Quick thanks to Bill for asking this question:
— Bill Pace (@ScripTeach) December 11, 2013
How much should you spend?
If you read the original post it wasn’t specific and intentionally so. Not that we wanted to be dismissive of giving example, but that because it’s a very difficult question to answer. So, lets answer using three examples.
Note: I will give personal commentary on these examples, but they are personal opinion. Based in large part on having had many conversations with other filmmakers and professionals in the industry, but still personal opinion. So, do with it as you will. The names of the projects have been omitted to protect the innocent. But I can say this, I was personally invovled in each of these examples I am about to give.
Example #1: BEG FAVORS EVERYWHERE
Crew members: DP, Camera Assistant, Sound Record, DIT Editor, PA
Days: 1 Day
Favors: Everything else
Commentary: You need to have connections to pull this one off. Because everything else was donated. Camera. Grip Rental. Post producution workflow etc.
Unaccounted for costs: Festival entries. Producer has set aside $1,000 to accont for festivals.
Example #2: GOT SOME MONEY
Budget: $15,000 (note: final cost was $28,000)
Crew members: DP, 1st AC, 2nd AC, Location Manager, 2 Grip, 2 Set/Prop, 1 Wardrobe, 2 PA’s
Favors: Post was done mostly on favors. Director and DP edited the film.
Financing: The film was self financed and with some family angel investment.
Commentary: Bit off more than they could chew financially. Went in with unrealistic expectations and the cost doubled. This was a budgeting problem from day one. The filmmakers, it was their first short film, didn’t really know what they were doing… at all. But that was both a good and bad thing. The film was their “film school”. They weren’t scared. They just dove in — because they didn’t know better.
Festivals: Film got into a couple festivals. It died on the vine. It wasn’t great… wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great. At the end of the day, it was a $28,000 film school for the filmmakers and producers.
What they should have done differently: Got more advice on the budget before they started.
Example #3: MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
Crew: DP, 1st AC, 2nd AC, 1 Steadicam, 1st AD, 2nd AD, 2 Grips, 2 Electrics, Locations, 1 Stunt, 1 Props, 1 Wardrobe, 1 Art misc. other and PA
Favors: Not many… the film paid for itself (for the most part)
Financing: The film was completely self financed.
Commentary: The film ended up getting into a myriad of genre specific film festivals. It went all over the place and did a lot of festival business. Did it help the filmmaker in the end… not really. Sure, the film got exposure but it didn’t get the director his next job, per se. It was an expensive version of a film school. In the case of this filmmaker, it would have been better to take the advice of Amotz Zakai in our interview with him, and have used that money to make a feature film. Probably would have cost the same amount, with favors, but given the director a lot more legs in terms of his future options.
To his benefit, the film was budgeted and financed to the degree of the directors vision. It cost no more or less. But it might have been able to be shot for less.
The Bottom Line
…you have do to what’s right for you. Here are the take aways from these examples:
1) Spend as little as possible
2) Have a clear expectation of what the purpose of the film is going to be
3) Beg as many favors as you can
4) Use the opportunity to build you team
5) Could you spend the same amount and make a feature?