MOVIE BUDGETS LIE (So What’s Your Budget? $1M, $2M, $2-3M, $3-5M, $10-12M, $15-20M, $50-70M…?)
by Dov S-S Simens on March 29, 2019
HOLLYWOOD FR*CKIN’ LIES.
Let’s talk budgets. Movie Budgets and how they so clearly demonstrate that “Hollywood Lies”.
PS: Hollywood doesn’t lie… It markets… It markets by telling budgets… Now welcome to Hollywood.
The Million Dollar Feature Film? The $2-3 Million Feature? The $20 Million Budget? The $50 Million Studio Feature? The $200 Million Mega-Budget Franchise? Budget amounts are all over the place and first-timers need to know “what does it really cost” to make a quality movie?
AUTHOR’S NOTE (1): This article is totally based on my experiences as a Production Manager and Line Producer in the mid-80s on 3-week shoot features, that were never distributed theatrically but sold Foreign and released vhs USA/Canada. All were marketed as $1 Million Budgets… However, during prep and the shoot I never had access to more than $180K to get it in-the-can (35mm film format, 6:1 shooting ratio), with $50K for post… …To me $180K & $50K adds up to $230K, somewhere between $200-$300K, but the films were sold as $1 Million Budgets… Huh?
AUTHOR’S NOTE (2): But being a quick learner I realized, that $1 Million Feature Films are physically made for $200-$300K but marketed as $1,000K… Welcome to Hollywood.
AUTHOR’S NOTE (3): I then realized that $1-2 Million Feature Films were made for $300-$500K; and $2-3 Million Features were made for $500-$700K; Got $1 Million in cash and you’re making a $3-5 Million Feature; Got $2 Million in cash and you’re making a $7-10 Million Feature… Welcome to Hollywood.
I don’t get it…Why is everyone in Hollywood struck with “verbal diarrhea” and desirous of telling everyone their budget? Why? Isn’t someone’s budget very personal information and should be private business?
Yet, everybody wants to know, when planning, “What’s the budget of your movie” and on the other side of the coin, when promoting, everyone wants to say “My budget is…”
Huh? Why? Again, what’s this budget obsession?
Have you ever noticed that “Hollywood” (aka: Distributors, Producers & Agents) is the only industry, in-the-world, that actually tells consumers what their product costs to make before they sell it to them.
Hmm? Very interesting. Think about that.
Can you name me another industry where a manufacturer actually tells consumers what it costs to make their product?
Go ahead name me one or two… bet you can’t.
I can actually come up with one,, the Vegas Hotel/Casino world), also an industry dependent upon marketing and creating an image.
Other than Vegas and Billion Dollar Hotels… Hollywood is pretty much the only industry in-the-world where manufacturers (distributors-producers-directors) actually tells the consumer/viewer what it costs to make their products.
THE BUDGET IS…
The budget for “Titanic” or “Avatar” is……
The budget for Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts next movie is…………
The budget for “Hangover VI-The 3D Musical” is…….
Then you hear numbers like $200 Million, $100 Million, $20-$30 Million, $15-$20 Million, $12-$15 Million, $10-$12 Million, $7-$10 Million, $5-$7 Million, $3-$5 Million, $2-$3 Million, etc.
POINT OF INFO: Do you actually believe these numbers are actually real. And if you answer “Yes” then you are kind-of dumb!
HERE’S THE BOTTOM-LINE: From a distributors Point of View, the money spent (aka: budget) to make the film (taught in film school as the “negative cost”), is NONE OF YOUR FRICKIN’ BUSINESS. However, since you are rude enough to ask and naïve enough to think the answer you are about to get is actually the truth then distributors learned to manipulate you and give you a number that is inflated 600-800%.
Duh! Bottom-line is “They are marketing”.
“AVATAR” was expensive but $200-$300 Million.
Give-me-a-break. No way Jose. Who was in it? And don’t dazzle me with this crap about how expensive special effects are. Have you ever hired a “geek”? How much do you want to pay a “geek”?
$1,000/week? Wanna pay $2,000/week?
Now hire 50 of them. Do the math. Compute what these 50 “geeks”, who are very talented at their crafts, are grand total getting paid/year. Add on management. Add on cloud costs. Add on. Add on.
And with all the “Add ons”, plus Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi, Sam Worthington, Laz Alonso & Zoe Saldana salaries added on, this will still not come close to the reported “TITANIC” or “AVATAR” budget of $200,000,000.
Hollywood lies and Lie # 1, the biggest lie is, “The Budget is…”
Always remember that whatever budget you read about, with respect to a movie, is actually a press release with a marketing concept to create a perceived value to help the Distributor and Producer make more people buy tickets, and simultaneously enhance the back end sales or deals or licenses to Pay-Cable Networks, Basic Cable Deal;s, TV Licenses, Book Rights, Foreign Sales, Product Placement Deals, etc…
SO WHAT IS THE REAL MOVIE BUDGET?
Always remember “Hollywood is a marketing industry not a filmmaking industry”. Hollywood creates events every week. And Hollywood realizes that the higher the budget you think-it-is the more incentive-you-have to leave your house and give them $12-$15 at the theater.
So they inflate, inflate, inflate… they market and some people call marketing…lying.
Welcome to Hollywood
My general rule for discovering the real budget (aka: the negative cost) for any Hollywood movie is to take the number (dollar amount) they give is…
… (A) Move the decimal point one place to the left… Then (B) cut that number in half and you now have not the inflated marketing budget but the actual negative cost.
Thus, a $10,000,000 budget becomes… $1,000,000…. becomes… $500,000.
And for $500,000, in cash, you can do a 4 week shoot, with two Reds, starring two TV Names, paying each $50,000-$100,000 to get an Opening Title Credit on a movie that is going to be in Sundance.
… (B) Cut the budget in half and move the decimal one place to the left or multiply by 10%.
Thus, a $10,000,000 budget becomes… $5,000,000… becomes… $500,000.
Always remember, every movie has two budgets, the bulls**t one that is used for marketing and the actual physical cost, the true one, that it takes to make a movie. which is what is taught at my film school.
Dov Simens / Film Instructor
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