Customer Service Outsource Services

As its label implies, customer care involves attending to the customer needs through communication channels such as telephone, email, text/chat real-time, VoIP, and web collaboration. Since customer care is a company’s frontline service and is engaged in direct interaction with external stakeholders, information obtained from customer care transactions are deemed substantial in identifying the strategies towards the development of a company’s product or service. However, in recent years, because of the increasing volume of transactions that companies have to deal with, many have turned to customer care outsource services for help. Availing customer care outsource services may be roughly referred to as a ‘provisioning of customer care services.’ Huge companies would often opt for their customer group to be outsourced to call centers or business process outsourcing (BPO) providers, as these companies have extensive advantages and understanding of how to reach customers and how to interact with them.


Primarily, companies prefer obtaining customer care outsource services because the offshore provider usually has all the necessary resources to implement effective customer care services, at less cost. Compared to in-house hiring of all the needed employees, the option of outsourcing customer care services is undoubtedly cheaper, especially if the provider is based in developing countries where the labor rate is low against the dollar.


Since labor is cheap abroad, it is no wonder that over the last few years, customer care outsource practices have been improving tremendously, especially in offshore sites. Call centers and BPOs have mushroomed in countries like the Philippines, India, China, Malaysia, and Brazil. Aside from the fact that their labor rates ar

e cheaper, these countries were found to have excellent skills to facilitate customer-oriented activities such as telemarketing, profiling customers, and answering efficiently and effectively customer inquiries.


In addition to the quantity of manpower involved, companies that engage in customer care outsource services also get quality of service in exchange for their investment. Thousands of employees hired for outsourcing services have college degrees and are mostly graduates of reputable schools. Countries, like the Philippines, also boast of large and fluent English-speaking populations. As such, recruiting and training staff for clients’ accounts are definitely worth it, both on the sides of the company and the outsourcing provider. A good human resources company such as Solvo Global is always very resourceful to bring help and information.


Since outsourcing has become a major trend in business, many customer care outsource providers have taken a different route that still serve to benefit companies, big or small. Today, client companies can also avail of dedicated staff for their outsourcing projects. Having an offshore dedicated staff has proven to be more effective than the old project-based outsourcing model, wherein the project manager and the offshore staff work for many client companies, doing multiple projects. With a dedicated staff, client companies are given complete and full management over their hired staff, which becomes focused on just one client or project. Given these advantages, the dedicated staff’s innovative model promises higher productivity and revenues.


Whether the nature of the business is in travel and transportation, financial services, healthcare, or utilities, companies that wish to invest in customer care outsource services definitely have more to gain than lose. In turn, as more and more companies seek to effectively address the concerns of their clients, customer care outsource providers, especially in countries where English is spoken very well and technical skills are excellent, will definitely find themselves in profitable positions, perhaps for a very long time.

The Insurance Coach

“He who conquers others is strong; he who conquers himself is mighty.” (Lao-tzu) This month we’ll be discussing the fourth key to dynamic leadership: Positive Image – Public and Self. All leadership is leadership by example.


The people who follow us usually duplicate half of the good things we do and twice the poor things. To be dynamic, a leader must both “play the part” of a leader and have a solid, positive self image.


Public Image: What does a leader look like? Does a dynamic leader wear a suit? expensive clothing? dress to fit in with the crowd? The fact is, a leader doesn’t really look like anything in particular. It’s more about how he or she acts. Your clients and your prospects want to know that they’re part of a winning “team”. They want to follow a leader who knows where he or she is going. They want to follow someone who exudes leadership, authority, confidence…


A dynamic leader must play the role that clients and prospects expect. People watch how a leader acts and re-acts. They draw confidence from the behavior of their leader. They become inspired by their leader’s actions. Become someone that people look up to. Be a professional. Dress the part. Instill confidence in your clients. I always make it a practice of dressing one notch higher than my client – after all, we’re the experts. Does your office create a professional presence? Are you conveying the kind of image you want others to have of you? Take a step back with a critical eye, or even better, have a spouse be the “outside person”.


