Budget, Schedule and Finance Independent Films – Demystifying the Process – 10 Things YOU Must Know

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Insiders Secret #1. You must understand how to read and navigate a budget from the top sheet to detail page. The industry standard is movie magic budgeting. This is a program designed to enter in categories, budget for each category and create cost reports.

Insiders Secret #2. Break down a film script into elements within scenes that will cost money. Elements costing money include locations, cast, props, special equipment, etc.

Insiders Secret #3. Input the elements into a breakdown sheet by scene. The industry standard is movie magic scheduling. It has user-friendly pages for you to enter in elements and once everything has been input by scene, its time to make a schedule.

Insiders Secret #4. Now that you have your scenes broken down by locations, you can move them onto days and create a strip-board shooting schedule, so you can see how many scenes you need to shoot on a day to stay within your budget. You are paying for crew, equipment and locations daily so you will want to keep your days to a minimum.

Insiders Secret #5. In your movie magic budget, set up budget accounts for items like cast, locations, various production departments, etc.

Insiders Secret #6. Now that you know the elements in each scene, you can determine how much money you will need in each category.

Insiders Secret #7. You will need to determine the labor needed to complete your film. If you have a day with a lot of night exteriors, you will probably need extra lighting. With extra lighting, you may decide to save time by having more crew to setup these scenes and will have to rent extra lighting equipment. If you have a lot of locations, you will need extra transportation crew to move your production base from place to place. The art department labor may increase if you have a lot of builds and props.

Insiders Secret #8. Should you make your film union? If you are a low budget film, every dollar counts. You may choose to be associated with a union to get access to get better actors and crew. There will be a significant cost associated with each union and you will have to make an agreement with each one. Some below the line crew, like location managers, art directors, script supervisors, etc., can work non-union films. Please note that if you hire union crew, you will run the risk of being “flipped” by the union. Most of the time this happens when a crewmember contacts the union and says a non-union film has hired union workers. This crew member may want the film to filp so they can get more hours toward their pension, health and welfare. The union may decide to show up and force a strike with all the union crew. The filmmaker will be left with the decision to replace all of the union workers with non-union, make an agreement with the union or shut down production. If the film turns union, there will be a significant increase in budget now that you are paying overtime, union rates, pension, health and welfare.

Insiders Secret #9. Insurance will be a big expense; especially if you have a lot of stunts, pyro and/or things the insurance company considers high risk. If you are a low budget movie, you may choose to delete some scenes that are too expensive if it doesn’t hurt the overall story.

Insiders Secret #10. What rates should you pay crew? Everything is negotiable and it’s strategic to schedule your movie during times when the movie business is slow. An out of work crewmember is often willing to take less pay rather than be unemployed. You can also make deals to rent their gear, pay for gas to set, schedule less days, etc.

People who work within the film business are the best guides for advice when making your movie. This month, Studio & Indie Finance Executive Michael Shapiro, known for “Star Wars”, M*A*S*H, “Great Balls of Fire”, and more, reveals the secrets of raising money for independent films. Special Effects Supervisor John Palmer known for “The Day After Tomorrow”, Back to the Future Part II”, “Armageddon”, and more will teach you how to make your movie look like a big budget studio movie for an independent price. Special Makeup Effects Gary Tunnicliffe, known for “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, “Gone Girl”, “Hellraiser: Revelations”, and more will show you how to commit murder and mayhem… on a budget. Visual FX Supervisor Greg Liegey known for “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”, “Fast & Furious”, “Time Toys”, and more will personally advise you how to budget and plan visual effects! Stunt Coordinator Tony Snegoff known for “24”, “Batman Forever”, “Malcolm in the Middle”, will share tips and tricks on how to plan for stunts! Supervising Producer & Seminar Producer Jennifer Hutchins known for the “Criss Angel Mindfreak” series on A&E, “Ghost Hunters International” on Syfy, “The Car Show” starring Adam Carolla will facilitate networking and strategic partnerships with film finance.

Source by Jen Hutchins

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