But don’t let my negative start deceive you, I am anything but a scrooge; in fact I’m counting down the days until I can legitimately sing Christmas songs, pig out on mince pies and open up the Tilley family speakeasy for Christmas cocktails. Oh yes, we have our own speakeasy. This year, I’m also experiencing the ever-so-slightly smug warm glow that comes with the knowledge that I’ve almost finished my Christmas shopping and it’s only November 25th! Which leads me onto this weeks top tip for making films with impact – budget.
You don’t need a huge budget to make a film with impact. Careful planning and a good understanding of the process is important to help to get the best value out of the money you DO have to spend.
Asking how much a film costs is a bit like asking how much a house costs. The cost of a house will depend on size, location and how fancy it is. It’s the same with any filming project – so it’s a much more useful exercise to set yourself a budget that you don’t want to exceed and then ask the production team what they can do within those parameters. Generally though, as with all creative projects, it’s true to say that the final product, like a cake, is going to depend on the quality of its ingredients!
It’s really helpful to start at the end and work backwards when planning your production. Broadly we split the process into planning and prep (pre production), shooting (production) and editing (post production).
How much time do you want to invest in researching and discovering the very best story angle for your film? You may have already done this or you may need your production company to do it. Whatever the case, I can’t stress how super important this stage is! Careful planning can help to you avoid many pitfalls and expensive mistakes so don’t be tempted to skimp or even worse – skip this stage. If in doubt ask the advice of the producer who you are working with. If you are doing interviews, it really pays dividends to make sure that the interviewees are well briefed, and are feeling comfortable with the process.
The shooting part of a production is likely to be the most costly and so you want to get this right. There are a host of things to consider and here are just a few of them: How many interviews do you want in your film? What is the purpose of each person’s contribution? Do you need to shoot on more than one camera? How do you want the film to look i.e. glossy and cinematic or quick and easy? Does the production require a sound engineer or additional kit such as a drone or a Steadicam? How many locations are there? And here’s a really really important one – this is a visual medium after all – what are the pictures going to be?
Talk to the people you are working with – if you have no budget for ‘b roll’ (i.e moving pictures rather than interview), find out what they can suggest to make your film visually interesting.
Here is a great example of a film we produced recently that had limited time for b roll, however with some forward planning and creative editing we were able to make not just one but three films from just one day of shooting – head to our Vimeo page if you want to see the other two.
This is where all the editing magic happens and often my favourite part of making a film.
It’s really important to note straight away that the amount of footage you shoot will impact on how long it takes to edit your film and how much storage space it will take up, which obviously will impact on your budget. On top of this, there are other potential costs (eg: motion graphics, colour grading, voiceover, etc)
You also need to consider the cost of delivery. Your beautifully crafted film on muck spreading techniques may need to be sent out as a DVD to be distributed to all the subscribers of Muck Spreading Weekly – or then again, maybe it’s easier to ask for a web-ready file to upload to YouTube. The end platform will have an influence on earlier technical decisions, so again, start from the end product and work backwards.
Finally, one of the most commonly overlooked costs of post production is storage, archive and backup of all your material. You need to consider carefully what happens to all that material that was captured for you film after you’ve achieved the final product. Will you ever want to come back to that material and re-edit the film? If so you’ll need to know the costs of long term storage. And remember, the law states that copyright is retained by the creator of any creative work so you won’t be able to take the footage away and give it to someone else to re-work at a later date unless this is agreed up front – and again, this is likely to influence the cost.