Self Image: Have you ever endeavored to attain a dream or goal, only to find that you’ve sabotaged yourself? Many of us have, including me. Often our efforts are thwarted by our fears. We may have a fear of failure, a fear of success, even a fear of money. When we don’t address and overcome our fears, they take a heavy toll on our accomplishments. All too often, we decide to limit ourselves because of them. Our vision for our future and our assessment of our abilities becomes narrower. Our dreams become extinguished.


The degree to which we master or at least deal with our fears determines our level of persistence in the pursuit of our goals. Inevitably, obstacles arise to challenge us on our path to success. Someone once said, “Always measure an obstacle next to the size of the dream you’re pursuing.” The bigger your dream, the bigger the obstacles (opportunities) you’ll face. Persistence with a sense of purpose will help us prevail, but our image of our self will, in large part, affect just how persistent we are. If we lead by example, then we must set the example of persistence.


How can you affect your self image? It helps to understand how we formed the image of our self to begin with. Children are very impressionable. Not only are they impressionable, but their life experience is limited. The consequence is that frequently, children “wire-up” the meaning of an event or a remark in a way that, as an adult, we know to be flawed. They draw a broad conclusion that is often unwarranted.


Couple that with repeated, unsupportive situations (negative remarks, negative self-talk, repeated “put-downs”), and a child will firmly believe in their negative self image. Children form opinions about the world from all the sources of input surrounding them (friends, bullies, family, teachers, TV, radio, …). Forming opinions in this manner continues as an adult. The way we see things is influenced by what we continually get exposed to. We carry these false beliefs around with us into adulthood, and that’s where we need to correct all those misperceptions.


The most effective way to change our self image, is to replace the input that others choose, with input that we choose. Read personal development books (leaders are readers). Listen to tapes on personal growth and positive attitude. Associate with positive, success-minded people. The people you associate with and the books you read determine where you’ll be five years from now. Stop feeding yourself with negatives. Cut out most TV. Don’t bother with the negativity of the newspaper. Avoid people who bring you down – either with direct attacks or with their pervasive negative attitude. Take charge of your life! An effective, dynamic leader does not have to be perfect. None are. But they do make a continuing effort to improve who they are as a person.


As your attitude and perspectives change, you’ll find yourself adopting a solution-oriented mindset rather than a limiting, problem-oriented mindset. Your creativity will blossom and where before you saw obstacles, you’ll begin to see new opportunities. And one more thing…


People are attracted to positive, solution-oriented, success-minded people, keynote speakers like Richard Jadick and other professional speakers. You’ll see your business grow as you yourself grow.


Investing in Stocks to Earn Easy Returns

Investing in stocks is a very old investment scheme where the investor has been putting their funds into and earning huge returns. The word stock means a business entity representing the original capital invested or paid by the founders of business. So investing in stocks means to purchase the capital of the company. This It is a kind of security for the creditor in the business as these funds cannot be withdrawn.


The stock is a distinct or fixed form of property however the assets in the business fluctuate in value and quantity. The investing in stock in the business is a very important thing as it is the capital without which the business cannot run. The stock commonly known as capital stock is further divided into shares where the total number of shares should be stated when the business is formed. So the number of shares are actually the division of the capital amount into smaller units. Each share has a value which is determined by the division of capital into equal units. Each share has a price value which is also called in the market as the par value. Par value is the minimum amount of value the business can issue and sell. The price at which the shares are being sold which includes the application money, allotment money, call money, share premium, calls in arrears, calls in advance and the amount of the forfeiture of shares. So the value of each share is calculated and then represented as the capital amount and shown in the accounting  of the company. The capital amount appears on the liability side of the balance sheet.


Investing in stocks has gained huge popularity in the recent past where the investors have been investing in stocks of companies and taking the risk of earning returns in a small span of time.

