Tue. Feb 7th, 2023


Directing your first movie is always a fantastically challenging experience. The process of getting your first movie onto the Jason Lei Howden  big screen can end in tears if you fall foul of the producer and the budget and schedule.

A budget is a simple list of all the stuff and people you need and the amount of money required to pay for it. A schedule is a list of the dates and times you need the stuff. Both are incredibly tedious to produce, but without a budget and schedule, it’s very difficult to make your film.

Even with a no-budget film, you will still need a list of the stuff and people you need, and a schedule of when and where you need everything to show up.

Messing up the budget really impacts on the film.

Here is a handy list of items that cost money, and can easily spiral out of control if you aren’t careful. Most of these pitfalls are from lack of forward planning.

The Development Budget

When a film gets into production, the story rights need to be acquired and paid for. At this point, the producer controlling the script rights totals up all the money spent to date and presents an invoice so the production team can recoup the money they have paid, plus a profit.

Expenses include travel, accommodation and entertainment at places like Cannes Film Festival, location scouting, casting agents fees and that weird one: “Office Overhead. ” Plus of course option fees paid the writer to date, insurance, banking and legal fees.

This can easily get out of hand, and when the final production budget is in the bank minus the development costs, directors can have a nasty surprise. Directors may have no alternative other than cutting pages out of the script.

I know two different writer/directors who found that over 10% of their production budget was gobbled up by extras added to the development budget.

Make sure you keep on top of the development budget.

The DoP

Choosing the right Director of Photography (or not) will really impact on your budget.

Some DoPs will literally take over the directing for you, blocking out the scenes in the rush to get the shots completed before wrap. This can lead to a war between the DoP and the director. Such conflict can ruin the morale on the set and make the shoot next to unbearable. But at least the film will get shot in this scenario.

Other DoPs are so eager to please they fall over backwards at each of the director’s whims without the benefit of courteous but professional criticism. The resulting shoot meanders and can quickly fall day after expensive day behind schedule. (see #10 below)

Location Location Location

Every time you move from one location to the next the cost rockets. Hence the typically low-to-no budget shoots in a single location movie like Paranormal Activity. If you desperately need a second location look out for the two-for-one, i. e. the front of a house can pose as one location and the rear garden as a completely different one.

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