Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Budgeting for Booze

Slowly and surely, the engine of Women's Studies is starting to burn faster and cleaner. Full-fledged pre-production is starting to rev up. If all stays on course, we should be making some major announcements soon.

There's been a shifting of focus here at Ningen Manga HQ from the business/legal aspects of production to more practical filmmaking concerns. I for one am happy that we're finding the ability to move into this direction. To me, the place where business and actual production start to marry is in the budget.

In independent film, the usual response when asked about budget is "What budget?" Trust me, I understand that sentiment. I've worked on and produced my fair share of "no-budget" films. However, with a feature, a budget starts to become a necessary evil. Really, there's nothing evil about it. It's just that most filmmakers hate dealing with budgets, present company included. Still, though it's usually a producer's job to keep track of the budget, the director is almost universally the one to get blamed if a film goes over budget. Therefore, it's a good idea for a director to know how to deal with them.

It could be said that film is recorded theatre. At it's most basic level, theatre is composed of four elements, actors, ideas, a place to perform, and audience. If you have these things, you can create theatre. Film can be similarly broken down, and when you're looking at budget it's good to consider four basic groups: personnel, equipment, locations, and script. Basically, to create a budget, you split these four groups down into smaller and smaller sub groups, all along the way figuring out a) what things are going to cost and b) how long you're going to need to use it.

I'll run through a quick, vague example.

Since I wrote the script, that one's pretty easy. Cost of script: $0. Wow, isn't making a budget easy?

Equipment. Let's see. I'll need a camera to shoot it on. And I'll need some stuff to record sound on. You know, microphones, maybe a mixer, definitely a boom pole. Editing equipment! I need that too.

Wait, let's just focus on one thing. How about that camera? We'll need lenses. And a tri-pod. Ooo, and I want a crane shot so we'll need a crane. Oh my god, I almost forgot media to record to! Does this camera use tapes or some weird new digital capture thingy? How much are those again? Hey, we're going to need cables and stuff to plug all this shit in. Wait, there's outdoor shots so we're going to need batteries, maybe even a generator. Oh shit, we'll need lights so we can see what we're shooting. And a gel kit for the lights to add color, also a dimmer board so we can control the lights. Gaffer tape! I always forget gaffer tape

Does anybody know how much all this stuff costs? What? I have to look it up myself? Shit. Well, I better get this list organized then.

Lens kit
Media (tapes or digital capture)

Basic lighting kit
Specialty lights
Gel Kit
Dimmer Board

Gaffer tape

(*Always have a little extra money ready for shit you've forgotten about. Trust me. You've forgotten something.)

Now, I took equipment and broke it down into three basic categories: Camera, Sound, and Editing. Then I broke Camera Dept. down into three more categories: Camera, Lighting, and Electric. From there, I listed things that would be needed that will probably cost money. Each of those items could be broken down even further if I wanted. For example, I could list off each cable type and how many I'll need. Does that seem anal retentive? Take a look at a budget for a big Hollywood film. (Actually don't, there's probably some pretty interesting bookkeeping going on with some of these films, though I'm sure very penny spent on every cable is accounted for somewhere.)

To figure out what things cost, you have to do the research. You're either going to rent or buy. If you're buying, you budget in only the purchase cost. If you're renting, you need to know the rental cost (either per day or per hour) and how long you're going to need it for?

How do figure out how long you'll need it for? Funny you should ask since that's just the cluster-fuckery of shite I'm currently buried in.

It's in that script. You know, the only thing that costs $0. First you have to break it down. (See this blog.)

Once the script is broken down, you and your DP decide exactly what the specific needs for an individual scene may be. For example, you may decide that you need to shoot three days in one location, but only need the crane for one. However, you need the tri-pod for two and the dolly for two, but on two different days. Wait though, that's scheduling, not budgeting . . . though it is sort of is budgeting too. Isn't it?

Booze. We budgeted for booze, right?


Melisa said...

Yes, a booze category. And the hookers with the cocaine as mentioned in my previous comment.

Brandon said...

I want hookers and cocaine too! just add that into incidentals!