The people should have deep knowledge about the market in which they are investing into and should know about the company also. The people who purchase shares of companies receive a document stating their ownership of that part of the company’s capital known as the stock certificate. The stocks sold in the market of a company are sold in several forms like the equity shares, preference shares, bearer shares and registered shares. These shares are further divided into several heads according to the investments like the cumulative preference shares, non- cumulative preference shares, redeemable preference shares, participating or non- participating preference shares and many more.


Each type of share gives a certain right to the shareholder which makes the differentiation in the prices also. When a person is investing in stocks of a company the investor should know the authorized or the registered capital of the company, the issued capital, subscribed capital, called up capital and the paid up capital of the company which will give the investor a small description of the company’s standing in the market according to its capital.


The investing in stocks of companies have grown a lot in the late nineteenth century, businesses and entrepreneurial ventures are all in. People have gained knowledge about the market and have understood the factors influencing the prices of the commodities. Earlier people used to think that investment is just luck and nothing else but now people have understood the forces prevailing in the market affecting the price of the commodities. Today people can easily forecast the price of the investments depending on the present position of the market and by deciding the forces which may affect the price of the commodities in future. Thus investing in stocks is a very widely known profit earning market in a very small period of time.


What to Do When You’re Told ‘You’re Overqualified’

Years ago, 58-year-old Alan Pike and his colleagues were turning away business at their Boston-based PR agency, Collaborative Communications Inc. Today, Mr. Pike was an out-of-work executive, looking for a position as a vice president at a comparable company. For years, he has spent countless hours trolling the Internet, seeking a new gig. He’s even expanded his net and sought out jobs that were not quite executive level, but he’s been rebuffed and sometimes told he’s “overqualified.”

“It seemed like most of the positions available are junior,” Mr. Pike says. “The ads say, ‘Must have three-plus years’ experience and a valid driver’s license.’ That’s code for a kid with a car.”

In the current employers’ job market, many job applicants are complaining they’re being told: “You’re overqualified.” But recruiters say that executive-level candidates shouldn’t let this brand of rejection derail their job searches.

“Generally, the term ‘you’re overqualified’ is a cop-out,” says Shel Hart, vice president of Spherion Corp., a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based staffing-services and consulting firm that recruits interim executives. “We’re in an increasingly talent-deficient marketplace, even with the current unemployment levels. That anyone in this market would say that I want somebody underqualified or just on par would be fairly silly.”

Tips and Tactics

Silly or not, older executives often hear that answer during interviews. But such job seekers can adopt strategies to cope with these rejections. For instance, specialists from human resources companies, such as Solvo Global, suggest the recent corporate scandals give executive job seekers an opportunity to position themselves as experienced and ethical, as reflected by their past roles.

Firms these days put “a high premium on their reputation, especially at the senior level,” says Barry Honig, president of Riskon Inc., a Tenafly, N.J.-based executive recruiter for the financial-services and pharmaceutical industries. So it’s in an employer’s interest to demonstrate that “someone of impeccable integrity is watching the store,” he says.

Additionally, executive recruiters say, candidates should strive to gently coax more information out of interviewing managers. If told they’re overqualified, they should ask why. The answer might be surprisingly simple. “Maybe the prospect is [unintentionally] giving off signals that they’re not really interested in the job,” says Patti Branco, president of Management & Training Solutions, a Ventura, Calif.-based employment consulting firm which advises firms in the financial-services sector.

Ms. Branco says that when interviewing prospects she often asks whether they would accept a job at the level above the job she’s interviewing them for. “That backs them into an honest answer,” she says. “You can see what their thinking is.”

‘Risk Management’

Be sure to stress that the job fits your career goals as well. Employers are — sometimes rightly — leery of someone taking a position that’s a huge step back for them, rather than an onward-and-upward career move, says Renee Arrington, a partner in the Ft. Worth, Texas, office of executive recruiter Ray & Berndtson.

