PRODUCE A MOVIE (Filmmaker Success… What are the Odds? Budgets 6 & 7 are Your Best Bets)
by Dov S-S Simens on December 24, 2016
PRODUCE A FEATURE FILM: What are the Odds?
Anyone, yes anyone, can produce, write or direct a feature film if they lose their naivety (It’s called “Show Business”… It is not called “Show Art”) and become realistic.
And, by realistic is meant, accepting that you, as a first-timer, are not a marketable name and neither your mom or dad are marketable names nor are they billionaires with disposable cash.
Further, you have little-to-no experience and probably don’t know how to rent a camera/lens/dolly package, nor secure film permits or insurance for your production, nor understand the difference of ADR, Foley & M&E in post, but are loaded with great ideas and begrudgingly realize, that ideas are a dime-a-dozen and no one (realistically) owns an idea.
Now, once you acknowledge the above, you can have an excellent chance (odds) of producing a feature film if you start at-the-bottom, where the odds of success are either 1-30 (3.3%) with a Mini-Budget Feature, 1-10 (10%) with a Micro-Budget Feature or 9-10 (90%) with a No-Budget Feature.
So let’s talk movie budgets and the odds of filmmaker success?
(Every Hollywood Producer or Director started at the bottom with a 1-location, No-Budget or Micro-Budget feature film shot with 95% Master Shots)
MOVIE BUDGETS: The 7 Feature Film Budgets
(1) MEGA BUDGET: $50-$100 Million, $100-$200 Million
(2) MEDIUM BUDGET: $10-20 Million, $20-30 Million or $30-50 Million
(3) LOW-BUDGET: $2-3 Million, $3-5 Million, $5-7 Million or $7-10 Million
(4) ULTRA-LOW-BUDGET: $1 Million or $1-2 Million
(5) MINI-BUDGET: $100,000, $100-200 Thousand or Under $500,000
(6) MICRO-BUDGET: Under $100,000 or $30-50 thousand
(7) NO-BUDGET: $10-20 Thousand or $20-30 Thousand
(“Blair Witch Project” was a No-Budget feature that grossed over $250 Million.)
THE MEGA-BUDGET to NO-BUDGET FINANCING ODDS
(1) MEGA-BUDGET: This is a Studio Feature known as “Eye Candy”. The story truly doesn’t matter. It is just explosion, after explosion; visual effect after visual effect; product logo after product logo with a title like “Batman”, “Superman”, “Ironman”, “Pizza Man” or “Burger Man” or “Souvalaki Man”; with a budget of $100-200 Million.
FINANCING ODDS: 1 – 1,000: Not good but possible. The secret is having (aka: owning) the rights to a globally popular comic hero (“Goofy”, “Batman”, “Wolverine”, “Thor”, etc.), gaming character (“Mario Brothers”, “Pokemon”, etc.) or y.a. (young adult) best selling novel (“Hunger Games”, “Harry Potter”), with or without the script, and like real estate, flipping the rights, to a major production company with a studio deal to deliver a mega-budget picture, with franchise (Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, etc) possibilities… In essence; you are only selling the script, and when you get an offer (likely WGA minimum), you then hold it hostage for a Producer credit.
(2) MEDIUM-BUDGET: This is a global international co-production with 2 A-list actors from Hollywood and an A-list actor from the nation where you’re shooting the movie for that nation has allowed the Hollywood Producer (aka: you) to utilize their 30%-50% rebate, refund or tax credit program as long as you spend their money in their nation.
FINANCING ODDS: 1-10,000: Not good. Actually near impossible. That is unless your parents are Billionaires and you utilized $3-5 Million to make pay-to-play deals (Yes, Hollywood created pay-to-play not Washington DC. (aka: Hollywood for ugly people) Sorry Clintons.) with the 2 A-List Hollywood names and possibly even the A-List foreign name.
(Eastwood, not a first-timer, still produces Medium-Budget pictures like “Gran Torino” which is a variation of the 1-location shoots similar to a Micro-Budget or No-Budget films.)
(3) LOW-BUDGET: This is a Genre movie, with two B-names, that is funded by 15 pre-sales to the 35 nations or territories at a film market like AFM, Cannes or EFM. I actually worked for a man, Roger Corman, between 1980-1985, who did this 20-30 times/year.
He basically pre-sold a $1 Million Feature for $20K-$75K/nation. Raised the money. Made the movie. Then had another 20 nations/territories left over to sell it to for profits and had a VHS/Blu-Ray/DVD release for another revenue stream.
FINANCING ODDS: 1-150: Odds are getting better. But you will need about $60-90K ($10-$20K to get 2-3 scripts, 4-5 posters, and an additional $50-70K for a room at either AFM, Cannes or EFM) to give it a shot, with a great gift for of salesmanship, and an understanding of international letters-of-credit, to hustle foreign buyers who have never met you before… but it is done.
(4) ULTRA-LOW-BUDGET: This is an excellent character driven story, with a 25-28 day shoot, with 7-10 practical locations, but no stunts or effects, signing with the 3 guilds (WGA, DGA & SAG) Above-The-Line and non-union Below-The-Line with a fair chance of it obtaining a Producer’s Rep from ICM, CAA or WME and screening at Sundance, Cannes, Tribecca or Toronto.
