MOVIE BUDGETS & SCHEDULES: (Want Money? Then Do a Budget…But How Long the Shoot? Solve the Filmmaker’s “Catch-22”)
by Dov S-S Simens on May 7, 2019
MOVIE BUDGET OR MOVIE SCHEDULE (Which Comes First)
You finished your Screenplay. It is great. Next on the list is get a Budget. However, to prepare a budget you need to know the schedule, how long is the shoot…. but to prepare a schedule you need to know the budget… and according to Vonnegut “So it goes”. and according to Heller it’s “Catch-22”
Chicken or egg? Do you budget first to schedule or do you schedule first to budget?
So, where do you go to get the answer(s)? For Budgeting and Scheduling are inter-twined. You need to know one to do the other… and you want to know… where do you start?
Now, here is the answer.
There are two approaches, the “Independent Method” and the “Studio Method” for preparing a budget and a shooting schedule… And you, when a first-timer, who is not receiving any money from the studio system, start with the “Independent Method”.
THE INDEPENDENT METHOD: (aka: Let’s Get It Done)
Let’s just “get-it-done”.
The “Indy Method” very simply stated is “you already know how much money you have to make the movie” and thus the budget is done… now you budget to back into that number.
Again, when planning your 1st feature film shoot or budgeting for it the very first question to ask yourself is “How Much Bloody Money Do I Have… Independent of the film industry”..
And when you know “How much money you will have“… then you can BACK-INTO-IT and figure out how many weeks (see below) the shoot will be.
The Indy Method of budgeting, and then scheduling is simple… Why? Because you know the budget (How much money you think you can hustle up… independent of the film industry) already.
Then just Back-Into-It.
You can hustle up $10-30K you’re probably scheduling a 1-week shoot. You can hustle up $50-100K then, that’s your budget, and you should schedule for a 2-week shoot with a minimal crew.
Now let’s talk the Hollywood Method where you don’t BACK-INTO-IT, and according to traditional 4-year film schools, you purchase a computer program (MovieMagic Budgeting, Easy Budget, Guerilla Budget, etc.), from the Writers Store and FILL-IN-ALL-LINE-ITEMS (aka: the right way) and see how much money you need to make your film perfectly.
THE HOLLYWOOD METHOD: (aka: Let’s Make It Perfect)
Let’s “make it perfect”.
On paper, and in theory, it always sounds good to say “if it ain’t done right (aka: perfect) it ain’t worth doin'”.
This is excellent theory taught at those 4-year $200,000 Film Program (NYU, USC, UCLA, etc.) institutions.
However, is this realistic,
You are not, for your first feature film, going to be a Hollywood financed shoot.
You are not a $10-12M, $12-15M, $20-$30M, $30-50M Budget. And you are definitely not a $100-$200 Million special effects laden feature for your very first project..
So stop learning how Hollywood is budgeting, scheduling and making movies for that information is not applicable to you for your first and likely even second feature film.
Here’s Hollywood from 3-4 years ago (It takes that long for the real numbers, expenses and details to emerge) with budgets and schedules of movies you’ve likely seen.:
“THE LONE RANGER” (Johnny Depp) a Disney alleged $250 Million feature states it was a 140-150 Day Shoot. Damn?! That’s 5-6 months of shooting day-in and day-out with a schedule of about Half-a-Page/Day.
“DJANGO UNCHAINED”, Tarantino’s film, from a couple of year ago, was a 130 Day Shoot.
130 days. Damn?
But then being the genius he is, with the amazing gift of dialogue, and a superb businessman… he then executed “Hateful Eight” (actually a true independent concept of 8 people in one-room…) which I’m sure was not 130 Days.
“FURY ROAD”, the prequel to Mad Max, which was up for an Oscar or two, with George Miller direction, was a 180 Day Shoot.
