The cheapest story ever told

Two Santa Cruzans shoot for Guinness Book glory with their new film ‘Midground,’ which just might be the lowest-budget film ever made


The term “low budget” is relative in Hollywood. There are suits in the industry that will use the term when talking about $20 million. With a straight face.

But Santa Cruzans Jordan Graham and Trevor Adrian have a much more down-to-earth definition of “low budget.” Their new film, debuting Wednesday at the Rio is so low-budget, the folks at the Guinness Book of World Records are getting involved.

Graham and Adrian are the co-directors of “Midground,” a feature-length film shot in and around Santa Cruz that costs a whopping $150 to make.

“That wasn’t our goal at all at the beginning,” said Graham, 23, of his efforts to break the world record for the cheapest movie ever made. “We had no money at all to make this film, and it wasn’t until we were well into it that we thought, ‘Hey, this could be the cheapest film of all time.’”

In fact, he said, the budget could have been even lower. Part of that $150 budget was allocated for a ski mask, but that was purchased before the filmmakers got the idea that they may have a world record on their hands. Otherwise, they would have borrowed a ski mask.

The rest of the $150 was spent on MiniDV tapes and other incidentals, including two flea-market television sets that cost $5 each. Graham said he also used, uh, unconventional methods of raising the money necessary to make the film.

“I stole most of it out of my mom’s purse,” he said.

“Midground” was three years in the making. The project first came about in the summer of 2006, and Graham and Adrian spent three years shooting, editing and mixing.

“There was no screenplay, really,” said Adrian who majored in film (along with Energy & Resources and Peace & Conflict Studies) at UC Berkeley. “We basically had a four-page synopsis that we somehow stretched into a 21-page script.”

Even that script served as only the roughest of guides to the filmmakers who, said Adrian, ended up writing scenes on napkins and spare pieces of paper on the day of shooting.

Graham and Adrian already had much of the equipment to make the film; since it was not purchased expressly to make the film, it wasn’t part of the accounting that went into the film’s budget. For publicity, the two had small fliers printed up that they put on the windshields of parked cars throughout Santa Cruz County.

Graham said he and Adrian have contacted the folks at the Guinness Book who have given them the requirements to qualify for the record, which includes a public premiere of the film, and submission of the film to the British ratings board, which costs about 10 times the movie’s budget.

The current record for Least Expensive Feature Film, according to the Guinness Book, is the Canadian film “Die Alive,” the operating budget of which was $378.82.

“Midground” is a drama about a group of local young people who exist at the edge of criminality and despair, their anomie and recklessness a reflection of a turbulent political situation. Its volunteer cast and crew numbered about 50, said Adrian.

The film will premiere Wednesday at the Rio after a 45-minute set by the rock band the Realities, featuring Adrian on drums.




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