LEADER is a horror/thriller where after a brutal car crash, three business partners wake up in an abandoned mall having each lost one of their senses (sight, hearing, speech). Trapped inside by a terrible blizzard, they soon realize they’re being hunted. As they struggle to survive, they must learn to communicate, to trust each other, and decide whether they even should.

Throughout the movie, the camera enters the perspectives of our characters as they explore, stripping the audience of that sense, and taking them on a ride as the story unfolds. This means that there will be scenes of no audio and some with no video and only audio. We made a very basic short of the film about 9 years ago exposing the core concept and have been building on the idea every since. Right now we are in the middle of online fundraising on Kickstarter. Once we have funds secured we are planning on filming this winter and hopefully releasing the film in about a year. We are so excited to be collaborating with Rockhaven Films and producer J.S. Hampton who are wrapping up post-production on their first feature Goodland. We have been moving towards making a real feature film for 20 years and we can’t wait to show the world our unique vision.

Fun Size Horror loves to support indie artists with the passion and dedication filmmakers like the Burghart Brothers possess. Please visit their campaign, watch, and share their films. As fans, we benefit from supporting new voices in indie film. 

Have a short horror film you want others to see? Know someone who does? Submit here!