FINANCING ODDS: 1-80: Good but not Great. This is a private placement, done by wealthy entrepreneurs, if you qualify you will need only $17-27K ($10-15K for script and casting, with another $7-12K for a private placement, with an offering memorandum) and an entertainment attorney to help you sell 10-20 units at $20-50K each.
(5) MINI-BUDGET: This is a Friends & Relatives funded movie. It will be a 2-week (13-Day) shoot, shot where you grew up, with a local 12-15 person crew, 8-10 first-time actors and a lot of zombie makeup. It technically could also be called a private placement but when you’re at micro-budget and raising $100K from friends and relatives and selling 20-30 units at $3-5K/unit you have a fair chance of raising the money, making the movie, screening it at the local film festival, buying 50-60 tickets for the investors to attend the premiere and watch everyone smile… Oh yeah, you will also likely win an award. Congrats.
FINANCING ODDS: 1-30: Very Good. There are not a lot of filmmakers who have 20-30 friends and relatives who will give them $3-5K each.
(6) MICRO-BUDGET: This is a millennial, from a yuppy college, with a 4-year film degree and a short, with a roommate whose dad is wealthy, and they hit up the dad to become their Executive Producer (“Dad gimme $50,000…please.”) and shoot a 1-week movie.
FINANCING ODDS: 1-10: Great. But assumes you spent $150-250K of your parents money for a 4-year film school degree, made a short, received your “15-minutes of Warhol” and are satisfied spending the rest of your life near broke but always announcing yourself as an “Award Winning Filmmaker”…and have a roommate with a mega-wealthy dad.
(“Tangerine” a recent No-Budget to Mini-Budget discovery at Sundance was a 90-minute, 1-location movie, shot in real time, with 2 Smart Phones…but it was not made by a millennial. It was made by today’s genius filmmaker, Jason Blum.)
(7) NO-BUDGET: This is a movie shot 100% guerrilla style, with either 2 DSLRs or 2 iPhones, and a sync sound man, in likely real-time, over an extended 4-day weekend. ie. A drama or comedy based around something that happened in 90-minutes. 3-5 actors being paid $100 each, 2 shooters being paid $500 each, a soundman & his assistant being paid $1,200, 4 PAs (now called Associate Producers) being paid $250 each, food at $130/day, with some props and wardrobe and $3-5K left for post-production.
FINANCING ODDS: 9-10: Almost Guaranteed. This, “if you truly what to make-a-film and demonstrate-your talent”, is almost guaranteed for you will come up with $10,000 by doing Uber, Starbucks & Whole Foods as you get the real-time, 1-location script…. And this is where 95% of all filmmakers, who are now rich & famous, start their careers.
THE ODDS OF FILM SUCCESS
The odds of success are good if you start at-the-bottom, demonstrate your talent, accumulate knowledge and master your craft.
From Spike Lee, to Ang Lee, to Chris Nolan, to Steven Spielberg… they have all started with a No-Budget, Mini-Budget or Micro-Budget feature film and then moved up to a Low-Budget, then a Medium-Budget and even a Mega-Budget feature, if desired, and enjoy the fruits of success.
The odds are good if you start at the bottom and I look forward to teaching you with either my 2-Day, DVD or Streaming Film School programs (www.WebfilmSchool.com) and I will step-by-step show you how to make your No-Budget, Micro-Budget, Mini-Budget and Low-Budget feature films.
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5 comments on “PRODUCE A MOVIE (Filmmaker Success… What are the Odds? Budgets 6 & 7 are Your Best Bets)”
How does one go about making their memoir into film? I’m currently helping a friend write her memoir, I am an attorney from Las Vegas and my friend works for JWT there in LA… what’s the best and affordable way to self publish? 50 shades of gray was self published and we intend on doing the same thing… any insight is much appreciated!
Forgive my ignorance – 15 pre-sales to the 35 nations or territories at a film market like AFM, Cannes or EFM. Is there specific audience that they buy? Where or how do you sell to them? Funding rebates.. to utilize their 30%-50% rebate, refund or tax credit program as long as you spend their money in their nation. Which department would you be asking for? Example I am in Bolivia and would like to try to make a short 45 minutes documentary. I have the rights to what I want. I have some B and C stars that might help in a one to two minute dialog which is all I need them to do. I think I can get one B actor, and one B actress here in Bolivia. The financing is would be self finance I would however like to get my money back. Can I get some help please.
Tangerine was a “1-location movie,” really? Only if “the street” is your one location, but that’s pretty big. Also, “today’s genius filmmaker” (producer) Jason Blum had nothing to do with Tangerine (verified on IMDB)… if anything, it was the genius Duplass brothers, who fit your advice of Micro- and No-Budget more than Mr. Blum does. However, that’s also ignoring the fact that Tangerine’s writer/director/producer/cinematographer/camera operator/editor/casting director Sean Baker has made some great films using this model (also see Starlet). Give the proper credit where it’s due, Dov.
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