Check out filmmaker Sujewa Ekanayake's great D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself/Outside of Hollywood) blog and films HERE . His informative site should help you to keep the faith while putting together your own no-budget feature!

Rick's Feature Workshops 

Rick Schmidt on set of Mirage (Santa Fe, NM '04 Feature Workshop). Photo by David Kaufman

Interview with Rick at FILMMAKING STUFF


Writer/director Rick Schmidt, author of Feature Filmmaking At Used Car Prices, has more than a decade of experience conducting moviemaking workshops. Each workshop produces a full-length feature in just 10 days. To date, Feature Workshops movies have had over 20 international screenings and Chetzemoka's Curse was the first film with a woman co-signer/director to be awarded the Dogme Certificate (Dogme #10). See the full workshop schedule...

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"One of the most fascinating and exciting experiences of my life. I would highly recommend this workshop to anyone even remotely interested in movie making. With no previous experience required, you will be able to contribute in many areas of filmmaking, including helping to write, produce, act, and edit! Instead of taking your next nice two-week vacation to Hawaii, and coming home with a few hula girl trinkets, do Rick Schmidt's workshop and go home with a feature movie that you helped make! Then your next trip may be to attend a film festival as a badge-wearing real filmmaker!"

-Tom Secor, Software Engineer. San Luis Obispo, Ca. (attended Dec. '04 Santa Fe Feature Workshop)

"I'm sure Mike will still be talking about his time in Santa Fe for months.  His dad and I are so glad it was such a positive experience for him.  When he opted not to go away to college a few years ago we were crushed, but we know he marches to a different drummer.  He was always on the lookout for film school options, so we looked at this experience as a way to further his education and help him pursue his dream."

-Barbara Saliba (mother of participant, Dec. '04 Santa Fe Feature Workshop)

Feature Workshops Schedule

Beginning in January, 2004, Rick has decided that he will also offer ONE-ON-ONE workshops in addition to his group Feature Workshops, which means that he will accept only participants who want to co-produce (co-direct/co-write/co-shoot) a feature-length DV movie in a two-person moviemaking collaboration.

Rick's Feature Workshops are limited to 10 persons, who collaborate on a full-length DV production. All DV production costs are included (participants cover their own airfare/travel expenses, plus food and lodging). All Feature Workshop shoots are limited to ten collaborators at a cost of $3500 per person, unless otherwise indicated. See What You'll Do At Your Feature Workshop for more information.

Rick's ONE-ON-ONE workshops ($15,000) will demand a more intensive approach to the shooting process, but, at the same time, offer a more relaxed post-production editing timetable. Rick and the participant will be responsible for forming a story concept, scouting locations, selecting actors, shooting the DV camera, creating shots/scenes, maintaining top-quality sound, and ultimately editing the movies to completion over the months that follow.

With the advent of professional yet low-cost editing software (Final Cut Pro/Avid DV) coupled with powerful home computers, the movies can be edited over a longer period than just the 10-day format of past feature workshops. Rick has recently spent periods of time during the last 9 months editing last summer's workshop feature, RELEASE THE HEAD, to completion (produced with participant John Barnum of Arkansas and actor Stephen W. Gillard of Port Townsend). Depending on the circumstances, a participant may become the central editor of the footage, sending occasional mini-DV tapes to Rick for preview and experimentation. or vise versa. In any event, movies will be edited and finalized by Rick and participant after the shoot is over.

Feature Workshops is offering only a maximum of six one-on-one shoots offered in 2004, the dates of production determined by the convenience of the participants and Rick's schedule. The year's schedule will consist of just one shoot every two months or so. This means a first-come-first-served attitude will prevail. Only after Rick has received a participant's application (half-page real-life story" and basic info...SEE BELOW) and the full payment of $15,000 should a participant consider that their shoot is a "GO" (watch for your shoot & location listed at this website page for final confirmation...) Early registration is encouraged for the serious moviemaker who wishes to collaborate with Rick in this exciting manner.