Some employers worry that highly experienced applicants might jump ship if something more suitable comes along, says Ms. Arrington. “So this is risk-management for some companies,” she says, adding that they wonder how happy candidates will be in lesser roles. “If the company decides to make an investment in you for which you may be overqualified, there’s the concern that you might become restless, or you might not find the work challenging,” says Ms. Arrington.

As a job seeker, you have to overcome employers’ ingrained misperceptions. Do so with facts and excellent communications skills, recruiters suggest. “I’ve interviewed people who’ve had 10 years of sales management experience and simply want to go back to being a broker,” says Ms. Branco. “But they’ve presented that to me in an honest way — and showed that they have a real enthusiasm for selling. That works.”

Hiring managers sometimes more favorably view applicants who are willing to take a step down to make an industry switch. “That way, people know that you’re looking for the opportunity to learn the business,” says Ms. Arrington. “It’s a little more acceptable. It’s a learning experience.” That’s been the case for many executives in the telecommunications and Internet industries who are moving into other fields, she says.

Proving Your Worth

If the hiring manager still balks, other tactics may be worth trying. Some executives are offering to work in new jobs as part-time hires for, say, 30 hours per week, to show employers their serious interest in making the move. “Maybe you can come in as a consultant on a contract with that employer,” says Ms. Arrington, who has placed executives in temporary jobs with the expectation that the roles would grow into full-time positions in the future. “You can then demonstrate your skills and your value on a defined project. Once you’ve made your connections and built your own network in your company, there’s a much higher likelihood that [the job] could become a full-time role.”

Mr. Pike is consulting for a number of companies while keeping in touch with his network of contacts. “There is a company or organization out there that will come into my crosshairs, and we’ll both know relatively quickly that we need each other,” he says.

Some job candidates may be concerned that the “overqualified” label may be a code word for age discrimination, but Burlingame, Calif.-based job-search consultant Carole Martin thinks the label “overqualified” isn’t used in this regard. It’s possible that some candidates are passed over because they seem out of touch with business conditions, she says. This may be because they aren’t up on the latest industry lingo, and this shows how dated their knowledge is. “Keep abreast of the latest jargon — talk their talk,” says Ms. Martin. “And be concise and to the point. Use relevant information, not old industry ‘war stories.’ “

Jeff Christian, president of the Cleveland-based executive recruiter Christian & Timbers, advises candidates arrive at interviews with the mindset that they’re already employed by the firm and have 20 new ideas to help make money or increase market share. “The way you can set yourself apart is to ask insightful questions, give insightful ideas and get the other person talking about the business and industry,” he says. “That gets them excited about you. [Employers] are looking for people who are energetic and passionate, can get things done and are intelligent. If you get them excited, the question of whether you’re overqualified will never even come up.”

Indeed, Mr. Christian says that he has broken the code of “you’re overqualified,” and its meaning can be easily understood by savvy executive job seekers. “It’s code for people they don’t like; people who are dumb; people who can’t get things done; people they think have low energy; people whom they think are boring; or people they would not have fun working with,” says Mr. Christian. “It covers all of that. If you’re dumb enough to accept that answer, you shouldn’t have the job to begin with.” — Mr. Koprowski is a free-lance business journalist in Chicago.

Leadership development

Leadership development (LD) involves a lot more than a few well-designed workshops. It is crucial, first, to align your leadership development efforts with your organization’s vision, strategy, and culture. Second, it is necessary to understand what all the leadership development components and options are before committing to particular programs, methods, or LD consultants. Finally, it is imperative that you broaden your horizons to include individual, team, and organizational development in your leadership development efforts. Proper design of your leadership development strategy will help you enhance the impact, effectiveness, balance, and strategic relevance of your LD efforts.


The following quotes, executive summaries, and models should help you better navigate the territory.


