Two Filmmaking Decision Cheats Used by Film Budgeters
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Two Filmmaking Decision Cheats Used by Film Budgeters

Two films facts, used by film budgeters, in preparing film total budget needs, in their recommendations, for a studio film to proceed are given to the concerned filmmaker, as an adaptable measure in hich to base their own film budgetary needs. The reader will learn two key facts in determining whether they have enough money to really make a movie or at least a blue print of what needs to be changed in the making of their movie.

Here are two very seldom talked about, closely guarded filmmaking cheats used to determine if a movie is worth making at a studio.  It is offered here as a guide, for adaptation to independent filmmakers, when they are considering the budgets and the amount needed to really make their films.  First, a brief note to help a new filmmaker understand the process of making a film, it is a three phase operation.  The process consists of three phases, preproduction, production, and post production.  Most new filmmakers have a hard time wrapping their minds around anything, financially beyond the production phase itself.  Step two should help, at least in a small way, to get a feel of what the overall film will cost to make, based on the overall daily cost.  If the daily cost it is not enough to cover the daily expenses, then the budget is too low.  It is that simple.  For studio filmmakers that allow the formula to show a profit over the cost after expenses, they take a big chance at losing their jobs.  Can anyone say "John Carter?"  While not mentioned in this article, because it is connected to a larger formula and requires about eighty pages of explanation, the reported cost to make the movie was so over formula, that only the entire viewing audience in all markets attending the opening weekend, could have made it profitable in its first week. Based on the formula, it should have only cost $65,000,000.00 to complete, with possibly another $40 million in P&A money.  Its economic physics 101 and someone did not attend class that day.  But, they have the deep pockets to take the loss, the small independent filmmaker does not, so that is why these two tips or facts are offered.  Use them and you will usually make it to the finish line and the box office with your film.  

  1. The average number of pages, of your shooting script, shot per day, for a normal shoot, of a feature film is four.   Five to eight are consider doable but crowding the shots.  Above that amount, which can be a single location, static shoot, using just one very long and very wide establishing shot that covers a panoramic city montage with eighteen pages, of scenic time lapsed movement, can be done, but it is considered very, very foolish.  Filmmakers, for the most part, Do it only if money and time are running out and it's THEIR OWN MONEY financing the film!!!  Films shot at less than four pages a day are usually considered dialog intensive and or dramatic ambiance scenes that require greater concentration on the actions and reactions, the ambiance and the counter symbolism in a scene.  These are the hardest scenes to shoot and take an enormous amount of time to set up.  It is always best to set these scenes up as soon as the production starts as possible.  Do this on the first day or duing the first week and you will get the energy and the lack of mental errors.  Wait until the second week or beyond, of production,  and there is a rapid decline in the accuracy and integrity of the scene.  These particular scenes are budget killers.  What for them when you read the script.
  2. The following figures are used for budget considerations only, the actual shoot, although close in scheduled shooting time, will vary.  Average number of total scenes, in a finished, ninety minute, full length, feature film, is fifty one.  To figure out, on a quick estimate, what the scenes will cost, divide the total estimated budget by (you guessed it) 51.  Now for the advanced class. The number you get, after you have made the above calculation, will tell you if your film budget is actually too low to complete, Here is how.  Example: The preliminary estimated film budget for Mary's Extraordinary Film, "Mad Woman with a Camera", is $100,000.00.  This includes preproduction, production, and post-production costs based on similar movies in the same genre.  Dividing the budget ($100,000.00) by 51 (Average number of scenes) equals approximately $1960.78 per scene.  Now divide that number by two (the least amount of days it will take you to shoot the average scene) and you will find your daily cost is approximately $980.40.  Now, throw in one more piece of division, called the "three phase estimate." Divide the $980.40 (the daily cost) by the number three (the average daily cost to make a film from preproduction, to production, then through post-production, thus the name three phase estimate), which equals approximately $326.80 perd day for every day of making the movie.  The question that should come to mind for the filmmaker is, "Can they make the movie for $326.80 per day?"  In most cases, and until recently, with an extremely rare anomaly, a new movie, that had been completed for just one hundred dollars and was released on the big screen, it would have been all cases, the answer is NO!   What can you do to change this, well, you can throw more money into it, you can slick out the script by using cheap innuendo and reference tricks (this is usually accomplished in a script when two friends meet in a bar and one says to the other, "remember when" or "remember the last time you did something"  then tells the audience about a time or a place or an event that should have been filmed if the money was there), or you can rewrite the script with less locations and smoother transitions, that combine important scenes into the same place.  This saves the filmmaker on set up time and lessens the shooting scenes and schedule by days.  The formula for this changes the scenes on an average from 51 scenes to 30 based on the average redundancy of scene, and from a two day division to an astounding .75 day schedule, thus that $100,000.00 divided by $3333.33 per scene with the average daily amount of $3333.33  times .75 equls $2500.00 per day and the 3 phase estimate becomes approximately $833.34 per day for the entire shoot.  This is much better.  Sad news is the average movie released for the big screen has a three phase estimate of $10,000 per day, but, a caveat here, that is the estimate for the average studio released picture.

An independent filmmaker has more latitude in making their film, has a quicker ability to change script in the middle of a production, and, because of limitations of funding in most cases, has to keep the filmmaking to equipment readily available and not have to rely on the development of a new, untried technology to draw viewers in on a mass scale.  In short, adapt and follow the simple cheats and shoot the movie your way, the rest will follow. Best wishes, alway, from Hollywood. 

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