Sandstorm was made entirely by volunteers, both professionals and first timers. The movie was made in order to reveal the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China and we literally had no budget to begin shooting. We had volunteers and contributions of equipment, costumes, etc. and a very small amount of money had been spent prior to shooting. Locations for the movie were all in the converted homes, basements, and workplaces of the movie volunteers.
Our “dolly” was a wheelchair. One morning, a cast member approached me and slipped me a small wad of bills. I asked, “What’s this?” She said, “Just take it. Use it for whatever is needed.” She had taken $500 from her bank account to contribute to the movie. This allowed us to get a used low rent dolly, allowing for some smoother dolly shots. It also allowed for a temporary pizza budget.
The person who played the role of the Falun Gong practitioner in the movie is herself a Falun Gong practitioner and during the shooting she re-enacted some of the torture she suffered while in China. It was very touching to see how she was able to stay calm and focused without a single complaint, even though the experience was quite realistic and at times would have (unavoidably) caused some physical discomfort. She went through these scenes with calmness and dignity, even encouraging others at times.