  • “Managers maintain the status quo; leaders take their organizations to new heights. The point is not simply to understand the world but to change it.” (Karl Marx)
  • “The ultimate challenge of leaders who are senior managers is to develop the next generation of leaders more capable than themselves.” (Dave Ulrich)
  • “The core purpose of strategic leadership development is not to build a small pool of successors to senior management, but to create a talent pool of strategic leaders at all levels of the organization, and to cultivate and refine the managerial talents needed to move the organization toward its strategic objectives.” (Vicere & Fulmer)
  • “Competencies (skills) without results are useless. Results without competencies will be erratic, unreliable, and difficult to replicate in new situations. By understanding the link between competencies and results, we can identify and develop throughout the organization precisely those competencies and perspectives that will most help the company achieve its long-term strategic objectives.” (Dave Ulrich)


Organizations need more people with their eye on the big picture, taking initiative, and producing results. Things like leadership development programs and hiring a motivational speaker for company events should help your employees to:

  • Conquer critical business opportunities & challenges
  • Enhance competitive advantage
  • Increase value delivered to customers
  • Translate strategy into action
  • Develop future leaders
  • Identify new opportunities


If you don’t know any motivational speaker, there are several online, such as Richard Jadick, and you can check their work on the websites before making a decision.


Lanyards Are Eco Friendly

Tell me something! When you see a teacher or a nurse at a hospital wear a braided cord around their neck with an ID attached to it, don’t you identify it as just that? The things that we learn in life. Imagine, this braided cord is actually called a ‘Lanyard!”

A lanyard is a common name of which there are many colors to choose from, with a wide selection of different materials. If you’re interested in ‘eco friendly’ lanyard, I suggest bamboo, silk, or PET, (polyethylene terephthalate, known as recycled synthetic fibers), and satin made from silk. Just so you know, satin can be man-made as well.

Did you know that a lanyard is a braided fabric which can be multi-screen printed? Most orders are custom printed, or dye-sublimation heat transferred. There are so many uses with lanyards. People of all ages wear it around the neck, on their wrist, or hang it on their arm. Others prefer it around their waist, such as runners, or people exercising on a treadmill.

As a society, we have become more eco friendly, and more aware of the environment within our community. So it’s no wonder that schools, hospitals, trade shows, and even prisons select natural made or PET lanyard material.

We see lanyards everywhere! At stores across America you will find lanyard attached to cameras, MP3 players, and hooks attached to lanyard to secure keys to your car and your house, or your office. Do you own a dog? Did you know the material of your pet’s leash is made from a lanyard? Well now, you have a different name for it! It’s not just a leash anymore. It’s a lanyard. The next time you go shopping on-line, or in a department store for a necklace, or a bracelet made of rope or cord, you will identify it with its origin, the lanyard. And if you want an authentic lanyard yourself, check Southern Girl Gifts and get inspired!

Fall is the Best Time to Do Your Deep Cleaning

Okay, this is just a guess but I would bet that most of you are not thinking about cleaning your windows and those dusty baseboards simply aren’t bothering you so much these days. Chances are you are more preoccupied with college football and thinking about the upcoming holidays which are already nipping at your heels. 

Spring is usually the time most people think about a top to bottom cleaning, but if a thorough deep cleaning really gets your senses stimulated in the spring and if the very thought of a professional cleaning crew doing the work excites you even more, you will love this: you will get more “bang for your buck” if you have the cleaning done (or do it yourself) in the fall. And that cleaning (as well as your excitement) will last longer. Now, I know this goes against what you have been taught by those who came before you who were supposed to know these things.

Your mother, her mother, and her mother’s mother would all go into the action at a particular date on the calendar; maybe your dad even got into spring cleaning mode and whipped the garage into an unrecognizable ship shape. The way they did it is not necessarily the way you should. Spring cleaning is a misnomer! Fall is by far the best time for a thorough cleaning. The concept of spring cleaning came about during the times when homes were closed up as tightly as they could be for winter, and sources of heating were dirty fuels such as coal, wood, and oil. All of which left soot, and many other things that seem unimaginable to us now, all over everything in the home; then, it would have only made sense that when the weather changed and the house was about to be opened up that the rugs, bedding and draperies needed to be taken out and beaten to rid them of the soot and ash. The walls, ceilings and floors all had to be washed top to bottom: the windows had to be cleaned so they would be clear. 

