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. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 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 8 The Second Re-evaluation
Did you raise the money you need? Congratulations if you hit your goal. But if you are like most filmmakers, you probably fell short. If you were aiming for $200,000 to $250,000 and did everything right through Step 7, you probably raised somewhere from $120,000 to $160,000. So what do you do now? You have several options. You could move forward and hope that additional resources will be found. But the truth is the money you have is the money you have. My advice is don’t expect more money to magically materialize. Moving forward without the proper resources can be dangerous. Your finances must not only get you through the production phase but also all the way through post production as well as promoting your film on the festival circuit, which is essential in getting a distribution deal.
Another option is to wait until you’ve raised all the money necessary to produce your movie. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. By waiting, you get to make the movie you want and are not forced to make difficult choices. In some cases, waiting may be a good decision; however, delaying your project has risks. Your investors may become anxious and pull their support. With no firm production schedule, key team members that you have already lined up may not be able to continue to commit to your film. Delays lasting longer than a year usually means you will never get your movie off the ground. Some people dream about making a movie, others talk about it, but filmmakers make movies.
You cannot pay top dollar or pay everybody who works on your film. Your goal is to mix paid professionals who are working at a reduced rate along with volunteers who, in some cases, are not experienced. I realize it’s a balancing act, but it’s the only way you will get your movie made. As a producer, you have to become a dealmaker. Can you make deals? Are you diplomatic? Can you negotiate for the best prices? I’m sure most of the costs that are contained in your budget are probably retail. NEVER pay retail! Nobody ever gives you their lowest price. You’re going to have to work for it.
If you reduce the number of days for production, it will help to stretch your money. Most feature films are shot on a 6 to 8 week schedule with a total of 36 to 48 production days. I realize that’s what the book says, but you don’t have that type of money to pay cast and crew members or to rent equipment for that length of time. As a low-budget filmmaker, you will need to shoot your film in 2 to 4 weeks with 12 to 24 production days. To have any chance of finishing your film, production days will need to range anywhere from 12 to 16 hours. The industry standard for shooting a movie is 3 to 4 pages of script per day. You will have to work much faster. The best case scenario is you will have to shoot five pages a day. The worst case scenario is you could have to shoot up to 10 pages per day. This can be done with the right attitude, crew, plan, and someone who knows how to schedule a tight production.