Greetings! It is with great pleasure that I accept the opportunity to guest blog with Hurlbut Visuals on the topic of budgeting. Shane and I first met on “Terminator Salvation” and now that Hurlbut Visuals is jumping full force into producing, I’ve become their go-to Line Producer.
The basic concept of Line Producing is easy: break a script down into its various physical components, discuss with the creative team how these components will be captured on screen and then figure out what each item costs.
But ask any professional Line Producer in Hollywood how they learned how to make a budget and they’ll simply answer, “You just know.”
For some, however, it may take years to develop that sense of just knowing, by working through the ranks as an AD, Unit Production Manager and Production Supervisor. Developing that sense of “just knowing” how much things cost comes down to filing away every experience and paying attention.
But what about the Independent Producer that wants to make their own movie now without years and years of set experience? How does one actually do a budget?
No matter what size the project is, the process is the same: Figure out the WHAT-HOW-WHO of the script.
The What-How-Who is all you need to know in order to create a budget and schedule that works.
First step is figure out WHAT each item is and HOW much it costs. Then find out what the additional costs are (for example, you could call up Cinemoves and get a standard rate quote for a 50′ Technocrane). Pretty simple.
But then you have to keep in mind that the Technocrane is a significant piece of equipment that is more than just one item. It also comes with two techs, a trailer, fuel for the trailer, and possibly travel expenses for the techs, depending on where you are shooting. All the information is out there. Problem solving, logic and anticipation of needs are the basic skills needed for Line Producing.
Now that the WHAT and the HOW of the script is done, the only thing left to figure out is the WHO. It takes a lot of people to make a film. Your average studio feature project employs a crew of about 100-150 during production — a summer blockbuster might require somewhere in the neighborhood of 400+ — whereas a commercial or music video might require 25-40. Knowing the answer to the question of WHO is the part of the puzzle that requires logic and forethought. For example, if there’s only three or four people in your script and they are mostly in one location, then perhaps you won’t need as many Set PAs, Costumers, Props Assistants or G/E crew than if your story requires a military unit running through a crowed street. The HOW will guide you on the number of WHO.
Shane, as you know, is enamored with the Canon 5D and 7D. When it comes to shooting in an HD format rather than film, your first assumption is correct — it is cheaper. However, despite the convenience and portability of the cameras, the scenes should be treated with the same amount of forethought and artistic merit as film. Being a former film-snob, I’ve come to love the 5D and 7D for their ease of use and ability to handle a film-like image for a fraction of the price. When budgeting, don’t forget to throw in some funds for grip and electric or possibly even a remote controlled helicopter. You’ll be surprised at how far a little bit will go when dealing with such awesome advancements in the HD digital world. Use a fraction of the money you’re saving to up the production value and the audience will thank you.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, this blog is open for questions. So tell me: What would you like to know about breaking down a script, budgeting it and the actually making it happen?
What questions do you have regarding the WHAT-HOW-WHO scenario?
To be continued next time with a discussion and cost comparison of the Canon 5D/7D vs. 35MM film stock.
Is an Independent Line Producer and professional Production Coordinator. She’s been in the “biz” since 1997. Learn more about her here andreavestrand.com.