Writer-director Alex Holdridge has been on Hollywood's radar for several years, yet circumstances led him to shoot his third feature, In Search Of A Midnight Kiss, for just $12,000.

Holdridge, who attended the University of Texas, was living in Austin when he was inspired to move into film by the early 1990s indie boom. First he wrote (with Sam Merrick) and directed low-budget comedy Wrong Numbers, which won the audience prize at the 2001 Austin Film Festival, became a hit in the city and had every studio pursuing him. He was encouraged to develop the script for a bigger-budget remake.

After directing his second feature, Sexless, which won the jury and audience awards at the 2003 South by Southwest festival, he was ready to turn his full attention to the remake script, the story of two teenage guys trying to forget their girl troubles and buy beer.

It was too bad Judd Apatow had got his similar story set up first. "Once we read about Superbad in the trades, it made our remake pointless. It was just a bad-timing situation," Holdridge says. "But it was depressing for me." That depression, however, led to a gem of a film: black-and-white contemporary romance In Search Of A Midnight Kiss.

Having moved to Los Angeles, Holdridge was trying to recover from his setbacks when Robert Murphy, an old buddy from Texas, called to say he was coming to California with an HD camera. Holdridge wrote the Midnight Kiss script in two weeks, and recruited his old crew and friends to pitch in for a self-financed shoot.

Scoot McNairy (who also produced with Seth Caplan) and Sara Simmonds star as two neurotics who meet online on New Year's Eve and wander around downtown Los Angeles getting to know each other.

"We were all so excited to be making a movie again," Holdridge says. "You wait so long for permission or to get the money, so when you have to answer to no-one it's extremely liberating."

Represented by Cinetic's John Sloss, Midnight Kiss received plenty of attention at its Tribeca premiere. Vertigo will release it in the UK in the spring, and IFC in the US next summer. The film will play at the Gothenburg and Rotterdam festivals and at Berlin's European Film Market.

Next, Holdridge (represented by CAA) will try to set up his commercial romantic comedy 500 Reasons To Kill Yourself. He is also in talks for the adaptation of coming-of-age story Youth In Revolt. Meanwhile, he will go back to his DIY approach with Hate In Paris, his screenplay about US and British backpackers who are scammed in Paris.

"I wanted to do a really updated version of The Third Man," he says. "Those pieces are coming together and we might just pick up and go to Paris in March."