George Miller: Making Mad Max on a budget
'The entire budget was $350,000', says George Miller in this interview with Paul Byrnes for australianscreen online in 2006.
While $350,000 in 1979 is roughly $1.8 million in 2020, it's still a pitifully small amount of money for a feature film.
To cut costs it was a case of 'all hands on deck'. Both Miller and producer Byron Kennedy would personally sweep the debris off the road at the end of the day after a stunt scene.
Miller calls it 'guerilla filmmaking' and you can see from this clip that he looks back at the production of Mad Max with great fondness.
The entire budget (for Mad Max, 1979) was $350,000 and so that means you’re doing everything incredibly cheaply. It meant that Byron Kennedy and I would gestetner the script and then we’d get on the back of my motorbike and we’d ride and deliver it to the cast and crew. It meant that Hugh Keays-Byrne and all the guys who played the bikers … we couldn’t afford to fly them down. We could afford to take the bikes from Melbourne up to Sydney. They got on their bikes and rode them down and kind of rehearsed being a bikie gang on the way down.
It meant that we had to sweep up the roads after there was a car crash. Byron and I would stay back at night and sweep up the roads. It was that kind of guerrilla filmmaking. It meant that the film was cut in a flat that we borrowed from a friend and he would cut sound in the lounge room and I’d cut picture in the kitchen. It meant that the mix, which was done for $6000, was done by Roger Savage after he was mixing Little River Band in a big fancy sound studio and using a very revolutionary timecoded way of putting picture and sound together, which hadn’t been done before. And that led to Roger being one of the, you know, leading sound technicians in film in the world.
So everything was done in a very innovative, resourceful way and it meant that the lenses that we had were lenses … Sam Peckinpah had a shot a movie, The Getaway (1972), one of the last movies that Steve McQueen had made. And he used these Todd-AO lenses which were so damaged by the car action that they had, they were dumped down in Australia. But we were determined to do a wide action, you know, wide-screen action movie and so we could only get these Todd-AO lenses. Only one of which worked properly.
So the whole film was shot on this very wide 35mm lens. The other ones were too tricky to use. So that’s why people said I was very clever to use the wide angle lenses but we had no choice really if we wanted to do the anamorphic format.