Due to modern technology, we do not heat our homes the same way, but most homes are still “shut up tightly” for the winter. If you are following the old clean-everything-that-doesn’t-move-and-even-some-things-that-do in the spring, you are not getting the best return on your time or your money if you have it done professionally. Many times even right after a “spring cleaning” is performed, it is too tempting to leave those doors and windows open to let in the wonder of spring. That fresh air smells wonderful and the temperatures are nicer than any AC could ever hope to deliver, but along with the good, comes the pollen, the dust, and the dirt! 

So, break out of those old patterns, do your Fall cleaning and make it last. If you’re on a busy schedule and need some help, check Euro Eco House Cleaning and get a perfect clean house without the hard work. An added bonus is that your home will be holiday ready much earlier and much easier.


Why High-Tech Companies Need Branding


The meltdown we are seeing in the technology industry reflects an overabundance of hype. Companies have suffered because they’ve confused advertising (getting attention) with branding (promise and delivery).


Unlike an advertisement, which is short term, a brand represents the promises you make for the long haul. Also unlike advertising, branding is a constant process, and it happens whether a company “means to” or not. Every action an organization takes contributes to its brand. It’s only a question of whether this fact is recognized and managed actively.


We have been working as brand consultants to tech firms for the past few years. Over time we witnessed a general industry shift toward hyping the future in order to stay competitive.


Companies sold themselves on what was “sure” to happen eventually, rather than what they were capable of offering at the time. If you couldn’t find the words “largest,” “most comprehensive” and “cutting-edge” everywhere — from their Web sites to their T-shirts — then you just weren’t looking in the right place.


So to us, the fact that these companies are in trouble is no great surprise. Your brand is your promise, and failure to deliver makes customers feel like victims.


It’s time to get real. Companies are learning the hard way that they need to build their brands with actions, instead of giving away T-shirts. It’s no longer enough to “leverage our partnerships” — these days, everyone and his brother has a partnership with Microsoft or Cisco. Credibility is gained over time.


Every action a company takes must reflect the brand promise in order for it to be believable. The promise must be reflected not only in the products and services offered, but in every organizational function, from the billing system to customer service to tech support. Their actions are part of a living story, and companies must take the time and make the effort to “own” that story. The best way to build a brand is by providing honest delivery on promises made.


Particularly in today’s challenging economic climate, misconceptions about branding — what it is and whether it’s really necessary — remain. These misconceptions can be extremely costly. However, if your organization focuses on “brand strategy” rather than on typical advertising and marketing initiatives, you’ll develop the optimal positioning, as well as an action plan for maintaining it.


In my conversations with tech industry professionals, as well as with prospective and existing clients, these mistaken beliefs tend to come up over and over again. Here are five of the most common:


Advertising and branding are the same thing.


One of my clients had grown tremendously but wasn’t making any money. Why? The firm was known as the “let’s-make-a-deal” company, the price slasher in town. What it didn’t realize was that this image had become its brand. So what it needed was total repositioning, but what it kept asking for was “better ads.” It’s far better to develop a brand strategy first, then create marketing and advertising communications that are aligned with this strategy.


I’ll do brand strategy when everybody else does.


By and large, innovation and a quality product are what count to tech people. And it’s true, without the technology your company is going nowhere fast. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that consumers are faced with myriad similar products and promises — and are looking for something more. These days, it’s the combination of functional and emotional benefits that makes your company stand out from the pack.


The economy is bad; I don’t have the money.


It’s tempting to say, “I’ve only got so many dollars, I can’t afford to take a chance on marketing now.” However, the reality is exactly the opposite: a failing business is one very clear sign of improper branding. A company that hasn’t taken the time to be strategic, that hasn’t gone through the process of thinking about what it is, what it wants to achieve and how it is communicating these messages to its market is inevitably going to face a crisis. And although it’s not ideal (or fun, honestly) to do a brand strategy when you’re in a crisis, it’s one case when you are definitely better off late than never.