This process of DV "workshop" moviemaking will be a seat-of-the-pants operation. Either taking place in Port Townsend, Washington or the participants home town, and using either Rick's "Dogme 95" style lightweight DV gear or the participants DV camera/sound gear, the actual moviemaking process will be something like this:


  1. Decide story concept either beforehand, or once the participant and Rick Schmidt meet at the location (RELEASE THE HEAD storyline was determined after breakfast of the first day of production...).
  2. Select actors/non-actors from the local pool of real people/available talent, grabbing friends "off the street," enlisting relatives, whatever it takes to get a cast.
  3. Allow a story emerge from "just starting" (no pre-scripting).
  4. Let the material and skills of Rick and participant determine shooting style and look of the DV feature, during the flow of production.
  5. Build scenes through improvisational dialogue (using the "freeze" technique for halting actors midstream and adding new dialogue/new action/instructions, as described in Rick's book, "Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car prices," Penguin Books).
  6. Evaluate what has been accomplished each day during the moviemaking flow, to determine which new scenes are necessary to fulfill a story structure essential for editing (determining a good ending scene by Day-10).
(This 6-step approach is the exact same method Rick and co-writers/co-directors used to create the Feature Workshops production, CHETZEMOKA'S CURSE [DOGME #10], and many other recent features [see Rick's on-line Filmography], shot in both DV and film.)

Together, Rick-and-participant will cover all the bases necessary to produce a DV feature capable of competing in the world's marketplace. While the roles may vary on different shoots -- sometimes Rick will shoot, other times the participant will perform cinematographic duties, direct actors, think up new scenes or become a lead actor, - the end result will be "a DV by Rick Schmidt and __your name here___, with major profit points (the 85% remaining after reserving 5% for Feature Workshops and 10% for an investor's blow up to 35MM) shared equally between Rick, participant, and perhaps one all-involved lead actor (as was the case for RELEASE THE HEAD).

So, if you are either a complete novice (never shot DV) or a indie veteran filmmaker with professional DV gear and a filmography, here's an opportunity to break the ice on creating a new, cutting-edge improv DV feature, working with an indie maverick who "wrote the book" and has 18+ low/no budget features to his credit (his first two-man collaboration with director Wayne Wang, A MAN, A WOMAN, AND A KILLER, helped begin that major director's career, as his book did for Kevin Smith/CLERKS some twenty years later). At any rate, Rick will look forward to shooting in your town, helping you make a movie with your contacts, your special & great locations, and high enthusiasm!

One collaborative position is available for each ONE-ON-ONE shoot. The collaborative position covers only the cost of the workshop-not airfare/travel expenses or food/lodging.



The Feature Workshops Experience

"Thanks, Rick!! I fired my shrink. Who the hell needs therapy when I can make art? Who would have thought a 53-year-old lawyer could help make a movie (Chetzemoka's Curse [Dogme #10]), that will actually be screened at a festival somewhere?"
    -Steve Gillard, Port Townsend lawyer, author, and... movie star!

Steve and Susan Gillard during the shooting of Chetzemoka's Curse.
Steve Gillard was one of the lead actors in the Feature Workshops production of Chetzemoka's Curse. His wife Susan and children Jessica and Joey shared the screen with him, playing his movie family. Steve shares his feelings about the experience.

You love movies, right? You spend way more than you should at your local theater, on DVD and VHS rentals, even subscribing to those ridiculous movie magazines. You have every available cable movie channel, even the premium ones, and especially IFC. You sit through four hours of gawdawful speeches at the Oscars every year, because you wouldn't miss a minute, especially the hour, right after, where Barbara Wahwah asks dumb questions of some movie star sitting in their foofed up living room, stroking them with that kiss-up voice she uses.

Maybe you've even gone to the next level and started figuring out how to make your own movies. After all, the technology out there is unbelievable: For a few hundred bucks you can buy a digital camera capable of making incredibly fine images, for a few hundred more you can get pretty good sound hardware, and a few hundred more gets you software that can help you edit like a pro.

Perhaps you've even made a movie or two, perhaps you've even been able to show it to someone besides your friends and family. Indeed, if you are already making movies that are getting into film festivals or other public venues, then don't waste your time reading further. This ain't necessarily for you.

But, if you're like me, you mostly watch movies and daydream about making one or maybe even being in one. What if I told you that for less money than you'll spend on your next two-week vacation you could make a movie with a nationally recognized indie filmmaker and author, whose book, Feature Filmmaking At Used Car Prices, has sold 80,000 copies and changed Vin Diesel's life? (He said so, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.)

What if you knew that this guy has gotten every single one of his movies into international film fests? (Or, for you actors, what if I told you that you could be in this movie-your face, on the screen, in Portugal or Berlin or New York?)

I have been in two such movies. I still pinch myself, every day, because it all still seems like a dream.

