Wednesday, August 29, 2012

So You Want to Make a Movie - Script and Budget

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. There is no shortage of books, videos, and online resources to help get you started.

An entire cottage industry on how to produce a film has popped up overnight. It seems everybody is trying to make a buck today offering their inside filmmaking secrets. Some of the stuff out there is excellent, but a lot of it is a waste of your money. So where do you begin?

The task seems overwhelming. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 15 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

Step 1. Motivation

Nobody will care about your movie or project more than you will. Are you motivated enough to see it through to the end? Making a movie is a lot like going to war. There will be a lot of battles to fight. Some you win. Some you lose. Do you have the drive and determination? Do you believe in the project? Can you sell it? You have to be the visionary. If you don’t believe in your movie, nobody else will. Do you have the charisma necessary to convince people your project will be successful? Can you continue to stay motivated when you don’t have the budget up front or the outcome of your movie may offer little or no commercial success?

Step 2. The Script

Of course, everything starts with a script. You don’t have a movie unless something is written down on paper. So where does the script come from? You have three options. Either you write the script, commission someone to write it, or you obtain a spec script. Every year over 130,000 screenplays are registered with the Screen Actors Guild. So there’s no shortage of scripts. You need to ask yourself, can I write a great screenplay, or recognize a great script when I read it.  How do you know if you have something that can be turn into a great movie? You need honest feedback from people you trust, not what you want to hear but an unbiased opinion.

Without a great script, there is no point in moving forward. Here are questions you need to ask yourself. Do you scenes work? Do any of the lines in your script sound plausible coming out of the mouths of real people? Are the parts so difficult that you need great actors you can’t afford? What do the characters mean to you? Do they have depth? Is there any truth in what they say or do? If there is, how do I know this? And don’t settle for the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd version of your script. Rewrite is your friend. Learn to love it. It’s the only way your script is going to improve. And don’t be afraid to bring other scriptwriters in to help you in the process.

Step 3. The Budget

What does it cost to make a movie? Do you know? Have you done your research? How much do you have to pay your actors and crew? How long will it take to shoot your film? How many pages can you shoot per day? What does equipment cost? What about location, wardrobe, transportation, food, props, lighting, and grips. As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider. If you don’t know what the fair market value of the things necessary to make a movie, you’re shooting yourself in the foot That’s why you need a detailed, line-item budget.

A budget starts with a script breakdown, which is an analysis of all the elements contained within a script. By using colored pencils or markers, make a key that tells you exactly what each color represents. Go through the entire script scene by scene and highlight each of the elements in the appropriate color. For example, elements include locations, vehicles, SFX, stunts, wardrobe, props, set dressing, cast members, crew, camera equipment, lighting, etc.

Script breakdown helps you define what elements you have to pay for, what you can find for free, and when it has to be there and at what time. Go through your script and decide what is absolutely necessary. Decide what is extraneous for the script, story and characters.

Another question you have to consider when putting together a budget is whether or not your movie is union or nonunion? If it is union, which guilds are you planning to register with? This will have a major impact on your overall budget.

No budget is complete unless you’ve thought about which distribution channels you are pursuing. Are you looking for a theatrical release, straight-to-video, or an online streaming provider?

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