I know who my target customer is, so we don’t need research.


When there are millions, even billions of dollars at stake, comprehensive market research is a comparatively small investment to make in its success. If you don’t investigate, you won’t find out. Period. No matter how good your intuition is, or how good your business has been thus far, do the market research to find out who will buy the product or service you are offering.


Employees are irrelevant to brand strategy.


Sure, you can say “it’s all about the dollar.” But the fact is, if your organization is troubled on the inside, it will affect your performance eventually. On the other hand, if your house is in order, your employees know what you stand for — and they tell other people about it. In effect, they become loyal brand messengers, the most effective kind of salesperson I can think of. Investing in your people reflects a kind of long-term thinking that spills over into the rest of your operation as well. Ultimately, Wall Street will respect you for it.


Independent Filmmaking at Affordable Costs

A list of Top 10 Films for Filmmakers with Limited Budgets

Filmmaking is fast becoming a cheaper process. With the rise in micro-budget filmmaking (films made on minuscule budgets, sometimes no more than a few thousand dollars) in the 90s pushed the envelope. And further advances in digital technologies, motion graphics, the remarkable Red One video camera that captures natural light and allows for a more flexible and functional experience, it’s becoming easier for any wanna-be filmmaker to create a professional-looking film for under $10, 000.

Some of these films have garnered such critical acclaim that, in recognition of the micro-budget film movement, the Independent Spirit Awards recently added a new category, the John Cassavetes award, which is given to the best feature film made for under $500,000.

And with the economy struggling as is, money becoming more and more scarce, the movement doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

So, in honor of the micro-budget film movement, below is the first five films of a list of the top 10 best independent films made from a budget under $100, 000, including inflation.

Note: All budget figures are courtesy of The Internet Movie Database, or and don’t include added costs post-production once/if the film was picked up for distribution. And Foreign films were not included in the list.

10. Pink Flamingos (1972)

Budget = US$ 12, 000

Writer/Director John Waters is an icon of the micro-budget film industry. His first five feature films each included budgets under $100, 000, and not until Hairspray, his seventh film, did his budget finally exceed a million dollars.

But it was with the cult-hit Pink Flamingos that he gained public attention, albeit, for all the wrong reasons. The plot centers around a competition between two rival groups vying for the title of “the filthiest people alive.” And both groups are filthy.

What helped the film to stand out was that Waters showed, in explicit detail, just how perverse and filthy each person could be, at one point, showing Divine (Waters’ friend and lead actress in most of his films) eating actual dog feces (Waters acknowledges the fact in his book “Shock Value”). It’s no wonder Waters had such difficulty finding funding for the film.

09. In Search of a Midnight Kiss (2007)

Budget = US $25, 000

In 1995, Richard Linklater wrote and directed Before Sunrise, a film about a chance meeting between a boy and girl who eventually spend a romantic evening together walking around Vienna, talking of any and all topics. Midnight Kiss doesn’t copy fully from Linklater’s film but does borrow heavily from it.

Writer/Director Alex Holdridge employed friends Scoot McNairy and Sara Simmonds as his lovers-to-be, and followed them around the streets of Los Angeles. Holdridge took a guerilla-style approach to filming, with everyone involved contributing to the script, which helped move the entire process along quicker. According to the press kit, it required only nine days to film the script’s first 70 pages, at which point, “the team knew this would be a special movie.”

And it was. The film earned the 2009 John Cassavetes award at the Independent Spirit Awards.

  1. Primer (2004)

Budget = US $7, 000

A surprise winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2004, Primer is an intellectual thriller wrought with authenticity of its subject. Shane Carruth, a former engineer-turned-filmmaker, wanted his debut film to feel as real as possible. So, to appease his own desires, Carruth controlled every aspect of the filmmaking process. He wrote, directed, edited, starred in and composed the music for the film.