Alta Gonzales during the shooting of Chetzemoka's Curse.
I live in Port Townsend, I'm a low-key lawyer working out of my house, and for someone living in the prettiest place I've ever been, I spend way too much time indoors... watching movies. When I found out that moviemaker and author Rick Schmidt lived in the same town as me, and that his movie, Morgan's Cake, got to Sundance and got a full page review by Janet Maslin-a good review-I couldn't wait to cross paths with him. It took a couple of years, but our kids ended up in the same drumming class and I finally met him. I found out about his book, and I found out that he loved to make movies with regular people in his Feature Workshops, where 8 or 10 people get together and shoot and edit a full length feature film in 10 days!! Somehow it works. I've seen them. Unbelievable, these movies he gets from 10 days! (I shouldn't really be surprised: This is a guy that Ray Carney, professor of Film and American Studies at Boston University, has written about as one of the handful of top "guerrilla filmmakers" in the world, one of the 3 jazz artists of cinema.)

In the beginning, my wife and I begged Rick for just a "gofer" spot on his crew. Nice guy, Rick, but he never really came through with the "gofer" job. Then came the Chetzemoka's Curse shoot. (A film later certified by Lars Von Trier, et al, as only the second American Dogme 95 film!) Rick was shooting "Curse" in Port Townsend, and let us hang around. We weren't among the Workshop participants, but we were pretty good friends by now, and he found a way of putting every single member of my family in that movie! Get this: I, Steve Gillard, smalltown lawyer and regular person, am in a movie that has been mentioned in Variety and The New York Times, and, and, and...

Now get this: You can be, too. If you don't want to be in the movie, but would like to help write it, direct it, edit it, then just sign up for the next Feature Film Workshop. There are at least four of them every year, and there is nothing to prevent you from being in the next one.... if you hurry.

I've been in another Workshop movie since Chetzemoka's Curse: a movie with a working title of Release the Head, still being edited. This last time around I got to freaking be one of the stars!! Unbelievable. And, may I say it: The movie is fantastic! The sound track alone is worth what will be the price of admission, and will have its own CD. (I guess I can't really be objective, but I'm telling Rick to book us for Sundance.)

Steve Gillard arranging to leave his family and run off with a younger woman (Maya Berthoud). D. Jean Gilliland (of Jean's House of Travel) is his travel agent.
For the 10 days of this last Workshop, when I was there every day, in so many great locations, Rick shooting the hell out of gorgeous Port Townsend, it was like I was seeing my town for the first time. I was doing things I would never do, if I wasn't "acting." I was so goddamn high from being in front of the camera, working with Rick, watching the dailies, meeting with the other actor/director/writers, helping feel out the next scenes, etc., etc., etc., that I still haven't come down. Rick lets me come by his editing studio when he's there and watch bits of the movie and listen to the sound track. I can hardly stand to leave and go back to the "real world." (Maybe, if this movie is as good as it looks and sounds... maybe I will be able to spend less time in the "real world.")

In the years I have known Rick, and watched his movies and been in his movies, I have never, ever, heard of another filmmaking opportunity like his Feature Workshops. Never. It is astounding to me that for something around $3,500 it's possible to help make a feature film, act in it, help edit it, not to mention, have a copy of your movie to show family, friends, neighbors... forever! Then, you get to stand by and watch your movie start to get attention from film festivals, critics, entertainment writers. I swear, it"s completely surrealistic, like the best dream imaginable.

You tell me: Have you ever heard of anything like it?

Making these movies with Rick Schmidt, in his Feature Workshps, has been, without question, the biggest thing that's happened for me since the birth of my last child. (Well, I guess moving to Port Townsend comes close.) I can't believe Rick has to promote these Workshops! I can't believe that word of mouth hasn't filled the Workshops into the next decade.

Steve Gillard, Movie Star.

What You'll Do At Your Feature Workshop


Aspiring independent filmmakers, stage and screen directors, scriptwriters, novelists, video producers, media enthusiasts, film students, film buffs, between the ages of 18 and 81.

Participants will be selected for workshops based on their varied life experiences and intensity of purpose. Each perspective filmmaker will be asked to fill in information about their background and education (college degrees, film/video/writing experience, or life experience/school of hard knocks) and write a short page (100 words) on "The best real-life story I know that relates to my own family history," with a space supplied for their copyright protection, date and signature This story will not only help Rick to determine who can express his or herself in an honest, straightforward way, but get the participant to understand that the real riches they should mine for their own feature-length projects lie right at their own feet.