150 Days, 130 Days, 180 Days?
Now lets chit-chat…
“JAWS”, a big-budget Steven Spielberg shoot loaded with problems was supposedly a 116 Day Shoot.
“RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK”, another Hollywood Spielberg shoot, but after he had practice with “JAWS”, was an only 75 Day Shoot.
That’s sort-of 3 months and making a little bit of sense.
“LORD OF THE RINGS: TRILOGY”, yes all 3 flix, directed concurrently by Peter Jackson was a 275 Day Shoot but they, the studio said “it included Pick-Ups”
“EYES WIDE SHUT”, a Stanley Kubrick Non-Master Masterpiece, with Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman, according to Guiness Book of Records was the longest shoot ending at an astounding 400 Days.
How long did it take to create/produce Earth & Man… And on the seventh day he rested.
115 Days, 130 Days, 180 Days, 275 Days, 400 Days… This is Hollywood.
These are those movies that someday you are hoping to make… but these 100-400 day shoots are going to be your 5th or 6th Feature Films…
How do you get to your 5th or 6th Feature Film?
You make your 4th Feature Film.
How do you get to your 4th Feature Film?
You make your 3rd Feature Film.
How do you get to your 3rd Feature Film?
“Are you getting the point?”
You make your 2nd Feature Film.
How do you make your 2nd Feature Film?
You make your 1st Feature Film.
“I think you have the point” … “Start at the Bottom”… “Start not Hollywood, but Independent, with a No-Budget or Micro-Budget Feature Film…. and budget & schedule for a 1-weekend (1-3 Day), to a 1-week (7-10 Day), to, at the absolute most, a 3-week (18 Day) shoot.
INDEPENDENT FILM SHOOTS
How, long is your shoot?
Back to “How long is your shoot”… for your 1st feature film going to be?
The answer is simple.
First, ask “How much money will you have”.
Do not lie. No ego allowed here. be realistic. Please.
And being realistic you will very likely have 4 choices based off of “How much money you will have”.
1ST: NO-BUDGET: 1-Day Shoot (1-Weekend)
2ND: MICRO-BUDGET: 1-Week Shoot (7-10 Shooting Days)
3RD: ULTRA-LOW-BUDGET: 2-Week Shoot (13 Shooting Days)
4TH: LOW-BUDGET: 3-Week Shoot (18 Shooting Days)
Now, which one of the above four are you gonna be?
Simple. Answer again comes from “How much money you will have”.
- YOU GOT $1K-$10K: Then you’re a Weekend Shoot, a 90-page script, with a Shooting Schedule of 1-Page (1 minute running time) every 20-30 minutes.
- YOU GOT $20K-$50K: Then you’re a 1-Week Shoot, renting 2 HD/Black Magic/DSLR cameras for 1 week but keeping them over 2 weekends, with a 9-10 Day Shoot and a Shooting Schedule, assuming 90 Page Script, of about 10 Pages/Day or 1-page in-the-can every hour.
- YOU GOT $50K-$150K: Then you’re a 2-Week Shoot, with possibly 2 Reds, a 90-Page Script, a 13 Day Shoot and a Shooting Schedule of 7 Pages/Day.
- YOU GOT $150K-$300K: Then you’re making what your publicist will call a “Just Under Million Dollar feature”, it is a 3-Week Shoot, with 18-Shooting days, a 90-Page Script and a Shooting Schedule of 5 Pages/Day.
Bottom-Line 1: For your first feature film’s budget & schedule I beseech you to be realistic and practical and not budget thinking “The Hollywood Method” (aka: The Right Way) and coming up with a ridiculously high dollar amount, to guesstimate the length of your shoot, that the studio system will never give you for your first project.
Bottom-Line 2: Instead I beg you to be honest and budget “The Independent Method” (aka: The Wrong Way) and pick a number (a dollar amount) that you have in your bank account and possibly some friends and relatives might add to, and schedule anywhere between a 1-weekend to a 3-week shoot.
Happy Film Making,
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