Shooting took five weeks, and Carruth relied upon filming in his own garage, friends’ apartments and families’ houses. He shot digitally to assist in giving the film its professional look.

It appears Carruth made the right choice leaving engineering to become a filmmaker.

07. Following (1998)

Budget = US $6, 000

Not too long ago, before Batman Begins and Dark Knight, even before he broke onto the scene with Memento, Christopher Nolan wrote and directed this little known, micro-budget indie thriller about an aspiring writer who follows random people for inspiration for a story.

Nolan enlisted the help of family and friends, who allowed him to film inside their houses, and filmed in black and white on 16mm film in efforts to keep costs down. Film equipment was held to a minimal, so he forced himself to use only natural, available light.

The film won several indie awards and, in terms of star potential, it has been an upward progression for Nolan ever since.

06. Bad Taste (1987)

Budget = US $25, 000 *More money was added to the budget post-production

In Ken Hammon’s production accounts, entitled “This has Buggered your Plans for Conquering the Universe: The making of BAD TASTE,” he writes of how Bad Taste started as a short, an experimental-type monster film made between friends, that, upon hearing of the successful reception to Evil Dead at the Wellington Film Festival in New Zealand, grew into a feature film about aliens.

Peter Jackson directed the group, who performed without a script and faced the daunting task of filming each scene on a whim. Production spanned four years and encountered several major problems, including the departure of several cast members–one of which left due to religious indifference to the material after getting married and switching religions–then reappearing years later to pick up filming again.

In the end, Bad Taste was first screened at Cannes in 1988 and received a very enthusiastic reception.

Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Women

Choose the Best Valentine’s Day Presents for Spouses and Girlfriends

Every February, men across the nation are stumped. What are the expectations on Valentine’s Day? Is she expecting jewelery? Is sending a bouquet of flowers cliche?

Valentine’s Day is often referred to as a day for lovers, but many men consider it a woman’s holiday. As a result, in early February, panic begins to set in. No man wants to ruin a Valentine’s Day celebration for his girlfriend or spouse. But how does he find out what she wants and what she expects? What are the best romantic gifts for her?

A Woman’s Personality Should Inspire Valentine’s Day Ideas

A woman’s personality can provide guidance when trying to determine what type of gift or celebration is best. Is she sentimental? If she collects photographs, cherishes keepsakes from dates, and has a song that she feels commemorates the love in her relationship, she will be looking for a romantic Valentine’s Day experience. Sending her flowers will melt her heart. Taking her out for a special dinner will please her. Snuggling by the fire with a bottle of wine and some chocolate will take her breath away. A locket with a meaningful quote or date inscribed in it will make her weep.

If she is active and adventurous, however, a different approach may be in order. A woman who loves to spend weekends hiking trails, skiing, and lifting weights may be looking for something a bit less traditional. A date that begins at a rock climbing gym or at a dance studio to learn the Tango may be in order. Don’t deprive her of a romantic meal, but consider her tastes. If she is a health nut, she may prefer a restaurant with lighter fare, and may balk at a box of chocolates.

Do Women Want Valentine’s Day Presents?

Men want to know: do women expect Valentine’s Day gifts? Look at past holidays to answer this question. Some women focus more on gifts than others. If she tends to purchase lots of gifts for friends, family, and the men in her life, she may well expect one. If she went crazy buying gifts over the holidays, the sentiment of a gift may be important to her.

However, if she tends to focus more on experiences, she may be more impressed by a carefully planned evening than a bauble in a box. In that case, focus on creating a meaningful and creative Valentine’s Day, not searching for a gift.

Romantic Valentine’s Day Gifts Reflect Her Likes and Dislikes

Romantic Valentine’s Day gifts demonstrate thought, care, and love. They are gifts that reflect an understanding of the woman and the love being celebrated. Consider a woman’s preferences. Think about past experiences and gift giving occasions. Tune into her desires, and listen to see if she is dropping hints about her expectations. After doing this homework, plan something special, make a purchase if appropriate, and enjoy.