Port Townsend, Washington, is Feature Workshops home base, offering an array of locations, from natural scenes of water and mountains to a timeless town. Feature Workshops will occasionally be conducted in other cities/locations that offer good visual and conceptual possibilities (like our Death Valley and Berkeley shoots).

"The preservation of Port Townsend's commercial core and supporting residential community (over 200 registered Victorian buildings...) presents a remarkable picture of life in the 1880's."
-Peter Simpson, CITY OF DREAMS (Bay Press, 1986)

Port Townsend is a 2 hour commute from the Seattle airport. The route combines a 1/2 hour drive-on ferry ride from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island (Winslow), with a scenic 1 hour drive, island hopping past Poulsbo, across the Hood Canal bridge, up the Olympic Peninsula to Port Townsend. Ferries also offer access from Victoria, B.C., and Whidbey Island.


$3500 for the 10-day workshop, $15,000 for one-on-one 10-day shoot with Rick Schmidt (results to be edited over a several month period). Applicants are responsible for their own transportation to Port Townsend, Washington (or the location of the workshop), and food and lodging during the workshop production.

The Experience

"Rick Schmidt and FEATURE WORKSHOPS gave me exactly what I've been dreaming of-knowledge, experience, and the courage to try."
    -Barry R. Norman

"It totally demystified the entire filmmaking process. Inspirational, well laid out, and easy to understand. Well worth the money spent."
    -Anthony Pesce

"An enriching experience with maximum work and intensity. I learned that I can now make my own films."
    -Trudie Dearinger

"FEATURE WORKSHOPS gave me exactly what I hoped it would-the real-life, real-time experience."
    -Ned Barth

"Too many cooks didn't spoil this film!"
    -Greg Gerson, (speaking about "someone like me," the 80 minute, Color, 16MM feature created at Aug. '97 FEATURE WORKSHOPS by 11 writers/directors).

Cinematographer Gary Rohan (on dolly) shoots "someone like me" (80 min., Color, 16MM) at the Aug. 1997 Berkeley workshop. (A Film by: Doreen L. Alexander, Ned Barth, Mark Fogarty, Greg Gerson, Steve Heffner, Andrew Hettinger, Virginia Saenz McCarthy, James O'Brien, Mark Toscani, Robert J. Weythman, and Rick Schmidt). Photo by Chandra Clarke.
"I applied, I got in, I paid the money, I got on a plane and I'm here-and now that I'm here I've got to shoot it! The details are taken care of!"
    -Mark Fogarty

"It confirms that risks are well worth taking."
    -Virginia Saenz McCarthy

Bottom line, though, is that by the time a workshop is completed EVERYONE is a veteran of at least one feature. Now they know how it all works (the set, directing, editing...), how it feels under pressure as a low-budget feature filmmaker. I'm sure they will quickly save back ALL the money spent of a workshop when they launch into their own production. Just on the people-connections part alone it's worth it (half of the Aug. '97 group went on to shoot a movie together, and most remain in touch with me...). It's a win-win situation as far as I can tell.

A Brief History of Feature Workshops

In 1993, Rick Schmidt founded his feature workshops, believing that he could make a professional no-budget feature by collaboration, bringing in other filmmakers (scriptwriters, video enthusiasts, etc.) to work with him over a 10 day period to write, direct, shoot, edit, and co-produce a 75 minute film in 16MM. For 1998, he had added cutting-edge Pro-DVCAM shoots to his list of collaborative productions, believing that DIGITAL VIDEO must no longer be ignored as a viable no-budget method of producing feature-length works.

Lead actress Meeka Schmalle throws a kick toward Director of Photography Morgan Schmidt-Feng as he shoots with DSR-200 Pro-DVCAM camera at the April '98 production ("Loneliness is Soul," 93 min.). Actor/songwriter John Balquist (writer/director of his own feature, "Learning to Crawl") records sound, writer/director/gaffer Jay Coakley assists, while Hal Croasmun (far right) directs his scene.
There's an old adage from the silent era of filmmaking that went something like this-"He can't do anything-let him direct! "If a new guy showed up on the set who couldn't do anything technical (couldn't hand-crank, load, or set exposure on the camera, wasn't a writer of scripts, couldn't light the scenes or paint backdrops, wasn't pretty enough to be an actor!), they gave him the one job that required no expertise-DIRECTOR. In a sense this is still true at Feature Workshops.

