‘Psycho Zero’—Myanmar’s First Zero-Budget Movie?

By Tin Htet Paing 19 June 2017

YANGON—When a group of local independent filmmakers wanted to disprove a widely accepted notion in Myanmar that a quality film must, by necessity, be expensive and use good equipment, they did not just make one film, but 14 short films on a total budget of zero.

Supposedly the first of its kind in Myanmar, the omnibus film called “Psycho Zero” is a collection of 14 short films under the same theme, directed by 14 different independent filmmakers. The 85-minute film premiered at the fifth edition of the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Yangon and was a highlight of the festival, which ran from June 14-19.

There was a total of 12 rules for directors contributing to Psycho Zero, with the most important rule being zero production costs, according to directors. The minimum duration was set at four minutes and film crews were forbidden from using a tripod, a slider, lighting equipment and other advanced filming equipment.

“It was a way of challenging ourselves because we wanted to know if we could make a film [of a certain standard] with no budget,” said one of the directors Kaung Sint, who initiated the idea of making the film.

When he and his filmmaker friends wrote their film scripts for the project, the majority of the stories happened to be psychological in theme, said Kaung Sint. Since the short films are shot with zero budget and related to psychology, they titled the film “Psycho Zero,” he explained.

Some shorts strikingly portrayed social frustration and struggles that people face in real life, from relationships to loneliness to traumatic experiences. Some short films consisted of no dialogue whatsoever but showcased the artistry and creativity of the directors.

Myat Noe, one of the 14 directors, told The Irrawaddy that coming up with a story idea that was suitable on “zero budget” was the most challenging part of the filming process, but figuring out how to get around the problems was also his favorite part of the process.

He said he wished the crew had had a designated script supervisor or a post-production supervisor so that the scripts could have been more fine-tuned before shooting and better edited after.

He stressed that the project was never meant to be a stunt or a “guiding light” for other people to follow, but to emphasize that a good story and script, creativity, problem-solving skills, and a practical mindset are the keys to making high-quality films.

“We just wanted to offer an alternative [film-making option],” he said. “If someone sees those alternatives by seeing this film, I personally will feel that our efforts were worth it.”