At recent feature-length productions we've had an opera singer, airline steward, security guard, editor of a corporate newsletter, house-painter, high school drama teacher, psychologist, corporate consultant, fast-food clerk, Eagle scout, liberal arts student, graphics artist (you name it!) write & direct movies, while our top-notch technical crews backed them up. The difference between the silent movie era and now, though, is that most of us have been exposed to over 8,000 hours of movies on TV and at theatres, and WE KNOW HOW TO USE MOVIES TO EXPRESS PERSONAL IDEAS. This expression is especially possible through the on-the-set development of a story-line, one that is "written as it goes along" (like CASABLANCA... you know... with Humphrey Bogart). The everyday person with a MOVIE-MAKING DREAM (and NO filmmaking background), is able to jump into our productions, make up scenes (have ideas), "write & direct" just fine. In fact, they enrich our movies because of their diverse backgrounds. By the time 10 days are up, you'll be able to write and direct a movie in collaboration with myself and others, using my book, Feature Filmmaking At Used Car Prices, as a guide.

In 1998, several Workshops were conducted using the Sony DSR-200 Pro-DVCAM digital video camera. Morgan Schmidt-Feng's (Rick's son-see MORGAN'S CAKE) Bay Area indie production company, Filmsight Productions (, supplied a Pro-DVCAM package, plus helped Rick co-produce the 1998 Pro-DVCAM and 16MM workshops (Morgan co-produced the Aug. '97 workshop feature "someone like me").

Blues for The Avatar
On location in Port Townsend, Washington, shooting BLUES FOR THE AVATAR (Photo by Julie Schachter)
BLUES FOR THE AVATAR (73 1/2 min., B&W, ©1995), the first feature created by a workshop, was presented at the IFFM (Independent Feature Film Market) in New York City in September, 1996. Schmidt and his collaborators, Barry Norman, Michelle Kulstad, Anthony Pesce, Trudie Dearinger, and Eric Magun are proud that their collaborative feature was selected by Slamdance International Film Festival (Park City, Utah) for a World Premiere, had its European Premiere at Portugal's Figueira da Foz International, and won a SILVER award at Houston's Worldfest International Film Festival,1996.

Each participant supplied a workshop fee (their economic share of the budget), and was responsible for writing/directing during the 3 1/2 day shoot, and 6 day crash edit. To complete the film as a composite 16MM print, Schmidt along with Barry Norman and Kent Nussbaum, each picked up investment points in the project by funding the last expenditures of sound mix, titles, conforming of original, and "answer" print.

Rick Schmidt (left), watches as writer/director/actress Irene Barnett (black sweater) awaits her cue to enter shot near Death Valley Junction for Jan. '98 production ("Welcome to Serendipity," 90 min.). Morgan Schmidt-Feng frames shot with DSR-200 Pro-DVCAM camera as writer/directors Barry Green and Karen Gloyd (who also co-produced and edited) prepare to record sound and list continuity.

CHETZEMOKA'S CURSE is 2nd officially certified
American Dogme 95 movie (after JULIEN DONKEY-BOY)

One of the first no-budget DV features conceived, cast, shot, and completed in the year 2000, Chetzemoka's Curse , a collaborative feature from Rick Schmidt's Feature Workshops, has just been officially certified as "Dogme NO. 10" by the Danish Dogme 95 Secretariat. Six collaborators; Maya Berthoud, Morgan Schmidt-Feng, Dave Nold, Lawrence Pado (, Rick Schmidt, and Chris Tow, (and Schmidt's teenage son Marlon Schmidt who wrote/directed a scene for the movie), created the 10-day feature in Port Townsend, Washington, location of Schmidt's 1992 feature American Orpheus (Rotterdam, Seattle Intl.). Schmidt's son, Morgan Schmidt-Feng (, who was the lead actor of Schmidt's $15,000 Morgan's Cake (New Directors/New Films, Berlin Intl., Sundance Dramatic Competition'89, SF International, etc.), was Director of Photography for the movie (also co-director/co-writer), following the strict Dogme 95 Vow of Chastity guidelines. The e-filmmakers have offered 10% of the gross profit points in return for an investment to blow up the 81 minute feature to 35mm for theatrical distribution. If interested please contact Schmidt

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